Tourism minister Mahesh Sharma’s remarks advising foreign tourists not to wear skirts may have caused a stir but the Foreign Office tenders similar advice to thousands of British women who travel to India every year.
Sharma's remarks made news in the British media too. However, Britain’s travel advisory for India has specific tips for women’s safety, urging them to “use caution”. It mentions instances of British women being allegedly harassed or sexually assaulted in India.
The advisory states: “Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk.”
It adds, “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.”
The advisory, “still current” as of August 29, goes on to state: “If you are a woman travelling in India you should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, when alone at any time of day.”
Among its “travel tips for women travellers” is this: “(Think) about how your clothing will fit in with local customs – what are local women wearing?”
The advisory cautions Britons against travelling in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, except Wagah, Manipur, and to Jammu and Kashmir. There is a “high threat of terrorism” throughout India, it adds.
According to the Foreign Office, over 800,000 British nationals visit India every year and most visits are trouble-free. However, there have been several cases of British nationals getting into trouble, particularly in Goa.
“Be wary of confidence tricksters, particularly in Goa, Agra and Jaipur, who promise large amounts of cash for delivery of jewellery abroad in return for an initial deposit. The jewellery is worthless and the deposit, often amounting to thousands of pounds, is lost,” the advisory adds.