“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi is speaking out about the deadly gang rape making headlines in India. She told Erin Burnett, of CNN's "OutFront," “I’m from India and, well, it didn’t surprise me, it disgusted me.”Padma explained that the story of five men charged with raping and beating to death 23-year-old female student Joyti Singh on a bus in Dehli, reminded her of being “leered at” and “intimidated” as a youngster there.
“This was not routine guys kind of whistling,” Lakshmi said. “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… because they would always pinch you or grab you.”
She also takes issue with the fact that in Hindi, the predominant language in India, there is no word for “rape.”
“The closest word is I guess lootna, which kind of means to take someone’s honor away,” Padma said. “But to say that because a woman has been violated she no longer has her chastity or her honor is missing the point.”
In her eyes the problem is "bigger than this gang rape." Lakshmi said, "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."
She added, “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.”