Will India Tourism Be Tarnished by Attacks on Women?

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Altaf Qadri / AP

An Indian demonstrator, right, shouts slogans as a rickshaw carrying passengers rides past during a protest against the rape of a 7-year-old girl in New Delhi on March 1, 2013

India may have moved yet another rung down the ladder of desirable destinations for female travelers. Reports surfaced on Tuesday of a British woman injured after trying to escape out a window from the unwanted advances of a hotel manager in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and the nation’s biggest tourist draw. The news came almost immediately after Indian police arrested six men suspected of raping a Swiss tourist, who was camping with her husband during a bike tour when the couple was attacked.

Female tourists — and Indian women — have been on alert since December, when a 23-year-old woman was brutally raped aboard a moving bus in New Delhi and eventually died of her wounds. Security in the capital has been visibly ramped up since then. Barricades are now set up on busy streets at night, manned by police who, with varying degrees of diligence, keep an eye on passing cars. But reports of egregious attacks on Indian and foreign women alike are still ubiquitous in the country’s media outlets, raising the question of when, if ever, these measures and tough new laws aimed at deterring sex crimes are going to start working.

(MORE: Another High-Profile Rape in India Highlights Ongoing Problem)

Few are holding their breath. Instead, tips are circulating on travel forums, urging female tourists not to travel alone, wear revealing clothing, drink or smoke in public, or be overly friendly. The U.S. State Department travel advisory to India now includes a long warning to women that urges them to “observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day.”

It’s a p.r. nightmare for India’s tourist industry, which sees over 6.5 million visitors a year. Female tourists have been the subjects of high-profile attacks in India before, most notably in 2008 when a 15-year-old British girl was raped and left for dead on a beach in the resort area of Goa. (The crime was later featured in a Bollywood film.) And authorities this week have been quick to point out that tourists are subject to crime in any country, and that compared with some other locations, violent crime in India is relatively rare.

(VIDEO: The New Delhi Rape: TIME Talks to Suspect’s Family)

It’s understandable for officials to feel piqued that India is being singled out for a few rare incidents that happen in other places too. But the truth is — and this is hardly something limited to the experience of foreign women — India feels different from a lot of other places. Incidences of rape are higher in the U.S. than in India, but the vigilance with which many urban women conduct their day-to-day lives feels more constant and more intense, in no small part because of the unspoken understanding that there may not be anybody there to help you if you get into trouble.

That’s a reality that many Indian women live with. And even though changing that reality has been the topic of thousands of public and private conversations since December, it’s still probably not something most women who visit India fully grasp. At least not until they read about incidents like the ones this week, which bring home the simple and depressing fact that no one is immune to a vacuum of law and order.

It’s hard to say whether these events will rub off on the government’s hypersuccessful Incredible India tourist campaign in any lasting way. But if tourism officials really want to help their industry, they should stop fixating on how statistics get spun and start demanding that their valued customers deserve the right to be well protected, and feel safe and comfortable, just like all the women in this country do.

MORE: New Delhi’s Women Problem: What Does It Take to Make a Society Safe?

PHOTOS: A Rape Sparks Violent Protests and Demands for Justice

 

105 comments
sonya
sonya

Women themselves are taking the initiative of ensuring female tourists to India feel safe staying and traveling within India. One such example is "Women's Bed and Breakfast Homestay" in New Delhi / NCR that caters only to women tourists: safe stay, safe airport pick-up and drop-off, safe travel. They can be contacted on 91-9717923793. Their details can be viewed on

http://www.bedandbreakfast.eu/bed-and-breakfast/gurgaon/women-s-b-b-homestay-with-a-view/556687/

http://www.bnb-directory.com/bb/asia/india/8420-womens-green-bandb-homestay-guesthouse.html

jvaishnav47
jvaishnav47

Off let rape cases particularly on foreign female tourist positively shall tarnish India image.

Now Foreign tourists have stopped going out at night hours, Tourist are afraid to stay alone even in hotels,

It is but natural , no foreign female tourists shall  visit India since there is always a fear to get victimized.

AnnaRiley-Pate
AnnaRiley-Pate

Women are in danger of being raped and assaulted all over the world. The problem isn't individual countries. It is the collective responses to the crimes, and the dialogue that surrounds them. Until human beings as a whole change the dialogue, the incidences will not change, and myself and millions of other women will have to continue to fear it.

MorningMist
MorningMist

Authorities are right. I've lived in the US for nearly 9 years and I remember when I didn't have a car, I avoided unlit areas and bad neighborhoods, didn't take public transportation at night. Some female students have been raped in their own apartments.  When as a student, foreign students were very regularly mugged, shot and killed. Yet it rarely makes it news and hasn't sent a "travel advisory against studying in US Universities". It has never been safe for women to travel alone on the streets at night in the US. Why on earth would anyone think that this would be different in India is anyone's guess. A PhD student in Duke University was killed execution style when he walked back to his dorm at 11 pm. The authorities didn't do anything until a Blond blue eyed student president was killed by the same piece of crap. Authorities in India are at least trying to get justice for the tourists. But here in America Tourists or foreign students  rarely get any justice because Police here mistakenly think that foreign students "don't pay taxes hence we don't owe them anything". Which is false, as foreign students pay nearly 40,000 + taxes to the United States economy. The hypocrisy is kind of disheartening. But it's OK. Over time India will probably clean up their act while America will still continue to be unsafe for anyone who doesn't live in gated communities. 

