It’s time for the authorities to wake up to the reality of India’s all-pervasive misogyny, which is beginning to have global impact already. According to a recent Assocham report, there has been a 25 per cent decline in visiting foreign women tourists in India since December 2012, a devastatingly alarming number to say the least. With 35 per cent fall in overall numbers, it is obvious that India is no longer the ‘holy’ place where unsuspecting foreign ladies want to eat, pray and love and least of all write about their incredible experience. After the reprehensible Delhi gang rape incident, women en masse are rejecting Delhi and India as possible tourist destinations, as the country and its capital are being branded ‘unsafe’ for women. With gang rapes becoming more common than ever, and men targeting foreign and Indian women with equal panache, the day is not far away when traveling to India will cause more concern than excitement in the minds of global tourists. In the wake of recent assaults on foreign women, particularly on a 25-year-old British woman in Agra and a 39-year-old Swiss cyclist in Madhya Pradesh, India’s image as a tourist spot is dwindling by the day. It is increasingly making women of all colours feel unsafe and insecure and is bound to have ripples of global unrest amongst women who would otherwise want to travel and explore India’s bountiful cultures.
As women from the US, UK, Australia and Canada cancel their travel tickets to India and redirect their holidays to vacation in Indonesia and other nearby destinations, the government and state authorities spend their time debating whether stalking is romantic and dismiss voyeurism as not grave enough to be considered an offence. Yet, more and more women from all over the world, who are used to greater freedom and sexual openness in their own countries, are raising their complaints against Indian men, who increasingly are making them feel vulnerable to potential sexual assaults. India is the fourth most dangerous place for women and features amongst the lowest in ensuring women’s safety, way after Bangladesh and even Pakistan in global rankings, with crimes against women mounting at a fevered pitch. This is a shame and is bound to affect not just India’s tourism industry in a disastrous manner, but will adversely affect foreign investment and growth as no investor would like to be associated with a country that cannot guarantee basic safety rights to 50 per cent of its citizens and visitors. We indeed have come a long way from our ancient ideas of holding the visitors in the highest regard and considering them as no less than gods. No amount of trailblazing on television and spending crores on advertisement chanting praises for our country will have any effect unless we learn to correct our attitude towards women in general and foreign women in particular.