India, with its strong sense of spirituality and culture, is a big draw for solo female travelers.
But Indian culture is also rooted in a form of behavior known as “eve teasing,” which makes it a more difficult and slightly dangerous country to navigate alone.
I had every intention of going to India for my next big trip abroad, until my sister returned from India two months ago and said ‘It would be best to postpone your plans.’
Eve teasing is a euphemism of public sexual harassment towards women by men, which can range from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing, catcalls, to downright groping and rape.
Bollywood movies commonly feature ‘eve-teasing’ as an acceptable form of flirtation for men on the hunt for his special, future wife. Obviously, a tug of a scarf to the tune of a playful Bollywood song is quite different from an uninvited touch on the bus.
Sadly, the real evidence of eve teasing comes with unwelcome gestures and comments to Indian women and foreigners alike. The behavior has been a part of masculine Indian culture for many years, but first received attention from the media in the 1960’s.
Since eve teasing came under media scrutiny around the world, measures and laws have been made in India to reduce the harassment that most women face in day-to-day life. However, the public reaction towards eve teasing has been plagued by an ebb and flow of activism and apathy with ineffective results.
The Effects of Eve Teasing On Locals and Travelers
Last December, eve teasing shot right back into public discourse when a female medical student was brutally gang-raped on a bus. Since then, more accounts have emerged of Indian women who have been sexually assaulted. Most of these cases go unreported because of the patriarchal attitudes of the police towards the women.
Until recently, attacks on foreign female travelers have been relatively uncommon. However, there have been an influx of incidents during the past six months causing governments to issue travel advisories directed at women heading to India.
A whopping 76% of women surveyed have stated they believe India is not safe for travel at this given point in time.
What Do We Do Now?
While we at GGG are not ones to jump to conclusions due to media sensationalism, deeper reading of various news articles, government advisories, and blog accounts has left me with a concerned and troubled impression.
Sexual assaults are still on the rise among the India’s women. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) statistics, a woman in India is raped every 20 minutes. In fact, worldwide violence against women has increased so much that WHO has called it an epidemic.
Women’s rights in India urgently need attention.
It’s promising that the issue is now part of public discourse more than it ever has before, but there’s still much more that needs to be done. If you’re interested in helping to stop the cycle of poverty, sexual abuse and sexual slavery that exists in India, check out this article for a list of organizations dedicated to helping women in India.
After my research, I’ve decided to postpone my trip. As a safety conscious female traveler and advocate for women’s rights, my Indian adventure can wait until the dangerous and violent climate against women in India has subsided.