OliviaToner
OliviaToner

Why would anyone in right state of mind put her/his family in danger?. After effects of such a horrible incedent would alter your life forever, meanings of living will not be the same.

Robert2011GB
Robert2011GB

It seems that Indians believe that everything is always the fault of foreigners, nothing will ever improve in India until and unless Indians start to take responsibility for their own actions.


As for those Indians who so loudly and vociferously defend India from any kind of criticism, most of them seem to live outside of India, it's so easy to be proud of India when you live in Los Angeles, New York or London.

Anurag
Anurag

For all the people here going oooo India is such a hell hole and OMG why is this country even allowed to exist, i just say you are narrow minded hypocritical fools. The only difference between India and other countries is at this time rape is the biggest social issue here and so gets highlighted more. Whereas in your countries rape has become such a mundane nuisance that it does not register on your mind more than say B&E would. If you are american there is the example of Steubenville case, so are you going to stop your girls from living their lives. 

There is a lot talk abt caste system and India cultural indifference toward women, i know it has been our burden in the past but we are working albeit slowly to rectify that but we only had independence for 65 yrs. Whereas America has had independence for 250 yrs and still has not gotten rid of the most basic and evil practice of racism. Its all perspective and we all have our albatrosses so dont vilify entire country and its heritage for actions of few.

dingdong
dingdong

@NandaKishoreN  

Hey lets just blame some foreign terrorist of the conspiracy while we are at it...... :-)

powerandprivilege
powerandprivilege

I am Indian. I had hoped to visit various parts of the country with my American friends.  Now, after learning how male friends are beaten while the women are gang raped, I have permanently deleted India from my plans.  It is a country run by thugs and hooligans.

EliadesPastor
EliadesPastor

India was not female friendly in the 1960's when we were back-packing through Europe and Asia. They have a poor social model for women and it is becoming more agressive.

blushy_arra
blushy_arra

OMG. a month ago i was planning to go to India alone for a vacation since i used to travel alone to many places. considering these incidents and as far as my femininity is concerned it put me to decision of not going to India 

ColeAllenJr.
ColeAllenJr.

India is known for its massive Poverty and Rapes it is not a tourist spot any ways.

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

Who would want to take their wife or girlfriend to India.............No Thanks.........

JamesSmith
JamesSmith

I can't imagine why anyone would visit India voluntarily even without these rape incidents. I suppose if you had family there you might want to visit but other than that I don't see the attraction of visiting an overpopulated third world cesspool.

frankwall1965
frankwall1965

Quite a lot of my female friends have travelled across India without problems but the events of the past few weeks would make me think twice about going there if I was female. Still, you have to remember that this is a massive country with a huge population and this kind of stuff happens. At least the Indian police were very quick to find and arrest the people involved. Hopefully the incidents were isolated and the media storm will blow over, restoring India's reputation.

MANGUSA
MANGUSA

I am from India and residing in USA. So i can relate both countries pretty well being lived decades in both countries. In India, you can be raped irrespective of how careful you are.  It doesn't matter whether you are with your male husband/friend. There are thousands of gang rapes happen all the time and only  a handful of them get reported. Either the victim and whole family is killed or the victim never reports the incident because of the fear and also police in general are not sympathetic towards the victim. If you give few thousands of rupees to Police you can get away very easily.  In US every rape gets reported and 99.9% of the victims get justice which makes it too many rapes but when you account for the 90% un-reported rapes in India they are relatively low percentage. 

SLG
SLG

These comments defending India from criticism, while pointing the finger at other countries that yes, have problems (all countires have problems) reminds me of an experience I had while living in India.  An Indian man had been assigned to help us secure adequate housing, and he asked if there was anything that we would like changed with the apartment we had.  There were so many things that were different than what I was used to - but the one thing that was really difficult to live with that I hoped could be changed was the straight pipes used under the sinks.  In India, in 2008!, they used straight pipes to drain the sinks and I asked if an S-curve could be put in under the drains.  I had to draw a picture to show what I wanted, because the concept was completely foreign.  Yes, the smell of the sewer came up from the drains, and the Indians typically placed mothballs in the drains to cover the smell and keep the roaches back.  Ugh.  I could not get them to change the drains to S-curves because nothing like that was available.  No kidding.  In addition the city of over a million people I lived in had no municipal garbage service.  One million people with no way to collect and contain waste.  

I am going to begin to call this tendency for Indians to defend India from thoughtful criticism "straight pipe syndrome." ;)


Anurag
Anurag

We live in a cruel and indifferent society and to say one society or country is more or less safe than the other is a bit naive thinking as far i see it. Reality is you are only safe till you are not and it doesn't matter which part of world you are.  

