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India's Tourism Minister Says Women Shouldn't Wear Skirts 'For Their Own Safety'

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Earlier this week India's tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, sparked controversy after recommending female foreign tourists avoid wearing short skirts and dresses while visiting India "for their own safety."

"Indian culture is different from the Western," Sharma told reporters while discussing new welcome kits being issued to tourists. The kits are said to include a list of dos and don'ts for travellers in light of the country's gender-based crime issues.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women are reported every two minutes in India and have more than doubled over the past ten years.

Sharma later backtracked on his statement by clarifying: "I was speaking about religious places, like temples. I did not comment on what women should wear or not. I am the father of two daughters. I cannot put a ban on what women wear. Such a ban is unimaginable, but it is not a crime to be cautious."

Despite the clarification, Sharma's comment tends to support victim blaming. Rape cases in India have garnered international attention dating back to 2012 when Jyoti Singh, a young Indian woman, was fatally gang raped on a bus in Delhi. The attack resulted in a 25 per cent decrease in foreign tourism to Delhi spurring the country's desire to reshape its image as a safe travel destination for women, The Atlantic reports.

This isn't the first time Sharma has made these kind of comments. Last year, according to The Atlantic, the minister said going out at night might be acceptable for women in other countries, "but it is not part of Indian culture."

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