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.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@Robert2011GB If U stop blaming our culture, our religion and call the entire society barbaric and criminal.  We'll not require to defend ourselves so much.

Having said that it's incontrovertible that India became a poor country under the British Rule.  Muslim Invasions of Md.Ghazini and Md.Ghori BEFORE the Muslim rulers established their Kingdom in India was another rampant ROBBERY of Indian Wealth, which was taken to foreign lands.

Remember the Kohinoor Diamond which is presently in UK?

Leave the History.  Today all those bloody industries which cannot be opened in USA because they are hazardous to the Environment there, are being deported to India.  And our poor villagers in remote areas are being thrown out of their lands to establish those dangerous Industries.

And Ur dear USA Govt, knowing that Pakistan is going to use the money for terrorism is providing trillions of dollars, which are used against India to spread violence and terrorism.

Do U need more examples to prove that Western Govts are at the root of problems in India?

MorningMist
MorningMist

@Robert2011GB  Or maybe those are the ones who read the Times. Ever thought of that genius. Also they are the one's who know that not all happens to be rosy for foreigners in  Los Angeles, New York or London. 

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@Anurag Caste system has been legally abolished at the time of drafting the constitution.  Society is changing.  We've almost forgot that castes existed in cities.  But thanks to VOTE-BANK Politics our dear politicians brought everything back.

stars
stars

@frankwall1965 

In india (and many other countries as well) when there is lot of political and media pressure they just catch some people and not always real culprits. So I am not sure if police did a good job or just found some scapegoats. I hope they are real culprits. 

MorningMist
MorningMist

@MANGUSA Actually 99.9% of the victims don't get justice in US. I don't know where you get that. Only 25% of the reported cases result in an arrest. Which isn't the same as conviction. and only a fraction of the 25% result in conviction. That's a far cry from 99.9%. 

Also Indian's have NO problem facing their own problems. They just have a hard time taking it from people who don't seem to see that the situation isn't any better in their own countries, esp in the US and UK. If someone said " 700 million people in India earn less than 2 dollars a day" compared to the US, you wont find a lot of people decrying it.  India  is VERY poor. India does have a bad record for their own women's rights. But when people make it out that somehow you should be able to camp anywhere and not get into trouble, I dare you to do something like this in the south west side of Atlanta and let's see how long you live. And let's see if you get justice too. 

stars
stars

@MANGUSA 

I am happy you accept the problems in India, accepting problem is first step towards finding solution. If we do not accept rapes as severe problem we will never be able to reach proper solution. 

klp_pdc@yahoo.com
klp_pdc@yahoo.com

@SLG  India does have a problem with rape. Other countries also have this problem. Yet the exclusive focus by the world media on “rapes in India’ is not justified and raises suspicion of an agenda behind it. Articles appeared now, often written by Indians with Hindu names, that Indian (read Hindu) culture is to be blamed for the rapes, because it does not consider women as ‘autonomous entities’, which probably means that they can’t do what they want. The Washington Post proclaimed that sexual violence was endemic in India. The Reuters Trust Law group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women. A Harvard committee crafted strategies for ‘adolescent education’ to change the Indian mindset about gender. It was getting a bit much. Don’t westerners look at their own record – past and present – and compare it with that of India? Are they not ashamed?

Anyone who cares to find out will easily discover that rape is not in the culture of India, and women have a good, even respected position compared to other cultures or countries. This position may not be in tune with the view of feminists, but are feminists the measure of all things? Do those feminists believe that village women in India want to be like them? In my view, those feminists look pitiable in the eyes of those often very strong village women who see Sita as their ideal. The main anguish of those women is poverty, not gender roles.

To blame Hindu culture is preposterous to say the least. In fact, if Hindu culture would have prevailed and Christianity and Islam had never appeared on the scene, the world would be a better place. Christians and Muslims have traditionally used rape as a tool of war. For them, the ‘other’ was never worthy of any consideration and could be brutally raped and killed never mind if they were civilians. The Geneva Convention’s purpose is to stop this barbaric behaviour. Hindus never needed a Geneva Convention. They also fought wars, but they did not brutalize women or the civilian population.


The campaign to paint India blacker than it is sadly has worked. It is now a ‘fact’ for most foreigners (and for the convinced Indians) that Indian women have to live terrible lives, more terrible than anywhere else. No disagreeing possible. Everyone will shout you down with plenty of horrific examples. Yes, there are plenty of horrific examples and one needs to find out the reasons and find remedies. But individual criminals do not define a country, even less, if other countries have more of them. So why is India beaten with “another gang rape” again and again? Is the purpose to spoil the image of India? And if so, why?

klp_pdc@yahoo.com
klp_pdc@yahoo.com

@SLG Who cares about your thoughts? Fact is there is a media propaganda campaign being waged against India and it needs to be exposed.

ruggedtoast
ruggedtoast

@SmartASS If you can't tell the difference between pornography and rape you need to take a look at yourself. And I'm not American so don't much care either way, I was responding to your statistics which compared the US to two developing countries. 

sahanaibhat
sahanaibhat

@SmartASS why are you comparing india to usa or any other country? I am from India and I am ashamed of so many rape cases happening in India. It's sad.. Being an Indian myself I have faced situations of staring, lewd comments from our own community. So think of improving the situation rather than comparing it with some useless statistics.. Tell me if we can walk alone in India without gathering unwanted attention. I think it is very unsafe for women. I know lots of incidents with my friends and others. So think of improving the situation rather than attacking other countries.. No I am not pro USA or any other country. Women should be safe wherever they are and unless its with their consent not a single man gets the right to act like a moron!! 

