An Indian student’s internship request was rejected by a professor in Germany citing “rape problem” in India, prompting a sharp reaction from the German envoy here who condemned it saying India was not a “country of rapists”.
Professor Beck-Sickinger of Leipzig University in Free State of Saxony had rejected the internship application, saying she does not accept any Indian male student for internship.
“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,” Sickinger said in a reported email.
Taking note of the incident, German Ambassador Michael Steiner wrote a strong-worded letter to the professor following which she apologised for her “unwarranted remarks” in the rejection letter to the student whose identity is not known.
“I have made a mistake. I sincerely apologise to everyone whose feelings I have hurt,” Sickinger was quoted as saying by the German embassy in a release here.
In his letter, Steiner said, “Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists.”
“In India, the Nirbhaya case has triggered a lively honest, sustained and very healthy public debate – a public debate of a quality that wouldn’t be possible in many other countries.
“The Indian Government and Indian civil society organisations are very committed to tackling the issue. Yesterday we celebrated International Women’s Day at the German Embassy here in Delhi with many local activists including many men,” he said in the letter.
He said the Nirbhaya rape case has refocused attention on the issue of violence against women. “Rape is indeed a serious issue in India as in most countries, including Germany.”
“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 said.
In a statement in Berlin, Sickinger said, “It was never my intention to make any defamatory comments about the Indian society…I do not have anything against Indian students.”
She said she rejected the application because no openings were available. The applicant did not accept her reasoning.
She said she very much regretted the “misunderstanding” caused by her email, which was taken “out of the context”.
Sickinger said she has nothing against Indian male students and she had accepted many of them in the past.
Four of her 30 students in the current International Masters Programme in Bio-organic chemistry are from India and two Indians are participating in a laboratory internship.
A spokesperson for Leipzig University told PTI that it will continue to welcome students from India in spite of the controversy sparked by Prof Sickinger’s comments.
A total of 44 Indian students are currently enrolled for various study programmes and 15 of them are women.