Danish rape in India and advice to women visiting

Published: January 20, 2014
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In India, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues. PHOTO: REUTERS

In India, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues. PHOTO: REUTERS In India, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues. PHOTO: REUTERS In India, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues. PHOTO: REUTERS In India, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Danish tourist was abducted and gang raped at knife point in New Delhi last week. This is yet another one of a series of rapes that has shocked India and has shamed us once again.

I have compiled a list of pointers that I think would make travelling safer for women tourists in India. Having travelled extensively throughout the length and breadth of the country, I have a fair bit of experience on dealing with problems that women could face while travelling alone or with fellow women. I’ve even made my share of mistakes that could have landed me in trouble, had I run out of luck, which thankfully, I didn’t.

Here’s what I think women need to keep in mind:

1) Exercise caution when interacting with strangers

Some men, in this part of the world, may sometimes misunderstand your politeness or friendliness as overtures for something more than what you are willing to offer. While interacting with locals is a part of the charm of travelling, always be on guard. It’s never prudent to reveal too much of information about yourself.

2) Avoid late night arrivals

I always avoid going out at late hours of the evening or in the wee hours of the morning. Since I travel to new locations that I am unfamiliar with, I feel safer reaching my destination in broad daylight when the roads are swarming with people.

3) Book the upper compartment when travelling by train

I’ve learnt this the hard way!

I’ve had to deal with unsavoury incidents where men have tried to grope me in the middle of the night while I’m fast asleep. So if you’re travelling by train, always book the upper compartment so that perverse men find it difficult to feel you up when you’re sleeping. Also, travelling in two tiered air-conditioned berths or three tiered air-conditioned berths is safer than travelling in the general compartments.

4) Avoid accepting food or drinks from fellow passengers

There have been innumerable incidents involving unwary travellers who’ve been robbed after accepting food laced with sedatives or some kind of drug that leaves them unconscious. Hence, avoid accepting snacks or even water from people you’ve just met.

5) Choose hotels wisely

I once stayed at a hotel where certain guests present made me feel uneasy. I dismissed my instincts and instead of changing hotels, my friends and I decided to stay put. Soon enough we regretted that decision when we were woken up in the dead of the night and were made extremely uncomfortable by the noise of drunken revelry of the same guests.

The point that I’m trying to make is that always trust your instincts and act on them. If you get a negative feeling or vibe about your surroundings, extricate yourself from those settings without losing any time. Referring to travel websites and relying on hotel recommendations by travellers is always a good idea.

6) Sometimes, people in India stare!

It’s not necessarily only the men; I’ve even had women stare at me. Many a time, the staring is due to curiosity about outsiders and tourists.

Be prepared! If you’re a white woman travelling in rural India or touristy places, you may be hounded with requests for photographs. It’s okay to politely turn the pleas down if you feel uncomfortable.

7) Asking for directions

If you’ve lost your way, rely on technology and use GPS. Asking for directions is a good option but don’t let people lead you to your destination. You never know where they are actually taking you. Verifying the directions you’ve received from a passer-by with others will ensure that you’re on the right route.

8) Invitations from locals to visit their homes

While there have been plenty of incidents where my fellow travellers and I have accepted invitations from locals for tea or dinner, this may not always be safe. I dread to think of the outcome, had we come across unscrupulous men with malevolent intentions. Luckily, we’ve always been at the receiving end of some warm hospitality from kind, fellow countrymen.

9) Your cell phone is your guardian angel

Your cell phone may prove to be a true friend in times of need. Keep it on your person at all times.

10) Taking lifts

This is all too common with travellers and trekkers visiting the Himalayas. Rely on government buses or hire private vehicles while travelling in the mountains. Taking risks like accepting lifts may land you in a soup sooner or later. Why invite trouble, eh?

11) Keeping family and friends in the loop

Always keep your loved ones updated about your whereabouts and future travels plans. They may be able to track you down and help you in case the need ever arises. Texting or emailing them certain information like your travel itinerary, name and telephone numbers of hotels you plan to stay at and the numbers of taxis and rickshaws you travel by will hold you in good stead.

You could even ask the rickshaw or taxi driver to tell you the number of his vehicle after boarding it and then repeat it to a friend on the phone. This is a trick to let the driver know that you are being vigilant and their information has been passed on.

