January 8th, 2013

New Delhi gang rape attack ‘didn’t suprise me, it disgusted me’ says Padma Lakshmi

Tonight on OutFront, CNN’s Erin Burnett talks to Padma Lakshmi, the Indian born model and host of Bravo’s Emmy-winning series Top Chef, about the deadly gang-rape of a woman in New Delhi, India. On hearing about the rape, Lakshmi told Burnett:

“I’m from India and well it didn’t surprise me, it disgusted me (pause). And it reminded me — it brought back to me all of those feelings of when I was walking in Delhi. And the minute I read about this my mind immediately went back to — I remember going to the market to get vegetables for my aunt who had run out of cilantro or something and I said ‘ok, we’ll go get it’ and me and my cousin went to get it and you know it was literally before 6 pm and we were leered at. And we really felt intimidated. This was not routine guys kind of whistling. This was much more aggressive and intimidating than that and that happens every day. I used to ride the bus in India to school and I hated it. I hated going on a crowded bus because they would always pinch you or grab you and you know when you’re a teenager. I went to school some years in India and it was terrible.” 

Lakshmi also talked about the fact that in Hindi, the predominant language spoken in India, there is no actual word for ‘rape’: 

“The closest word is I guess lootna, which kind of means to take someone’s honor away. But to say that because a woman has been violated she no longer has her chastity or her honor is missing the point. There in lies the problem. I mean, the problem is much bigger than this gang rape. It’s much bigger than these men, or even the rapes of the last five years and the lack of prosecution. It is something that is so intrinsic to India culture. You know we like to say that India is the largest democracy and in many ways it is. But we can only consider India a true democracy when half its citizens feel safe in the streets, when they don’t feel like they are vulnerable just because of their gender and when they can walk their streets and go about their business and their family in peace and in tranquility.”

Full interview will air tonight on Erin Burnett OutFront 7p and 11p Eastern.