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Female travelers in India
There will be hassle no matter what precautions you take but there are a few things you could do to try and minimise it.
Wear loose, unrevealing clothes and say you are married with children if anybody(the locals I mean) asks. When you go into restaruants ask for the family section. Single men are not allowed in there. There is also a family carriage on some/all trains. Sit and stand near groups of women when ever you can rather than alone or near men.
Yes, it is discusting to be groped by somebody you have no attraction to at all but try not to take it personally. ie. Try not to feel disrespected. Think of it as ignorance on their part. They often think(or more accurately hope as my boyfriend says) foreign women are promiscous. They dont take the time or have the good manners to find out if we are really like that or not.
Some Indian women can also be judgemental of Western women. They think we behave badly so that might be the reason why they did not come to your rescue when that man grabbed you at the station. Maybe we do behave badly by their defination but I think they are being judgemental. Nevertheless, I think the thing to do is appeal for their help when a man is bothering you and this should make it clear to them that you are not a ''badly behaved'' Western woman and so worthy of their protection.
I think too many men there watch too much porn. It is unfortunate for us and especially you with your blonde hair and blue eyes that we look like the women in the Western porn flicks.
One more thing. Avoid wearing the skirts we buy in Indian shops in the West. Those are in fact Sari petticoats and not skirts. It is a bit like walking around in our underwear in India, which does not discourage sexual harassment.
Thanks for your quick response. I agree with you that I think it comes from bad images of western women from porn and maybe from the fact that most women in hollywood films jump into bed with the first man they bump into after about 5 seconds! They probably confuse this with real life. I was actually wearing a long skirt I bought in Nepal, which was pretty decent and worn by a lot of locals there (which is a world apart in treatment of women and I never once had any bad experiences there). I wonder why there is such a difference between India and Nepal. Anyway thanks for the tips - maybe I will return one day and only stay in family or female only places. Reply to this
As well as that, all Indian men have a friend or male relation who managed to sleep with a Western woman. Not the particular Western womans fault that we all have to suffer for it, but it may be a big part of the reason. We have more social freedom than the women there do and they(many people in India) dont really understand the ethiquete which goes with it. I dont think they understand that even the most promiscuous women in the West are far more particular about who they have sex with than the average man in India is.
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I never went to Nepal so I can't really comment on the culture there towards women and sex, but in India, it's a very repressed culture in this way. The fact that women have to be covered up all the time keeps sexuality and sex as a hidden, 'naughty' thing - hence the outlets the men then seek in watching porn, and imagining they could get up to all kinds of stuff with western women that they're not 'allowed' to be thinking about normally. You can also see it in the way that men are very tactile with each other in India - it's like because public displays of affection with a woman is frowned on, and yet touch and affection is such a human need, it has to come out somewhere.
I also found south India, on the whole, to be a little different - there was a lot less staring and leering (though it happened a bit) and so by the time I got up to northern India, I'd sort of had a gradual introduction to it (!) and felt more able to cope. Why not start off in south India next time, and slowly travel north? Reply to this
Lol - that's very true about our etiquette.....
We should start a school of ethics in Delhi or Mumbai. :D We could teach guys like the one who was climbing on top of you while you were sleeping on the train a more successful approach. Did he really expect you to wake up and be delighted to find him there.
as an Indian, and a man at that, i can't find any place big enough to hide. I can only imagine what it would be like to be in Sara's place.
I will not try and tell you India is any different to what each one of you experienced (even though it is in many places), all i would say is if you do find yourself in a situation like Sara did, do not sit quitely and take the shit.
Raise the alarm, i am pretty sure there are people who will come fwd to your aid. I completely agree with Deb, anyone going to India should try and start in South and gradually move up North. People in South are more exposed to Western culture and way of life than most people up North.
This is partly due to higher literacy rate in South and partly cos almost every 2nd family have been overseas at some stage or have family members who live abroad.
Sara, i just hope if you do decide to visit India again, (and i m not for a minute suggesting you must), you come back with better experiences. Reply to this
I think there are probably plenty of sophisticated Indian men like you in India. Unfortunately they are rarely the ones we meet.
Maybe this is because many of us are students or travelling long term and looking to make our money stretch so we stay in the cheapest hotels and go the the least fancy places and that is where the rougher types of Indian men are.
Mel Reply to this
I will be going to the North of India next time. My boyfriend and daughter are comming too, so hopefully that will mean no sexual harassment.
I wonder what would keep the touts away. :D They are almost as bad as the sexual harassment.
Try swimming in public swimming pools...they usually have 1 hour a day for women, and the rest of the day for men! You have to wear a 1 piece (I got publically told off the 1st time for wearing a bikini) but I can't tell you how many times I've had the pool to myself as the women generally are too shy for public swimming! Bliss! Travelling India as a woman has its advantages! btw only travel in the women's compartments on night trains...they're a bit cramped but fine
I'm travelling the North of India in August with a girlfriend, then on to Pakistan, will be interesting to compare the differences here too Reply to this
Pakistan as a single female???
what will keep you offlimits from touts is male company. They are hesitant to approach you if you are not all by yourself. But then again, there are tons of single female travellers like Felix who manage nicely, so no amount of generalisation works.
