By Lata Jha:
Those white skinned atithis of ours clad in snazzy kurtas with ‘hare ram hare krishna’ sprawled across them with bottles of Bisleri in hand might soon be sights of the past. As rapidly as India had climbed the tourism ladder, equally shocking has been its fall. With the recent spate of rapes across the country, female tourists apparently do not feel safe and have decided to stay away from Indian shores, as much as possible.
The British woman travelling near the Taj Mahal who jumped out of her three storey hotel room fearing sexual assault is one of the many horrific incidents causing the government great shame, and resulting in the loss of a lot of the money that they make out of tourism.Â According to a New York Times report, after the rape of the 23-year-old in Delhi last December, women travelled to India 35 percent less than they had during the same period in 2012. This case, along with that of the Swiss tourist who was gang raped in front of her husband, and many others are bearing grave consequences.
The government is quickly beginning to take desperate measures to promote tourism in India, a land where women, they seek to project, generally feel safe, protected and free to do what they like. Police force devoted to tourists has been set up in many states; a lot of hotels have female only tours and areas while many have given out cell phones with emergency numbers.
There is a lot of literature available online on the merits and dangers of females generally travelling alone and the fact that most countries face violence issues. The Associated Press had however reported that women haven’t stopped travelling; they just prefer to go to high-profile locations like Thailand and Malaysia now.
The core issue however is different. We, in India still feel the need to protect our women from rape rather than stopping men from raping them in the first place. We’d enhance security, ensure better patrolling and set up emergency phone lines, but none of that is going to stop a man from being a pervert. And the saddest bit which we often forget is that unlike these tourists we don’t have the liberty to go back somewhere at the end of 10 days. We’re right here, and it’s happening on our streets and in our homes.