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Female tourists should not wear skirts in India, says tourism minister

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If you’re a woman travelling to India, you may have been issued a ‘welcome kit’ upon arrival, which lists dos’ and don’ts for your own safety. In addition, tourism minister Mahesh Sharma, in a press conference over the weekend, has said: “For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts … Indian culture is different from the western.”

He also suggested that women shouldn’t go out alone at night in the country’s small towns and cities, and that they should take a photo of the vehicle number plate whenever they travel and send it to friends “for their own safety”.

Ironically, the kit he referred to has no mention about skirts. It only says: “Some parts of India, particularly the smaller towns and villages, still have traditional styles of dressing. Do find out about local customs and traditions or concerned authorities before visiting such places.”

The Welcome Kit

The Welcome Kit

He has since come out on Monday to backpedal his original remarks, saying that he would not impose a dress code or a skirt ban, and that the intention is to instill caution in female travellers.

India’s Welcome Kit for Women

Introduced last year, the kit is one of a suite of measures introduced to address the declining rates of female tourism – it’s no wonder, since the country has hogged headlines for a rather large number of high-profile gang-rape and murder cases. Most memorable was probably one in 2012 that involved the victim getting medical help in Singapore.

Since then, there have been plenty more attacks on female tourists, including attacks on an Israeli national in Manali in July this year, and on a Russian in Delhi last year, in addition to the kidnapping of a Japanese in Bihar in 2014.

India has since toughened its sentences for rape and assault cases, although some say it’s not enforced well enough. According to India’s national crime statistics, 92 women are raped per day (but believed to be an underestimate), mostly in rural areas, while a street survey reveals that “eve-teasing” – street harassment and violence – is experienced by 79% of Indian women.

Some have lambasted officials in India for mishandling the situation by focusing on blaming women instead of targeting men for re-education and/or punishment.

 

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