How has India’s tourism ministry reacted to the “unsafest country for women” title?


India lacks laws to protect women. Source: Shutterstock

INDIA was recently named the world’s unsafest country for women, but the country’s tourism ministry is taking steps to reassure travelers.

The title was bestowed to India after the results of a Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) poll in June revealed India was dangerous for women, more so than Afganistan, Syria, Somalia, and Saudi Arabi.

However, Tourism Ministry Secretary Rashmi Verma said in a letter sent to the heads of its overseas missions, trade, and hospitality associations, as well as its tourism offices abroad, that the TRF poll was based on “perception.”

She also added that India had implemented numerous safety initiatives since the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, Jyoti Singh Pandey, in New Delhi in 2012.

The incident triggered anger across the world and many questioned India’s protocol for dealing with and preventing these events.

Source: Shutterstock

Verma went on to state in the letter which was shared with Reuters, that the efforts of the government have proved to be working as the number of female tourists to India have remained the same.

Also listed in the letter were the other measures taken to ensure women’s safety across the country. These included the recent enactment of a stringent anti-rape law, institutional systems such as crisis centers and helplines, 24-hour support, counseling and legal aid.

A multi-lingual toll-free number has also been set up for foreigners and tourism police have been deployed to watch out for travelers.

“These efforts are showing results and the life of the average Indian woman is far improved as compared to a decade before,” Verma wrote.

“Facts clearly show that the opinion of India as the most dangerous country for women is not a reflection of reality,” she added.

Overall, the tourism ministry dismissed the TRF poll as “clearly inaccurate,” Reuters reported.

Reuters, however, pointed out government data shows that cases of reported crime against women rose by 83 percent between 2007 and 2016, which equivalent to a reported rape every hour.

These contradicting facts and authorities make it difficult for travelers to know whether their safety will be compromised in India.

Source: Shutterstock

But New Delhi-based Center for Social Research director Ranjana Jumari thinks the simplest way to change perceptions of women’s safety in India is to include more females in lawmaking.

Jumari urged lawmakers to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill which guarantees one-third of national and state assembly seats will be reserved for women.

Yet, until this happens and until the Tourism Ministry stops denying the results of the TRF poll, it’s still difficult to know whether it’ll be safe for women to travel to the country.

So here are some tips and advice for staying safe while in India, to make sure you have the best time possible.

Learn to say “no”

It’s nahi, pronounced “naa-hee!”

Save up money

Traveling around India can be amazingly cheap but this is not a safe way of doing it.

If possible, stay in hotels with tight security. Especially those that offer a personal taxi service. 

Don’t trust locals

By all means, chat with locals, ask to take photos and enjoy their culture, but just like we’re told when we’re young, don’t go off with strangers.

Stick to touristy spots

While authentic experiences may be a trend of 2018, going off the beaten track in India could lead you to trouble.

Venturing into non-touristy areas, especially at night, could attract a lot of unwanted attention. Also, if nobody knows where you are then nobody can help you.

Stick to organized excursions or curate your own tour with a trusted booking agent.

Use designated train compartments

India is home to some of the world’s longest train journeys. The Vivek Express from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari takes a total of 80 hours and 15 minutes.

But even if you’re not on the train for very long, always sit in the female designated zones to prevent unwanted attention from male passengers.