India as unsafe as any other country: Foreign visitors

With renewed attention on crimes against women in India after the gang-rape of a Swiss woman in Madhya Pradesh, foreign nationals living visiting or living India feel the country is as unsafe as any other, sexual abuse is a global phenomenon with many saying they have never felt unsafe here.

"I don't feel unsafe here even after the gang-rape incident of a Swiss lady. if that was the case, I would have never chosen India as home," Flora Saints Sans, a German national living in Delhi, told IANS.

She said foreigners living in India should get used to being stared at -- by men as well as women.

"Thankfully, I have never been stalked," said Sans, who runs an intercultural exchange programme.

India came into international focus after the 23-year-old physiotherapist trainee was brutally raped in a moving bus by six males Dec 16. The woman died 13 days later.

Last week, a 39-year-old Swiss woman, on a cycling trip with her husband and camping out at night in the forested land in Datia district in Madhya Pradesh, was attacked by six men who gang-raped her, assaulted her husband and robbed them. All the accused have been arrested.

Last year, a 23-year-old Chinese woman was raped in Delhi. In 2008, a 15-year-old British national was raped and killed in Goa.

Louis, a French national, pursuing her undergraduate degree from St. Stephen's College, says sexual abuses are a global phenomenon and women are vulnerable in every society.

"There is something wrong in almost every society," Louis, who gave only her first name, told IANS.

Looking back at her two-year stay in India, she said the way people perceived a blonde or a white woman here was not good.

"There have been times when some people have tried to touch me or get too close," she said. "My friend, who too is French, was almost raped by a group of men in Mumbai last year during a festival."

For a first-time visitor to India, Jessica Toroda, a Briton who came to India with friends, never felt unsafe from the moment she landed.

"My first trip was to Kerala; then I travelled to Goa and Jaipur and now reached Delhi. There hasn't been any major incident and I do not feel insecure or intimidated," she said.

"People do stare here, but I think they are just curious. They ask a lot many questions but I feel they are just too inquisitive and not offensive," Toroda's friend Sarah Lagaraff said.

"We are often told to take extra precautions while visiting places like India," Lagaraff, a Briton, said.

Janet Philip from Australia said when she was coming to India, her friends listed out many do's and dont's.

"As soon as I told I'm going to India and visiting Delhi, my colleagues and friends told me about the Dec 16 gang-rape. They asked me not to venture out alone.

They also asked me not to be too adventurous. But so far it has been good," Philip, on a month-long trip to India, told IANS.

Sophie Methurst from Britain, on her third trip to India, said: "I never had any experience here that involved anyone trying to feel me or passing any lewd comments or making vulgar gestures."

"There are some places where you have to be extra cautious... I have been in Delhi for nine months and I'm always cautious," she said.

"This (crime against women) is not true to India alone. Any big country will have such problems," she said.


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