Indian protesters burn a rapist in effigy Dec. 26, 2012, in New Delhi, India.
Credit: Sajjad Hussain

An Indian religious leader placed the blame for a gang rape on a 23-year-old medical student on the victim, raising fresh concerns about deep seated chauvinism in India's patriarchal society.

According to the Independent, while speaking in Rajasthan, guru Asaram Bapu, said that "the girl was also responsible ... she should have called the culprits ‘brothers’ and begged them to stop.”

Bapu added that if the victim had just said that she was of the "weaker sex," her attackers would have relented.

GlobalPost senior correspondent in New Delhi Jason Overdorf said Bapu is just the latest in a long list of spiritual and political leaders to blame the victim of the Dec. 16 gang rape in Delhi.

"On the right, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) blamed Westernization for the crime, implying that something about the young woman's behavior elicited the assault," Overdorf said.

"On the left, the son of President Pranab Mukherjee criticized women protesters for not looking fresh-faced enough, calling them 'dented and painted.'”

In the middle, all sorts of politicians and public (mostly men) have put their foot in it, as well.

"What's important here is not what one, or even several, Indians have said, but the widespread belief that they speak the truth," Overdorf said.

Bapu's speech was caught on camera, and the video has been widely circulated, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Though many in India have expressed disgust over Bapu's comments, similar opinions have been expressed by many prominent male leaders in India.

The leader of a right-wing Hindu organization suggested that sexual assaults were caused by Western influences and didn't happen in India's villages and forests. One provincial minister from Chhattisgarh said that sexual assaults on women were happening because "women's stars are not in their favor." Another political leader said that women were being attacked because they were wearing fewer clothes.

Though these comments have been condemned by the media and major political parties in India, they may be indicative of a prevalent attitude.

Dr. Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Center for Social Research, told the Independent that these comments represented a "deep-seated mentality which creates a culture and traditions that are oppressive to women."

Five men have been charged with rape and murder of the young physiotherapy student who was attacked on Dec. 16. The lawyer representing three of the five men has said that they would not plead guilty, and has said that he believes that the wrong men have been arrested, the Independent reported.

More from GlobalPost: How Indian courts are dealing with the Delhi gang rape case: Q & A 

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