Rape and Scams Hit Foreign Visitors, India Listed 'Unsafe' on Travel Advisories
Police escort suspects in the alleged gang-rape and extortion of a Japanese tourist
NEW DELHI: “Travelers should be aware that there have been reported cases of sexual assault, including rape, of U.S. citizens traveling throughout India. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India.”
“Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by individuals and groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents of sexual harassment can be quite frightening and can quickly cross the line from verbal to physical.”
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day. Keep your hotel room number confidential and make sure hotel room doors have chains, deadlocks, and peep holes. When possible, travel around the area with groups of friends rather than alone. In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially at night. Use taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, call “100” for police assistance (“112” from mobile phones).”
“ Major airports, train stations, popular restaurants, and tourist sites are often used by scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction. Beware of taxi drivers and others, including train porters, who solicit travelers with "come-on" offers of cheap transportation and/or hotels. Travelers accepting such offers have frequently found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with "necessary" transfers to the domestic airport, disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours," unwelcome "purchases," extended cab rides, and even threats when the tourists decline to pay. There have been reports of tourists being lured, held hostage and extorted for money in the face of threats of violence against the traveler and his/her family members.”
The above are excerpts from a US State Department Travel Advisory to its citizens visiting India. Similar advisors cautioning against sexual assault have been issued by several countries including the UK, France, Germany and others.
The rape of the Japanese tourist merely highlights once again what women face in India, not just those visiting, but the local citizens for whom security and safety still does not exist. The young girl raped by the Uber taxi driver has told her friends that she cannot sleep at night, and is undergoing severe trauma. Yet, none of the promises made by the government when the young girl was raped in a moving bus and which is referred to in the foreign travel advisories, have been implemented. The Verma Commission report recommendations remain on paper.
The travel advisories have cut down tourist traffic to India substantially, a fact confirmed by travel agencies and tour operators. The shortfall is being met with domestic travel, but foreigners are not looking at India as the ideal destination, sources here said. The ‘scams’ headline in the US travel advisory that spells out the details of being cheated and hoodwinked--- for instance is another major issue that is deterring traffic. And is clearly sufficiently prevalent for foreign governments to warn their citizens about. The statement in the US advisory that “even food or drink prepared in front of a traveler from a canteen can be tainted” is a major comment on the Indian system that a foreign traveller has to deal with.
The cautions extend to shopping and not handing over the credit cards until. “If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is best avoided”, the advisory points out.
And again, :”India-based criminals use the internet to extort money from victims abroad. In a common scam, the victim develops a close romantic relationship with an alleged U.S. citizen they meet online. When the “friend” travels to India, a series of accidents occur and the victim begins to receive requests for financial assistance, sometimes through an intermediary. In fact, the U.S. citizen “friend” does not exist; they are only online personas used by criminal networks. Victims have been defrauded of thousands of dollars in these schemes. Do not send money to anyone you have not met in person and carefully read the Department of State’s advice on international financial scams.”
And again “In another common scam, family members in the United States, particularly older people, are approached for funds to help callers claiming to be grandchildren or relatives who have been arrested or are without money to return home. Do not send money without contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General to confirm the other party’s situation. “
The UK travel advisory also cautions against sexual assault with the information, “British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan and women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men.
“Serious sexual attacks involving Polish, German and Danish women travellers have been reported so far in 2014. Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India even if they are travelling in a group”.
It also warns of ‘tricksters’ particularly for those tourists shopping for jewellery. “The jewellery is worthless and the deposit, often amounting to thousands of pounds, is lost” it points out.
Clearly not a Shining India even for visitors.