Guru's view on Indian rape raises anger, but shared by many

NEW DELHI - Comments by an Indian spiritual leader that a gang-rape victim shared blame for her assault disgusted many in a country shaken by the crime, but his view represents a deep streak of chauvinism shared by a broad swathe of a society in transition.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student and a male companion were left bleeding on a highway after she was raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16. She died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital from internal injuries.

"Guilt is not one-sided," the guru, Asaram Bapu, told followers this week, adding that if the student had pleaded with her six attackers in God's name, and told them she was of the"weaker sex", they would have relented.

Such views have caused outrage among India's growing urban middle class.

Protesters burned effigies of the yoga guru near his headquarters in western India, media reported, and Twitter exploded with posts calling him "medieval" and a "misogynist".

But he is not alone.

Similar opinions are being expressed by leaders in the mainstream of society, not just on the fringes.

Some politicians have called on schoolgirls not to wear skirts and told women to dress soberly and not venture out at night.

Before last month's gang rape caused shockwaves, it was common for police to point the finger of blame in sex crime cases at women's clothing, or the fact that they worked alongside men.

Such views are not unique to India but they point to growing discomfort among some conservatives about a perceived erosion of traditional values in fast-changing cities where Western ways are gaining popularity.

President Pranab Mukherjee's son described women who protested against violence in New Delhi's streets in the days after the rape as "dented and painted". He said the protests had"very little connection with ground reality".

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