Gang rape and murder hits tourist trips to India

THE rape and murder of a young woman in New Delhi in December followed by two attacks on foreign female travellers has altered how tourists view India and led to a sharp fall in the numbers of foreign tourists, especially women, a study said.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India said that in the first three months of the year the number of foreigners travelling to the country dropped by 25 per cent.

The number of women tourists has dropped by 35 per cent. The study surveyed 1,200 tour operators from across India.

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The gang rape of the 23-year-old student on a bus in the heart of the Indian capital shocked a country often inured to such sexual violence.

The case sparked protests across India by women and men who say the country’s legal system does not do enough to prevent attacks on women.

Women have told stories of relentless abuse and of a police and judicial system that does little to stop it, often blaming victims’ unchaste behaviour

Since the December rape there have been two widely publicised incidents where foreign women travellers have been attacked.

Last month, a Swiss woman was gang raped in central India as she and her husband camped in a remote forest. In the second incident, a young British woman was forced to jump out of the window of her hotel room to avoid a sexual attack in Agra, the city that is home to the Taj Mahal.

According to the study, the three incidents have hurt tourism and nearly 72 per cent of the tour operators said cancelations of holiday bookings came mostly from women tourists, most of them from Britain, the US, Canada and Australia.

The study said that travellers planning trips to India had instead opted for other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. November to March is the peak tourist season in India.