I think on most occassions, a firm "NO" to the touts does the trick. If you take it all in silence, thinking ignoring them will discourage them, that will only give them more ammos to fire at you.
If they still don't relent, unfortunately as i said on my earlier post, you have to get verbally aggressive. As nerve wracking as it may sound, this will work, although you may attract plenty of unwanted attention. As long as they think you are a naive westerner who could be bullied into buying "stuff' from them, they will persist.
Also, if you think they only target westerners, that's not correct. I have been subjected to a lot of hasseling in my own country plenty of times and that is perhaps why i understand their sales pitch and what puts them off, a bit better.
Despite all the recent growth and development, India is still vey much a closed society, submerged in deep rooted superstitions and ill conceived notions, one of them unfortunately being "Western women are money for jam".
However, i can strongly say that things are changing rapidly and in another 5-10 years time, hopefully we wouldn't have to worry about these things.
I totally agree with what you say about touts - and have been to enough countries to have prepared myself for dealing with them - a firm but polite no usually does the trick and then I walk on. But I didn't find that India was particularly bad for this, and have been to other countries (in Africa) where people were more agressive with selling techniques. What I was referring to instead was the unwanted sexual advances/agressiveness, which is something different from a sales pitch. I know that many women can confuse the two - especially when the would-be salesman is telling you that you are the most beautiful woman in the world and he will sell you this exquisite handicraft at a mere 5% of normal price because of your stunning beauty! Ermmm yeah right! Unfortunately I found that with the other type of attention, although I did get verbally agressive and request people to help, all too often this didn't help and people stood by and watched. I found I actually had to physically defend myself, slapping, kicking and removing/holding hands away from me at a distance - this really gets a bit tiring after a while and is NOT a nice way for a girl to be spending her holiday. Sorry to go on a bit! But I really think this is a different issue from the sales touts that happen in many other countries and comes from different cultural values about sex and women.
I know you say they don't only target westerners but I didn't see any Indian women being hassled in the same way, on the streets or on public transport - of course it may be even worse for them behind closed doors, who knows?
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I will be in India with my boyfriend and daugher next December. Hopefully touts wont bother a family as much as they bother lone travelers. I heard that people love children in India and have a lot of respect for parents. That would sure make a nice change from Germany which is not child friendly at all.
Last time I was in India I noticed that Indians wave away touts and beggars. Many Westerners would feel shy about doing that because it would be a very impolite thing to do in most of the countries we come from. But maybe we should make an effort to do it because it works when Indians do it. Reply to this
know you say they don't only target westerners but I didn't see any Indian women being hassled in the same way, on the streets or on public transport - of course it may be even worse for them behind closed doors, who knows?
I think Indian women would be more equipped to give the touts and sexual harrassers an earful because they can speak their language. Also they are not usually wandering around alone so not as vulnerable and the men in the streets may fear that if they do anything an angry husband or brother may be called to deal with them.
I think the women certainly have it worse behind closed doors than we do. Womens rights have quite a way to go before they reach the standards of many Western countries. When I was there 10 years ago they were only starting to recognise domestic violence as something that should not be tolerated. I switched on the TV for 5 minutes one time in my hotel room just to see what Indian TV is like. There was a very graphic advertisement against domestic violence playing. At the end of it the police were leading the guy away. And domestic violence is only one of the issues that women in India have to deal with.....
Facial piercings!!! I'm not excessively pierced by any stretch of the imagine, but in pretty much every country I've been to I've watched touts approach, glance at me, turn around then target the next nearest westerner!! Of course this does have its down falls as I was stared at constantly, had numerous strangers come up and touch my face/ears without a word of warning, whole families gather round for photo opportunites... I've even had a train guard usher away about 50 people who gathered around me in China after word got out that there was an 'odd' looking westerner in the station. Although it can get tiring at times it does open up a lot of dialog with local people who see it as part of my 'culture'.. I learned not to let the stares bother me as some of the people in some of the countries I've been to rarely see a westerner, let alone one that looks like me, and I imagine if a Masai Warrior was strolling down my street I'd stop and stare.
On the female travellers in India topic, My Wife and I were there for 7 weeks at the beginning of the year (all North) and she didn't experience any harassment at all, in fact she struggled to be noticed when in conversation with locals as all the men directed all their attention to me. So it definately helps to have a man in tow... preferably one larger than the average Indian who does crazy stuff to his face! Reply to this
.....So it definately helps to have a man in tow... preferably one larger than the average Indian ...
My boyfriend should be a suitable bodyguard when we go to India then. Over 6 feet tall and large build. :) Hopefully his blonde hair and blue eyes wont attract a heap of curiosity.
One trip to India alone will probably change your wifes mind about struggling to be noticed. When I was in Iran I was always relieved when I went out with one of the European guys staying at the hostel instead of out alone. It meant that the endless questions were directed at him for a change instead of me. They were of course being sexist rather than considerate but might as well see some advantage in a bad situation. ;)