I get people trying to protect the name of India and its very noble but i hope they do realize that there is clearly something really wrong in this country even if the numbers are kind to us. The biggest problem in India seems to be unaccountability of people in power specially the police who are rarely held accountable for their actions or rather lack of it. Atleast in other countries you can sue the police in case of wrong doing and hope for some recourse, in India asking help from police is sometimes the worse thing to you can do.

As for the people who do not wish to come to India well thats your choice but if you do, it never hurts to have a common sense. We live at a time when it is sheer madness to be gullible fools. Don't we tell our kids not to take candy from strangers or not to get in cars with strangers, why should be any different for adults. As they say self help is best help, carry a knife is you have to for crying out loud. Cant let fear run our life for us.

SmartASS
SmartASS

80% of world's porn  originate from the US and is distributed to the rest of the world. Thats a culture that treats women with respect and dignity. To not give some interesting ideas to foreign people when you visit their land, May be US should stop selling porn ? 

ruggedtoast
ruggedtoast

India is not a completely safe destination for foreign women to travel alone to and it never has been. I personally know two women who were mobbed and sexually assaulted in crowds as tourists, and have heard plenty of anecdotal stories. I also know ladies who've travelled solo in India with no problems and love it, but the balance of probabilities points towards trouble unless you are cautious. 

When I have travelled in India with women I found fending off the continual unwanted attention for them utterly draining. It's usually dressed up as a pretense to stand too close and try and sell something, or ask about where you're from, or knocking on your hotel door constantly to ask if you need anything, or a million other things; but its pervasive and mostly unrelenting.

It is by no means all Indian men, but there are a billion Indians and its certainly enough of them to cause a problem if you intend to travel around the interior. Predominantly its poorly educated guys who have somewhat strange ideas about women in general and western women in particular. 

I wouldn't tell anyone not to go to India as its unlike any other place,  but the maxim from pre the Incredible India days is still true. It really isn't a great place to go for a woman who wants to strap on a backpack and wander around alone; and tourists in general should stay well away from cycling, hiking and camping outside of monitored national parks. 

I feel really horrible for the Swiss couple but they were horribly misinformed at best if they thought what they were doing was a good idea.


SmartASS
SmartASS

18,359 rape cases were registered in India in the first three quarters of this year while in the US, 93,934 and in South Africa 54,926 rape cases were registered respectively. Enough said.

SmartASS
SmartASS

@Shadrack Its obvious that all rape cases arent reported anywhere. But atleast this is a baseline we can measure with, rather than measuring against your wild imagination. Now even if  u consider 90% (happy?) of rape cases arent reported in India ie 183590 rape cases instead of 18359, how do you think it works when you put in the population numbers of 1.2B and 300m?

SLG
SLG

This is more complex that just violence against women. I see these rapes as a form of mental dis-ease from an unhealthy social system. 

I have lived in India as a female American Expat, and I experienced corrupt police, sexism, and unwanted advances from men.  As an American female, there is media-promoted vision of the American sexually-driven female (sex sells), and Indian men buy into this false idea.  Also, India faces a huge problem of unemployed uneducated young men and fewer young women, due to the overwhelming preference of male offspring and selective abortion of females.  In India, marriages are arranged between families based on astrology, caste, and resources - but rarely on love. It was very sad to me to see so many men who were resigned to never to know the joy of having a marriage or children, as they had no dowry, so they knew they would never marry.  This was very strange and sad to me, as Americans feel free to marry for love alone.  Hindu marriages are for life and there is no divorce, again this dooms many people, usually women, to unhappiness when the arranged marriage is abusive.  I saw protests with hundreds of angry young men campaigning for the right to an education, in a country where there are only a few slots, and they are quickly filled with the children of parents who can bribe an official if the young person's grades are not top-notch. 

In addition, India is the top country with citizens with the largest amount of assets in Swiss bank accounts.  What this means is that India is hemorrahaging tax dollars that could be used to better the social situation.

Some ideas:  Raise the value of girls by calling on all religious and political leaders to champion the female sex as equal to boys. Limit the amount of funds an Indian citizen can hold in offshore accounts.  Shame those who shirk taxation, while championing those who go beyond the call of duty to their fellow citizens.  Reduce corruption through increasing programs like Anti-Corruption Bureau 800# in India.  Build more education centers, and allow for more Indian women and men to get an education, especially the poor.   Discourage arranged marriage, because it treats women like commodities.  I saw young girls going to the doctor to be checked to make sure they were virgins, thus assuring a greater bride-price for their families.  Yes, these are old systems, but these systems can be modernized gradually.  

ramlila321789
ramlila321789

The "India Shining" campaign should be re-named "India Shameless"

RobertCleary
RobertCleary

Instead of reading all the warnings, and suggestions about how to dress, where to go, how to get around so that you dont get raped, how about just going somewhere else?  Really, does India think tourism won't be affected, and do western countries think warnings are enough?  Encourage your citizens to vacation elsewhere!!!  Visit Hawaii.