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Tourism minister slammed after advising women not to wear skirts “for their own safety”

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Are you planning a trip to India?

Tourism minister Mahesh Sharma has some safety advice for women visiting the country; don’t wear a skirt.

Speaking with The Guardian, Sharma explained that fewer women have visited India following the high-profile gang rape and murder of a Delhi medical student in 2012.

In a bid to combat this, female tourists will now be issued a welcome kit when they arrive in his country, which features some controversial safety advice.

“In that kit they are given dos and don’ts,” explained Sharma. “These are very small things like, they should not venture out alone at night in small places, or wear skirts, and they should click the photo of the vehicle number plate whenever they travel and send it to friends.”

He added: “For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts...

“Indian culture is different from the western.”

Sharma has since been slammed for his victim-blaming comments, with many men and women taking to social media to criticise his ‘sexist’ attitude.

Following the backlash, Sharma attempted to clarify his remarks – and denied that they amounted to a dress code for foreign women.

“I am a father of two daughters… I would never tell women what they should wear or not,” he told reporters.

“Such a ban is unimaginable, but it is not a crime to be cautious. Different countries issue advisories from time to time, but I never said change anyone's way of dressing.”

However Swati Maliwal, the chief of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), has expressed shock over the fact that a high-profile figure like Sharma would ever draw parallels between rape and the attire of a woman.

“Rape of 2-year-old is also due to wearing skirts? Improve law and order, please stop telling women what to wear or not wear,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Can’t believe politicians continue to equate rape with wearing skirt. So easy to shirk responsibility and blame a women’s attire for rape.”

Maliwal finished by advising Sharma and his colleagues to improve their “pathetic” stance on sexual assault, reiterating that there is “no correlation in wearing a skirt and rape.”

Her comments were echoed by Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, a thinktank focusing on gender equality in India.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said that Sharma’s remarks reflect the “syndrome of blaming women.”

“The problem is men and boys in India,” she said. “They go for all kinds of misogyny and sexual acts, rapes and gang-rapes.

“It’s important for [Sharma] to have said how to punish the perpetrators of crime and stop the nonsense of ogling women and following them.

“Why should any girls come to India when it is becoming famous for not being safe to girls?”

In 2012, citizens protested for tougher anti-rape laws after a young medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus

In 2012, citizens protested for tougher anti-rape laws after a young medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus

In December 2012, a 23-year-old paramedical student known in the press as “Nirbhaya” (which means ‘fearless’) was beaten, gang raped, and tortured on a moving bus.

Her injuries were so severe that medics were forced to surgically remove her intestines. Despite their best efforts to save her, she died thirteen days after the assault.

The incident sparked a nationwide outcry against the lack of safety against women, and the country was jolted into passing a series of tough new anti-rape laws.

These included a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years for gang rape, and six new fast-track courts created solely for rape prosecutions.

However sexual violence against women continues to make headlines in India.

According to recent statistics, a woman is reportedly raped every 15 minutes in the country – and nearly 100 rapes are reported each day.

Despite this, only one in four rape cases leads to a conviction

According to reports, a woman is reportedly raped every 15 minutes in India

According to reports, a woman is reportedly raped every 15 minutes in India

As a result, many of the citizens who took part in the protests after Nirbhaya’s rape have said that they have seen “absolutely no change in the rape culture and related brutality” in India.

Speaking a year after the law was changed, one woman said: “The taboo on discussing rape and sexual violence has been broken. The protests brought debates and discussions to our homes… [but] the streets are not safe.

“Teasing [known as Eve teasing] and catcalling or worse are to be found everywhere. Sexual harassment in public places as well as inside the home is still rampant.”

She added that the country needed more time to undo what the patriarchy had done to their culture over centuries, insisting: “It is too embedded in our homes, our institutions and in our laws.

“The police may be a little more receptive, but it is not out of a sense of duty but out of the fear of censure".

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