There’s Everything Wrong With This Indian Fashion Shoot Glamourising The Gang Rape Of Nirbhaya

Raj Sheyte's photo series 'The Wrong Turn' depicts a beautifully dressed lone woman on a bus, being assaulted by a group of men


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

Of all the forums for discussion over the horrific 2012 gang rape that sparked a series of riots and reforms in India, a glossy fashion editorial has to be the most tasteless.

Mumbai fashion photographer Raj Shetye insists that ‘The Wrong Turn’ – depicting a glamorously dressed model being pawed and petted on a bus in several scenarios – was not based on the attack of the still-anonymous ‘Nirbhaya’ (a psuedonym given to the victim), but does admit he did it to re-start the conversation around the issues.

‘This topic moves me from the inside. I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also,’ Raj told Buzzfeed of the shoots, which feature a beautiful Indian woman swathed in silk dresses, delicate strappy sandals and plenty of jewels, being pawed and petted and stamped over by a bevvy of men (similarly groomed male models).


Unsurprisingly, the glossy glamour of the editorial has caused anger and distress. So much so that ‘Nirbhaya’ was trending this morning in Mumbai. ‘Someone actually tried to make a cool, fashionable shoot around the Nirbhaya rape case? That is absolutely fucked up,’ wrote Nikhil Hemrajani on Facebook. ‘Photographer: “Hey guys, I don't think anyone paid attention to the Nirbhaya case. Let’s do a photo shoot and glamourize the whole thing!”’ wrote @Agratha on Twitter. ‘WHO DOES A GANG-RAPE IN A BUS THEME FOR A SHOOT?’ wrote @SwimPhony, succintly.


Such has been the backlash that Raj has been forced to go onto Facebook to explain himself. ‘It is meant to highlight our double standards where people expect the rich or well-heeled to dress well and travel in the luxury security and comfort of their own vehicle,’ he writes about the juxtaposition of high-end clothes and a working class mode of travel.

‘It was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well-dressed women on public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets & also what gives the general public the right to cast aspersions on women and their character if they are well-dressed and seen in public.’

Which is all well and good, of course – but surely there are more sensitive ways to make that point than glamourising the fatal rape of a young girl?

Follow Pandora on Twitter @pinsykes

Pictures: Raj Shetye

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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