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When You And I Feel Unsafe In India, How Can Female Tourists Feel Secure

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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.

female touristsThe 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. 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.

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  1. Raj

    Your article was quite OK and the issue your raise is definitely important. But I still don’t understand why you had to make this statement “We, in India still feel the need to protect our women from rape rather than stopping men from raping them in the first place.” What garbage is this? You blame the entire gender for the crimes of a very small minority. How would it sound if someone said ” “We, in India still feel the need to protect Hindus from violence rather than stopping Muslims from bombing them in the first place.” , given that most bomb blasts do have Islamic links. Sorry to say but in principle you sound exactly like the hindu goons who thought it was ok to kill muslims in general who had nothing to do with the Godhra burning or the Bombay blasts just because they were muslims.
    I suggest you correct your prose and stop this unwarranted demonization of men.

    1. christabom

      Sorry to correct you, but it is not a minority of Indian men who make India an annoying place for women travelers. I have travelled through India alone as a foreign tourist but in almost every place I experienced harresment. Although maybe not many men are rapists, I was groped several times. It is also very annoying when everybody is staring at you and they not know when to leave somebody alone. It is NOT A MINORITY who not respect women and don’t know how to act around (foreign) women.

    2. christabom

      Somehow Indian men seem to think that white women are ‘easy’. I was naieve sometimes, thinking I could be friends with Indian men. In the end it most of the time it got uncomfortable. Indian men generally dont have social skills regarding women and don’t know what personal bounderies are. That said, I dont think it is unsafe, I almost never felt ‘in danger’. I can understand that some women can’t deal with all the staring, taking pictures, people randomly starting to talk with you. If you can and you are careful, India is a great place.

    3. Raj

      Given that there are around 650 million men in India how many of them tried to and/or succeeding in raping or molesting you? What about the men who were around you, who did not attempt the same? Like the ones on the plane or at the airport? Or the ones on the street? Did you count them or just the ones who made your life miserable? I’m not trying to defend the scumbags who did harass you (whether in general manner or in a sexual manner) but I am questioning your generalized assertion about Indian men as rapists and molesters. Note that this is in the context of my above comment in which I talked about blaming all men for not being taught to rape. Also note that you’ve changed the context significantly in your 2 comments.

      Now regarding staring, that happens a lot especially to white foreign women. The staring isn’t always sexual, but has much to do with the fact that an average Indian man or woman has never seen a white person. Of course if you are attractive you get stared at anyways. I’ve traveled to many European countries and men do check out women there too. I’m not entirely sure this is a special issue with Indian men. I don’t support it but In don’t propose having draconian laws that prevents and penalizes harmless interaction between the 2 sexes.

      As for the perception white women being easy, yes I agree with you there. Note that both Indian men and women hold the perception that white (rather American/European) women are “free” regarding sex.
      India is a very sexually repressed and tribal society which prizes virginity and marriage. I blame both Indian men and women for this state ; since both do their best to repress their sexuality instead of supporting pre-marital interaction (dating etc.) and pre-marital sex. This point is unfortunately true.
      Coming to the point about not being “just” friends with Indian men, I think that is a tall order even with non-Indian men 😛 Getting “friend-zoned” isn’t very popular with men in the west either. So I’d say that it is tougher to be just friends with Indian men, rather than implying that men in the west are mostly platonic saints 😛

    4. christabom

      Yes maybe in Europe men also don’t like to be friendzoned, but they have experience with women and dating. Indian men don’t and this causes misunderstandings very easily. What seems innocent and platonic to me, not always comes across as that. I am a careful person, that is why nothing seriously bad happened to me. I mean to say that the situations are annoying rather then dangerous unless you behave reckless.

      I agree staring is innocent, in fact most things are innocent but it is annoying and therefore I can understand that this stops some women from travelling in India. My experience was not horrible overall because I could get over the incidences. However, if you are easily upset by these things, I would advice not to travel alone in India.

      Rape is an extreme and this is done by a minority. But it is a sign of a wider spectrum of problems with the attitude towards women. A big percentage of men in India are participating in this attitude and are therefore also responsible for the bigger problem of gender inequality. THE WHOLE society needs to change its attitude, not only the minority of rapists. But since nobody feels responsible for this, nobody is going to change. Indian culture (in general) likes to blame other people (rapists in this case), never to look at themselves and think what they can do better.

    5. Raj

      Without a doubt, Indian men (and women too) need to learn how to handle pre-marital romantic relationships properly.

      Regarding staring, even I hate getting any attention to myself. My job often requires me to dress in a very formal manner, which does lead to a lot of unwanted stares from both men and women. Nevertheless I would not want laws to criminalize it.

      I’m not sure by what you mean by rapists changing their attitudes. The society must certainly change its attitudes towards women and also men. Yes you are correct there is a lot of gender inequality in India, but it is enforced by both men and women. Men are expected to build, defend and lead the society and also provide for their wife and kids. Half the voting population in this country is female and yet they vote mostly men into power. Half the adult population is female, yet most full-time employees are men.And this is especially acute in dangerous professions like the military and police. (Note that both these points are even true for developed countries though not that acute. Many Nordic countries have or till recently have had compulsory conscription only for men).
      This needs to end. The society needs to back up and let both men and women explore their individuality and do what they want, rather than them simply existing for the sake of breeding. Both the sexes need to share the burdens of our society.

      And I didn’t get the blaming part either. I mean rapists are obviously to be blamed for the crimes they commit. I think victims shouldn’t get blamed for getting raped, that is absolutely wrong.

  2. Raj

    And sorry to nitpick, but your title should read “When You And I Feel Unsafe In India….” not “you and me”.

  3. Lex

    Nice piece and unlike Raj, I agree with the statement: “We, in India still feel the need to protect our women from rape rather than stopping men from raping them in the first place.” A woman’s virtue is central to the mentality of many, finding its roots in misogynist belief masquerading as religion. We must be careful not to homogenize men in the same way, though, and implicate all men under this overarching idea.

    1. Raj

      Not sure how exactly you can agree with that statement and yet say that we shouldn’t homogenize men. I would have no issues if the statement was phrased as ““We, in India still feel the need to protect our women from rape rather than stopping rapists in the first place.”” This statement doesn’t implicate all men.

      Religion sucks, no doubt! But religion has greatly harmed men too, with its incessant brainwashing and bloody wars, not just women. I don’t think men should support religion any more than women should.

    2. Lata Jha

      Thank you for taking so much time out to go through the article.
      I however, would never generalize the entire male species as demons of any kind, precisely because I’ve seen them not just protect their own women but also take a stand in this regard. I realise that this might have offended you, but my point was that the entire issue today is about ‘protecting’ rather than ‘preventing’. So while a man is just as disgusted by such acts, there are men in this very country who go out and rape women.

    3. Raj

      I dislike the phrase “male species”. It sounds as if men and women are two separate sentient species fighting over this world. That is certainly not the case.
      Regarding protecting vs preventing, I think we need both. Of course there are “individuals” who commit crimes against other “individuals”. Rape is one such crime and we need to have societal structures in order to prevent it and also to protect individuals from the perpetrators. Note that I have used the neutral term “individual” since we get (and should get) our rights as individuals rather than as men or women, or as hindus or muslims , or as blacks or whites.

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