12) Pepper spray is your weapon

Carry a pepper spray with you at all times and do not hesitate in using it to defend yourself if you face any kind of harassment.

13) Skinny dipping is a complete no-no

Recently, a group of 50 Russian naval personnel went skinny dipping off the coast of Karnataka, South West India. This incident irked the locals and other tourists present, causing the local police to intervene.

I’ve seen foreigners and Indians strip down to the bare minimum at beaches in other states like Goa but it would be sensible to avoid indulging in such practices since locals interpret such acts as a sign of disrespect towards their culture.

14) Avoid visiting deserted locales

On a trip to a pristine beach aeons ago, my friend and I realised we were alone at the beach with no other human in sight. While we were exhilarated at the time, I later realised how unsafe that situation could have been for two young girls alone at a beach. Avoid putting yourself in similar situations.

15) Research

Always do a little bit of research on the city or state you plan to visit to get an idea about the security situation of the area and take the necessary precautions while travelling.

16) Report miscreants

If you ever come across a situation where you find men misbehaving with you or around you, report the incident to the local police immediately. In my experience, the general public takes incidents of women being ‘eve teased’ head on. Create a scene if men try to grope you or make inappropriate sexual comments. The public is bound to come to your aid in such situations.

17) Appearing self-assured

If you’re travelling alone for the first time or if you’re travelling to an unknown location where the local language is not one that you are familiar with, it’s natural to be a tad bit apprehensive. But the key lies in putting up a self-assured or confident front. Your demeanour, to a certain extent, may determine how people perceive you and the attitude they adopt towards you.

The vibe people need to get from you is that you’re a strong woman who is capable of taking good care of herself and being defensive. You need to come across as a woman who is sure of herself. Strong women get troubled as well but there are situations where people back off because confident and outspoken ladies intimidate them. If you appear nervous or apprehensive, it may make it that much easier for people to try and manipulate you.

For some of the men out there, here’s some food for thought for you.

The true test of your manhood is how you treat a woman; any and every woman. If you do not respect a woman, you’re only half a man – Times of India.

Having said all of this, I must add that there have been numerous occasions when I’ve received help and guidance from fellow travellers and strangers alike. Indians are a helpful and hospitable lot and there’s no greater thrill than exploring a country as beautiful and diverse as India. However, like all other countries, we have our share of criminals and the pointers mentioned above will hopefully help you stay off the radar of these rogues.

Happy and safe travelling!

Amrita Singh

Amrita Singh

Passionate about trekking and travelling, the writer has just moved to Belfast, UK. Her obsession with the Himalayas grows every passing year and she keeps going back for more.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bhakti

    ‘The true test of your manhood is how you treat a woman; any and every woman. If you do not respect a woman, you’re only half a man.’

    -Source is Times of India. (These two lines were a part of the ‘Definition of Manhood’ ad campaign) Had mentioned the source in my draft to ET.Recommend

  • Shail Arora

    ” I’ve even had women stare at me.”… Just being curious, why would this happen? Considering that, well, you look Indian by all means and most likely, not pass off as an outsider (going by the pic you’ve uploaded here).Recommend

  • Bhakti

    Locals tend to recognize outsiders/tourists (Like from a different state) instantly and hence they are curious.Also, if you wear western clothes (Which I do) and travel to some of the remotest/rural areas of the country, then again people(including women) do stare.Recommend

  • http://www.computerandyou.net/ Abhishek Prakash

    Just being Indian doesn’t mean that Indians will not mean you can not be stared at. If you go to a bit to rural area, people will stare at you because you are a stranger, from the city. They can guess it from your outfit and all. Pretty common in fact.Recommend

  • sikandar

    not only india but why our media doesn’t highliht issues of rape incidents ,,,,,,,Recommend

  • Parvez

    Whenever this topic comes up its invariably about Delhi………. why ? Is it because its the capital but then that again is no answer.Recommend

  • IndianDude

    We should make rape a crime punishable by death. Let’s hang a few scums to set example.Recommend

  • kublai

    Excellent article. With good solid info. that could be
    used not only in India but other parts of the word too.Recommend

  • chimgaadarr

    Another very good tip … Avoid coming to India … Recommend

  • jin

    or u can do youself a favor and not got to a rape infested place in the first place.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Men are very horny in this part of the world and they are denied marriage due to ridiculous customs and traditions of society which are becoming ever more demanding. Make an open liberal society and get people married earlier or let people have bf/gf and this problem will be fixed.Recommend

  • Anooop

    This education is necessary. The current media campaign promoting civilized behavior in concern with women is welcome.

