India is not a country of rapists: German envoy to discriminating German professor


“Let's be clear: India is not a country of rapists.” This was what German envoy in India Michael Steiner wrote, in his strongly worded letter, to a German professor who denied internship to an Indian male student citing “India's rape problem”.

Mr. Steiner also commended the high quality of public debate on rape in India, while advising the professor to “learn more about the diverse, dynamic and fascinating country”.

“In India, ‘the Nirbhaya case’ has triggered a lively, honest, sustained and very healthy public debate... of a quality that wouldn't be possible in many other countries,” he wrote in his letter.

Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger, professor of biochemistry at Leipzig University, had refused to accept an Indian student for an internship because of India's “rape problem”.

“Unfortunately, I don't accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support. I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support,” Dr. Beck-Sickinger wrote to the student.

Mr. Steiner asked the professor to correct her simplistic image “particularly unsuitable for a professor and teacher.”

“Yesterday, we celebrated International Women's Day at the German Embassy here in Delhi with many local activists including many men. Your oversimplifying and discriminating generalization is an offense to these women and men ardently committed to furthering women empowerment in India; and it is an offense to millions of law-abiding, tolerant, open-minded and hard-working Indians,” he wrote.

Women's rights activist Kavita Krishnan termed the professor's response “shameless racial profiling”.

“This is shameless racial profiling of Indian men. Very similar to how black men were earlier racially profiled as rapists... in no way does this help the cause of women,” said Ms. Krishnan.

“It is symptomatic of racism and orientalism... rape is a global problem and not exclusive to India,” she said.

The professor later tendered an unconditional public apology.

“I have made a mistake. I sincerely apologise to everyone whose feelings I have hurt,” she said.

However, it was Ambassador Steiner's unequivocal condemnation of the actions of the professor, that warmed the heart of several Indians, who thanked and congratulated him for the bold step.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 8:14:13 PM |

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