Indian minister tells female tourists not to wear short skirts (for their own good)

DIVYAKANT SOLANKI

Models present creations by Indian designer Pratima Pandey during the Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Summer/Resort 2016 in Mumbai, India, 03 April 2016.

To protect women, India’s Minister calls for the appeasement of rapists


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India’s Minister of Tourism suggested on Sunday that women visiting India should not wear short skirts, for their own safety. They should also not go out at night alone, especially in small towns.

The minister with two daughters

“For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts {because} … Indian culture is different from the western,” Minister Mahesh Sharma said. Apparently, the British Foreign Office has also issued similar warnings about respecting local dress codes and avoiding travelling alone, in recognition that India is not safe for female tourists.

When India’s Minister of Tourism was challenged by journalists on whether he was suggesting there is a dress code for India, he replied his was a “cultural country,” which should be taken into account, but said a dressed code applied for temples.

It’s not just tourists.

Hailing from the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Minister Mahesh Sharma told Indian women some months ago that going out at night is not “part of the Indian culture,” but in fact “a Western cultural encroachment.

Sharma released these latest warnings to women along with “a welcome kit” for tourists in India. The kit included a list of dos and don’ts for tourists, specifically women.

The backlash was considerable, and the Minister was compared by opposition MP Rajesh Sharma (Aam Aadmi Party) to a Taliban.

By Monday, Minister Sharma changed the tone of his address to women, making reference to his two daughters. He said he would “never tell women what they should wear or not,” but he urged women to be “cautious.” The Minister specified he was merely speaking out of “concern,” and that dressing code instructions were limited to religious sites.

No justice for rape victims in India

Although the reference to short skirts as a means to appease the sexual appetite of male predators may show a lack of imagination, India’s is notoriously unsafe for women, local or foreign.

India’s reputation as a tourist destination has been tarnished by a string of sexual assault incidents. High profile incidents include the gang-rape and murder of a Delhi medical student in 2012, followed by several assaults on tourists.

The latest high profile case was an assault against an Israeli tourist in Manali, a Himalayan resort, in July 2016.

According to India Today newspaper, 92 women are raped in India every day, of whom four in Delhi. 80% of women in India have experienced sexual harassment or violence.

India has thus far responded by introducing more strict punishments for rape, widening the scope of the legal definition, and moving to also prosecute voyeurism and stalking. But, there is no effective prosecution, no protection for victims, and generally no real effort to protect women, local or foreign.

BBC reports a serious shortage of forensic laboratories; moreover, India cannot guarantee a speedy trial as there is a shortage of both lawyers and judges.

Apparently, only one in four rape cases led to a conviction in India in 2014.

In July 2016 a 21-year old girl was allegedly raped for the second time by the same group of men that raped her in 2013, because she did not accept an out of court settlement Al Jazeera reports.

(Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, The Guardian)

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