    Only by talking about it and discussing it and bringing an injustice to people’s notice can we stop it.

    We should let go off the foreign import which puts the woman behind a veil or a wall, and get her out, to work and play an important role in the working of a society.

    China orders its citizens to be civilized, India will educate her citizens.Recommend

  • Carl

    Even if you’re a white man in India, people will still ask you for photographs. It’s actually quite flattering really, until you realise they’ll ask any old gora!Recommend

  • Zam

    Government of India should take serious action on this.Recommend

  • Jennifer

    Decades of mass female fetocide in that country have now led to such dire conditions. Men can’t find girls to be in a relationship with or marry – thus they’re resorting to such acts. What a sick, sick country.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    Great blog! No matter how safe (or unsafe) the country where you are travelling to, every individual is first and foremost responsible for his or her own safety.

    Thank you for the tips! They are very relevant to a female like me!Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/shail.arora.589 Shail Arora

    While I don’t know if this is the exact reason for such incidents, female feticide and declining sex ratio is a big problem in India.Recommend

  • Bhakti

    :) Thanks a lot ! :)Recommend

  • Nobody

    Men don’t rape because they are sexually frustrated or deprived. If that were the case Western men would never rape as Western men and women have the freedom to enjoy sex with whoever however, that is not the case. Rape is a crime of violence and power coupled with a lack of respect and/or empathy for women. Being sexually free doesn’t impact rape rates. Mentality almost certainly does.Recommend

  • bleh

    thank you!Recommend

  • random reader

    Rape is like the most cruel slap on a woman’s face and just shatters her dignity and respect forever. Indians are so frustrated,don’t know why!Recommend

  • sane

    India is not safe for women. Specially foreigners.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Ok. Then walk in a mini skirt in England and then in a mini skirt in India during broad daylight. You will see the difference. I hope you even survive the test in India.Recommend

  • Femme

    You could give all of those tips to women OR you could actually educate men about the respect of women. Rape doesn’t happen because a woman went out late or took a ride from a stranger, if that was the case, every woman would have gotten raped at least once in her life. There’s a deeper reason behind it. Instead of telling women to avoid the situation, how about teach your men to not do it at all. Recommend

  • x

    @Femme:

    Educating men is ofcourse a great idea but when has it ever worked? Men will never stop raping , there is no harm in telling women to be safe by following certain guidelines. Going out late in a place like India is definitely risky, should women still continue going out late? Recommend

  • zinga

    @Femme:

    Rape is not a woman-s fault.. No one is suggesting that it is.But all women need to take the precautions mentioned because men are not going to change anytime soon whether they are educated or not.Telling men to respect women is great, but do you think men will follow that advice? THEy will not, so women need to be cautious for their own good.Recommend

  • Femme

    @x:
    Taking precautions is due diligence I admit to that, however with the attitude: “Oh when has teaching men ever worked”, that attitude is what makes rape culture survive. Giving up on the cause of rape and going to target the lesser problem. Yes, women need to take precautions but they should be the same precautions that any person, man or woman takes when in a foreign country. There shouldn’t be special limitations on a way a woman acts versus the way a man acts. Just because she is a woman, she has to have more limitations than a man at the same stature? That’s preposterous.

    The point is that we’re focusing on the smaller end of the problem, the precautions when the bigger focus should be on the bigger end of the spectrum, the cause! For example, if there is a rat infestation is one’s home and all you focus on is the kind of rat traps and pesticide you use, rather than focus on WHY the rats are in your home, you will never rid yourself of the pests. Attacking the root of the problem is a more effective way to solve it. If you cut off the stem of a plant, it will only grow back but if you pull out the roots it is eliminated. Recommend

  • x

    @Femme:

    I did not in any way imply that men should not be educated and taught to respect women.That is being done but its not working so women need to be careful, more careful than men since they are more vulnerable towards rape.But since you dont agree, you are free to wander about late at night.Please post your experiences here.

    Everything should be done to teach men to behave and it is being done but its not working. Should women still venture out late at night?Recommend

  • Nobody

    Who said anything about mini skirts in England or India or anywhere? Did you even understand my comment?Recommend