Shadrack
Shadrack

@SmartASS It's not enough said. In the US, approximately 59% of rapes go unreported. In India, where there's little attempt by the criminal justice system to bring perpetrators to justice absent huge public outcry, where marital rape is illegal yet still widely practiced and accepted, where honour killing exists, what do you suppose the percentage of unreported rape is in India? Statistics don't tell the whole story at all.

stars
stars

@NandaKishoreN @Robert2011GB

Why all the dirty industries are in developing countries like India? Is a good question, of course its fault of US but roots of problem is Indian government by allowing it to happen and giving right to those industries (mostly through corruption). Its easy to pinpoint fault of others what about fault of Indian government? First try to change your politicians before blaming the whole world.

stars
stars

@NandaKishoreN @Anurag 


Caste system was legally abolished but was strongly ingrained in the society. In cities people mixed among different castes outside home but when comes to marrying and close social contacts there is still big barrier. One goes for dinner with lower caste (achuut) in restaurant but feels awkward to invite them at home or when get invited.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@sahanaibhat Well done! look what Ur comment implied.  Despite the fact that whatever U said is right, these foreigners are attacking and blaming everything about being Indian.  They are calling all the men rapists.  Do U agree with that?

@SmartASS 

stars
stars

@sahanaibhat @SmartASS 

Completely agree, I am sure Smartass is male and tries to ignore problem rather than looking for solution. 

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?

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@stars @Robert2011GB

Agreed that Indian politicians are at fault.  But developing economies are being subjected to all sorts of compulsions in the name of liberalization crap by the Western Developed world.  That's to benefit the capitalists of Ur countries.  It's those treaties which are creating terrible problems to the people of developing countries.  It's a way of making the people of Developing world more poor and making the people of Developed countries  more rich.

@NandaKishoreN

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@stars So, what do U expect even we can't marry according to our likes and dislikes?  Do we have to force ourselves into some marriage to do social service.

That's ridiculous.  Besides there are many inter-caste and inter-religious mariages happening out of love in modern times.  But one can't be compelled into a marriage.

And there's no concept of achuut in cities.  Legally when all the people are treated equally that's the end of it.  U don't have to talk about what we do inside our houses.

@NandaKishoreN @Anurag 

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@sahanaibhat @SmartASS

Yes, I'm not denying.  We've strongly condemn all sorts of sexual abuse.  Unreported cases are a big problem.  Immediate reforms in Police Department and creating awareness at constable and inspector levels are being strongly recommended.

Apparently our Govt and System are a bit lethargic.  Pressure from different corners might make them get up and do something.

But here in comments I expressed my concern about some prejudiced lot simply trashing the Indian culture and calling the entire country criminals.

 @NandaKishoreN

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@sahanaibhat @NandaKishoreN @SmartASS Yes, but people like U when they list out these things like that these westerners blame the entire country and the whole civilization.

So we need to be careful in wording our brilliant criticism of what's wrong with India.

sahanaibhat
sahanaibhat

@NandaKishoreN @SmartASS  : My comment did not imply anything against anyone.. I really don't care what people might say. Like we have a view of Westerners from Hollywood movies or from news, that they are so and so, they view us too, by the news that is published to the world.  But there are lots of problems in India which needs to be addressed. Corruption to rapes to abuse of women. Why do we call India the largest democracy? Girls were hit in some cities because they were in pubs. That becomes dictatorship instead of democracy. There is some truth in some of the things told by others. We get hurt because it is our country . Yes!!!  But why did it reach such a stage? Because of our lack of dealing with the problem. Poverty and illiteracy is rampant in India and the values we talk of , what values exactly are those?? Male to female ratio is very less in India. Urban India might understand but we have a huge rural population which still has lots of problems. Don't get me started on female problems in our country. It is hard to see the other side of the coin, might be because you are a guy and you don't face those problems. But we do!!

ruggedtoast
ruggedtoast

@SmartASS @ruggedtoast Because the US is much better at getting women to come forward after a sexual assault than India is.

With a 24% arrest rate for rape the US is not great at encouraging women to come forward, but is worlds apart from India. A country where just recently a Swiss woman who was allegedly gangs raped had a round trip of 140 miles to try and find a hospital that could treat a rape victim, and was later paraded in front of dozens of photographers with a bag over her head. 

stars
stars

@SmartASS @ruggedtoast 

Well not as rape but as sexual assaults or molestation. In India it is taken as normal right? 

SmartASS
SmartASS

@ruggedtoast it s the case everywhere uncle. you think groping and similar things are reported as rape in the US? if not why the rape numbers are so high?

ruggedtoast
ruggedtoast

@SmartASS @Shadrack  Reported rape cases in India are almost entirely meaningless. Groping and similar invasions are unlikely to be reported as a crime or even considered as one if they were. Some women are afraid of the police due to anecdotal reports of women being molested in police stations at worst, or completely ignored or defamed at best.

Anything involving family members is invisible.