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Monday, March 18, 2013


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If you think that responsible countries should formally warn their women travelers of the high risk of rape they face in India, especially in the wake of the gangrape of a Swiss tourist in Madhya Pradesh, don’t be surprised.
Western countries have already issued travel advisories to their women travelers clearly telling them they are not safe in India; that they are at risk of being raped.
What a great image make-over for a super-power aspirant and the Incredible India campaigners. It’s incredibly shameful that in the whole of South Asia, it’s only India that has been singled out for this rape travel advisory! That too in a country that gets more than USD 120 billion every year from tourists.
A Swiss woman, center, who, according to police, was gang-raped by a group of eight men while touring by bicycle with her husband, is escorted by policewomen. AP
A Swiss woman, center, who, according to police, was gang-raped by a group of eight men while touring by bicycle with her husband, is escorted by policewomen. AP
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka don’t have the size and money to come anywhere close to India. On paper, they may be more lawless and crisis-ridden too, but the men in those countries do not pounce on women the way we do in India, and the rest of the world are more relaxed in advising their women while they travel there.
But guess what? 85 percent of South Asia is India and therefore, India’s taint besmirches the whole of the region. The rest of South Asia, for once, should be ashamed of India!
There are only very few countries in the world that carry such an ignominy. Even Papua New Guinea, which appears to be India’s cousin in its pastime of raping women, carries a less severe advisory.
This is what the UK tells its citizens of the rape-risks in India:
“Women should use caution if travelling alone in India. Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk. British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan and women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men.”
And what does America tell its women travellers?
“While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape is the fastest growing crime in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are at risk and should exercise vigilance.”
The advisory goes on to add that women can be “Eve-teased”, subjected to sexual harassment that can be frightening, and there could be “sexually suggestive lewd comments to catcalls to outright groping.”
“Women should 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.”
Why the heck should any woman travel to India in such scary conditions? Just to be shut up in their hotel rooms or eat, pray and love? It’s better, perhaps, to go to the Central African Republic.
Last month, even Switzerland had advised its women to be careful in India, but perhaps the tourist in Madhya Pradesh fell for the romantic allure of India’s lawlessness and hopelessness, which some philosophise as mystic chaos. Almost exactly how we are adept in reconciling with our abject poverty as part of our spiritual being, some have even started philosophising on rapes.
The western countries have now realised that the risks of rape in India are real. Rape of women appears to be a national pastime. The Delhi gangrape had provoked an unprecedented citizens’ response in the national capital and the states, but that didn’t make any impact on the situation.
Delhi alone reported at least two rapes every day in the two months following the gangrape. There were equally horrendous incidents of rapes from different parts of the country, which are still continuing. Going by the number so far, perhaps we might surpass last year’s rape-tally of 24,000.
In the case of Madhya Pradesh, the Swiss national will be just a speck because it anyway accounts of 14 per cent of the country’s rapes.
Right now, we are in the middle of legislating a tough law to protect women against sexual violence. Will this law make any difference to the safety of women in India?
Mostly unlikely, because, as we argued earlier, the sexual violence against women has to be looked at in the context of the overall lawlessness and gender-inequality that prevails in India. No law will be able to address this. It will require a fundamental social transformation, wherein rule of law and equal rights to women is a reality.
But, this will be bad news for our politicians and hence is unlikely to happen.
The new law might scare some people, but as post-Delhi evidence shows, nothing is likely to change in terms of the risk of women to sexual violence and rapes because majority of our rapists or potential rapists won’t even know the gravity of their criminality and its consequences.
A Haus Khas student didn’t think twice before spiking an overseas girl’s drink and raping her last month even as the national media was abuzz with post-Delhi outrage. Neither was a resort manager in Bhopal deterred from raping a south Korean girl in the same month.
Even from a narrow perspective of making the new law work, the state and central governments should undertake an extraordinary nationwide campaign against this phenomenon just as it took on polio or AIDS. It should tell people from every possible outlet and street-corner that they will be in jail if they aggress women. The government needs to spend at least a couple of billion dollars for a few years at a stretch on this because it is an extraordinary epidemic that needs an extraordinary response.

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