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German envoy rebukes professor for spurning Indian student over ‘rape problem’

Germany’s ambassador to India has rebuked a German university professor for what he said was the rejection of an internship application from a male Indian student on grounds of India’s “rape problem”.

The December 2012 rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman student on a bus prompted outraged protests across India and the issue was thrown back into the spotlight last week when India banned a British filmmaker’s documentary about the incident.

Ambassador Michael Steiner accused Annette Beck-Sickinger, a biochemistry professor at Leipzig University, of an “oversimplifying and discriminating generalization” in dealing with the student applicant.

“It has been brought to my attention that you denied an internship to a male Indian student, giving ‘the rape problem in India’ as a reason… I strongly object to this,” he said in a letter to the professor, which he tweeted.

Steiner said the reason given for the refusal of the internship would offend millions of law-abiding Indians. “Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists,” he said.

A post on question-and-answer website Quora showed what appeared to be an email from someone at the university’s biochemistry institute but with their name blacked out, saying:

“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.”

In a statement she issued via the university, Beck-Sickinger said she had made a mistake and “I sincerely apologise to everyone whose feelings I have hurt”.

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