CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

National News

April 4, 2013

INTERNATIONAL: High-profile rapes threaten India tourism business

MUMBAI, India — A fatal gang rape in New Delhi didn’t deter Germans Carolina De Paolo and Canan Wahner from traveling to India for a six-week tour. The attack was awful, but there is crime everywhere, they figured, and they’d take precautions.

Then a man sidled up to Wahner on a train to Goa and ran his hand up her leg a few weeks into the trip. On another train, a different man grabbed De Paolo’s breasts from behind.

“I wanted to scream and do something, but he ran away,” De Paolo said. She never reported the crime, deciding there would be no point. The two women, both 22, say there were times they didn’t feel safe, but they insist they still would come to India again.

That separates them from many tourists, who are choosing not to come at all.

Violence against women, and the huge publicity generated by recent attacks here, is threatening India’s $17.7 billion tourism industry. A new study shows tourism has plunged, especially among women, since a 23-year-old Indian student was raped on a New Delhi bus and later died from her injuries — a case that garnered worldwide publicity. The government denies any fall off in tourism.

Concerns only grew after the reported gang rape of a Swiss woman in central India last month and after a British woman jumped out of her hotel room window fearing the manager was trying to break into her room to sexually assault her. That incident happened in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, one of India’s chief tourist attractions.

Merchants say India is being unfairly singled out, but perception is everything in the tourist business. And businesses catering to tourists are already suffering.

Foreign tourist arrivals have dropped 25 percent since the December gang rape in New Delhi, and the number of female travelers fell by 35 percent, according to the study by the New Delhi-based Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The study, which surveyed 1,200 tour operators across the country, indicated that “concerns about the safety of female travelers” have changed tourists’ plans. Instead, they are going to countries perceived to be safer, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Tourism Minister K. Chiranjeevi disputed the survey Wednesday, saying that foreign tourist arrivals into India in January and February grew by 2.1 percent.

But Mehraj Shora says it is hard to see that as business dries up in his Mumbai carpet shop.

“Every day it’s getting worse,” Shora laments. “Tourists are coming, but not like before.”

In good times, Shora used to sell two or three Kashmiri carpets a day to foreign visitors at prices starting at $300. Now, days might go by without a single rug sold. He estimates sales are down 50 percent and says the rape cases have added to the strain of a stalling economy.

He blames the international media for hyping recent cases when crimes occur in any country. “Actually, India is quite safe. In some ways it’s safer than other places.”

Still, just as the New Delhi gang rape sparked a national outcry over the mistreatment of women, the attacks on female tourists have highlighted what has long been known: Women traveling in India, especially alone, frequently face unwanted advances from men.

Crimes against female tourists happen everywhere. Thailand has, for instance, seen at least three rapes of foreign tourists this year. In the Philippines, a local man was arrested in January on charges of raping a 23-year-old British woman on the resort island of Boracay. Over the weekend in Brazil, an American woman was gang raped and beaten aboard a public minibus she had boarded in Rio de Janeiro. Still, in India it is particularly easy to find stories from foreign women who, like some Indian women, have been harassed, followed or fondled.

Italian model Ginevra Leggeri, 21, says she had no warning when a man groped her from behind while she was walking with a friend in Mumbai, where she came to work a few months ago.

“I was completely covered and we were just walking, and this man touched me, and I started screaming and I slapped him,” she said.

Her friend and co-worker Amy Manson, 19, quickly pointed out that a pair of Indian men on a passing motorbike saw the incident and stopped to confront the attacker.

“An Indian guy grabbed her, but then two other Indian guys came and helped us,” Manson said. “So it’s like a 50-50 situation.”

But she hesitates when asked if she would recommend a friend visit, and she agrees India’s tourist business will be damaged if it doesn’t take action to protect women. Last month, the government passed new, more stringent, laws against sexual violence.

“It’s not just the girl in Delhi ... this has been happening for years and years and years,” Manson said. “It’s just coming out now, which is good, because maybe things will change.”

Imran Latha, owner of the Visit India tour company in Mumbai, said some Indian men assume when they see foreign women drink or do drugs that they also are eager for sex. The only solution, he said, is for tourists to dress modestly and protect themselves.

“Trust me, India cannot do anything. The Indian government is the worst in the world. If we can’t protect our own countrywomen, what can we do for foreigners?” he said.

At the end of their six-week trip, De Paolo and Wahner say their groping incidents are not the only thing they’ll remember about a vast and richly cultured subcontinent.

Still, Wahner said, “Now, after this trip, I would for example never travel alone as a woman in India.”

They quickly learned to take precautions: always dressing modestly in long sleeves and trousers outside major cities, rarely venturing out of their hotels after dark. Being friendly, but not too friendly, to men and trying to find Indian women for company.

“It’s strange. You don’t want to judge every man who sits next to you,” Wahner said. “But sometimes in the end, yes, they do touch you.”

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Fort Hood (UPDATED) Officials: 4 dead, including gunman, at Fort Hood

    A gunman opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said.
    One of the officials, citing official internal U.S. Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information by name.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • High School Stabbings 4 students seriously hurt in Pa. school stabbings

    A student armed with a knife went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, leaving as many as 20 people injured, including four students who suffered serious wounds, authorities said.

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • Obit Ultimate Warrior Former pro wrestler Ultimate Warrior dies at 54

    James Hellwig, better known as former pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, has died, the WWE said. He was 54.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Washington Mudslide Death toll in Washington mudslide rises to 30

    As medical examiners painstakingly piece together the identities and lives of the 30 people known killed when a mudslide wiped out a small Washington community, one mystery troubles them.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Fort Hood Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment

    An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court Campaign Big donors may give even more under court’s ruling

    The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday erasing a long-standing limit on campaign donations will allow a small number of very wealthy donors to give even more than is currently the case, according to students of the complex campaign finance system, and could strengthen the establishment in both parties.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former McDonald's store managers say they withheld employees' wages

    Two former McDonald's store managers, assisting with a campaign to raise pay for fast-food workers, said they helped withhold employees' wages at the restaurant chain after facing pressure to keep labor costs down.

    April 2, 2014