India is dealing with more than just all the rapes that have been reported recently by Indian women. They're losing major tourism money, as the fear of sexual assault has already caused one tourist to jump out of a window, just one incident among many that's stirring up enough negative press to lower the number of people that actually want to visit their country.
The New York Times reports that in the three months after a student was gang raped in Delhi in December, women traveled to India 35 percent less than they had during that same period in 2012. Since then, there was the aforementioned woman who jumped off a balcony and a Swiss tourist who was gang raped in front of her husband by a group of Indian men. The relative "duh" part of the story comes here:
"Although the per capita rate of rapes reported to the police in India is below that of many developed nations, some experts believe that many sexual attacks go unreported and that the actual number is far higher."
Moving on from that shockingly obvious but necessary to make statement: the Indian government is trying desperately to convince potential tourists that the country is safe. Each state has been asked to set up their own police force devoted to tourists, while hotels have created female-only tours and areas. Some have given out cell phones filled with emergency numbers in them.
There's already a preponderance of essays and writing for women online about the dangers/merits/safety concerns of women traveling alone in any country, let alone one that has a violence against women problem (basically all countries have a violence against women problem). So reports discouraging women from traveling on their own are less than uplifting. The Associated Press reports that a lot of these women are still traveling, just choosing less high-profile locations, like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam. Kind of like when you didn't go to spring break in Mexico because of whatever scary thing had happened there, so your mother told you to go to Costa Rica instead. These things do have a slightly cyclical quality to them for outsiders with nothing to go on but scary news reports.
For India, which is still in the early stages of combating this problem, it appears that the tactic they've chosen is to attempt to protect women from the men, and not stop the men from raping. Perhaps its a necessary step in the interim; rape culture doesn't disappear overnight. After all, India is taking actual steps towards prosecuting the men who are perpetrating these crimes, due to massive outcry within and outside of their country. If concerns about losing money from wealthier white visitors from outside the country help prevent further crimes, that's great. Right now though, it sounds a little bit as though tourist women are being given protections not available to the women of India who don't get to go home at the end of 10 days.
Image via Rajanish Kakade/AP