Safety of women in India
Do you think foreign female tourists are safe in India? This Times of India report may shed some light on the plight of female tourists to India. The report continues
On January 7, Japanese actor Yu Asada took a cab from the IGI Airport in Delhi to her hotel in Mahipalpur. It was her maiden trip to India, and she had come to Delhi to meet the cast and crew of My Japanese Niece, a film by Manipuri director Mohen Naorem. That taxi ride was the worst she ever had.
“The cabbie charged me Rs 4,800. When I told him I couldn’t pay so much, he talked about the recent gang rape in Delhi and insinuated that I might meet the same fate. I was numb with fear,” she told TOI.
American Michelle Tanner (name changed) didn’t have to part with her money when she came to India on a backpacking trip in 2010, but she did become a victim of sexual harassment. “Someone pinched my bottom when I went to Chandni Chowk; when I turned around to see who it was, I felt a hand grab my breast. I felt so humiliated that I immediately returned to my hotel, shut myself in my room, and broke down,” she said.
Both Asada and Tanner did not approach cops. Neither do the hordes of foreign travellers who face sexual harassment in varying degrees in India. Their reason is simple: when local women with all their familiarity with the law and advantage of language have such a tough time reporting a sexual offence or getting an FIR lodged, what chance do they have as foreigners?
British woman Kaya Enrich, 27, learnt this the hard way when she was molested by a plumber in Gujarat in 2009 and decided to lodge a case. She was allegedly humiliated in a metropolitan court in Ahmedabad. “The questioning was aggressive, and it seemed to be aimed at demeaning me as far as possible so as to weaken the case. I was asked everything in Gujarati and told to answer in Gujarati even though I had asked for an interpreter,” she had said back then.
At an even greater disadvantage are those women who don’t come from the English-speaking world and, therefore, do not dare move an inch without help from their foreign offices. India doesn’t have an enviable reputation for dispensing quick justice; and tourists with their tight itineraries don’t want to go through the rigmarole of procedure, never-ending investigations and sanity-defying questions that promise very little comfort.
According to statistics shared by the market research division of the ministry of tourism, 6.65 million tourists came to India last year. Of them, roughly 40% (2.66 million) were women. This figure is likely to go up with India setting a target of increasing its share of arrivals from the current 0.6% to 1% by the end of the 12th plan. This simply means more and more women will come to India, either for work or pleasure, and quite likely, carry home sordid tales of harassment: tales that would eventually find vent in blogs and websites and dent the India story.
Additional DCP Suman Nalwa, who heads Delhi Police’s special unit for women and children, said foreigners in need of help are usually tended to. But what about those who cannot speak English? “They have to take help from their embassies. But some of our police districts have moved a proposal to hire interpreters from the School of Languages in JNU to help us cross the language barrier, which is a major constraint. I hope that we will be able to tend to foreigners better once we have the interpreters,” she said.
The country earned Rs 94,487 crore from tourism alone last year—a 21.8% growth as compared to the earnings in 2011. But this achievement has been belittled by the findings of an HSBC expat survey that puts India at the bottom of the ladder among 30 countries in terms of overall experience of foreigners.
Yvonne Anwar (name changed), a Frenchwoman of Algerian descent working in an MNC in Gurgaon, said she feels uncomfortable going out at night, or in crowded places. “Being a woman, and that too a foreigner, is difficult in India, isn’t it?”
Courtesy – Times of India , Republished in public Interest