In December 2012, a woman was gang raped on a bus in New Delhi, her ordeal so horrific that she subsequently died two weeks later from her injuries.
The woman, a physiotherapy student, boarded a private bus that a group of men, who the police said had been drinking, were also riding. She was on her way home from a movie with a male friend, and the men assaulted both, knocking the man unconscious and raping the woman in the back of the bus, sometimes using a metal rod. The two were dumped from the bus, naked and bleeding, and the woman died two weeks after from her injuries.

Despite the horrific nature of this attack, and the affect is has had on India as a whole (drawing light to the endemic rape problems. Rape Cases doubling after the attack Raj Shetye decided to create a fashion photo-shoot based on the incident.


The photographs caused widespread outcry, and were subsequently removed from his website.

However, he has not apologised for the images, instead trying to defend them, and himself.

‘He’s got a host of explanations: that he’s putting a spotlight on the issue of violence against women; that he’s criticizing India’s caste system; the list goes on. But as he’s learning, once it’s out in the world, art — if we can call it that — kind of has to speak for itself. And these pictures are saying all the wrong things.’

JR Thorpe explains that the message these photographs are giving is completely counterproductive to society. They sexualise rape, make it easy to look at and even attractive.

The Men and Woman in these photographs a societal concepts of the perfect man and woman, they conform to the standard ideals we see in fashion everyday.

That’s intensely violating for the victim’s family, and it’s also violating and upsetting forevery victim of sexual assault and every person who’s known one. Your experience is for our use, this shoot says. You weren’t in control of your body, and now you’re not in control of your trauma either.

That’s the horrific part of this shoot: It trivializes rape, homogenizes it, even fetishizes it. Taking a series of brutal sexual assaults and making them a display of a model’s assets — transforming a situation where a group of men raped and murdered a woman into a performance for the male gaze — is grotesque. And the male models are part of the issue. ‘Cleaning up’ rapists to make them glamorous fashionistas changes the focus from their crime to their clothing and good looks, and that’s unacceptable.

This isn’t the first time Rape has been used as an aesthetic in photography, but the obvious reference to real life gang rape that led to the horrific death of a young girl is a disgusting display of rape culture and the complete disregard for victims that it perpetrates.