German envoy pulls up professor for denying internship, says ‘India is not a country of rapists’

German prof had cited ‘rape problem’ in India to deny internship to a student.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: March 10, 2015 3:18:34 pm
German ambassador, Indian student, Germany professor, Indian student Germany, Germany internship, German Ambassador, India news German ambassador Michael Steiner

Within hours of a claim by an Indian male student that a German professor at the University of Leipzig denied him an internship citing the “rape problem” in India, German ambassador Michael Steiner strongly objected to the “discriminating generalisation”.

“Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists,” Steiner wrote in a letter to Prof Dr Annette Beck-Sickinger Monday, hours after the claim by the male student became public. He added, “I would encourage you to learn more about the country and the many open-minded people of India so you could correct a simplistic image, which — in my opinion — is particularly unsuitable for a professor and teacher.”

Professor Beck-Sickinger Professor Beck-Sickinger

When contacted by The Indian Express, Beck-Sickinger said in an e-mail: “I currently have two male Indian students in my lab and trained four of them last fall, so I have nothing against Indian students. I apologise for any inconvenience or misunderstanding.”

On the German Embassy website, an apology note and a letter was published.

It read: “Ambassador Michael Steiner takes note that the University of Leipzig has just announced publicly that Professor Beck-Sickinger apologises for her unwarranted remarks. Professor Beck-Sickinger: “I have made a mistake. I sincerely apologise to everyone whose feelings I have hurt.”

This morning, Ambassador Michael Steiner had sent an urgent letter to Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger strongly disapproving of her discriminating generalisations against male Indian students.”

The letter

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Earlier in the day, The Newsminute had reported that an Indian student claimed Beck-Sickinger had denied him an internship.

An e-mail sent by Prof Beck-Sickinger, who is at the Biochemistry department, reportedly said, “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 this attitude is something I cannot support.”

In another e-mail, the professor reportedly said it is “unbelievable that the Indian society is not able to solve this problem for many years now”.

“I agree that this is a generalisation and may not apply to individuals… Reports reach Germany… these multi-rape crimes are threatening, but for me also demonstrate the attitude of a society towards women. Female tourist are kidnapped by groups of males and then abused. Many female professors in Germany decided to no longer accept Indian male students… and currently other European female associations are joining. Of course we cannot change or influence Indian society but only take our consequences in Europe,” she reportedly said.

After the e-mails became public, the German ambassador, in a letter to Prof Beck-Sickinger, said, “It has been brought to my notice that you denied an internship to a male Indian student, giving the rape problem in India as a reason. Let me make it clear I object to this.”

Steiner said the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape case has put attention on the issue of violence against women. “Rape is indeed a serious issue in Indian as in most countries, including Germany,” he said, adding that the Indian government and civil society are “very committed” to tackling the issue.

He said the German embassy celebrated the International Women’s Day with many local activists. “Your oversimplifying and discriminating generalisation is an offence to these women and men… Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists,” the German envoy said.

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