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Adrian Brijbassi

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Why Canadians Shouldn't Travel to India

Posted: 03/21/2013 12:26 pm

My friend Mariellen Ward has written on her outstanding blog, Breathedreamgo.com, that the media is guilty of sensationalism in the coverage of rapes in India.

Mariellen's points are brilliantly and thoughtfully articulated. I disagree with her assessment, however. The attention the media is giving to the rape epidemic in India is long, long overdue. I don't call it sensationalism, I call it scrutiny. And I want the media to continue to report on the crimes against women, as well as the misogyny that exists within the culture of India, where female babies are killed at an alarming rate because too many fathers still see daughters as a burden, not a gift.

That depraved practice has led to a female-to-male ratio of 914-to-1,000, according to India Times. Such an unnatural skew creates a disturbing imbalance. Combine that disproportion with poverty and a legal system that casually turns a blind eye on crimes against women and you are confronted with stomach-turning facts about rape. A popularly reported figure states that one woman in India is raped every 20 minutes, according to the nation's crime bureau. That's a conservative number because many rapes do go undocumented. Worse, more than 7,200 children are rape victims each year, a BBC report says.

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  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian protester holds a placard during a protest against a recent gang rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police in riot gear stand guard near the residence of Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in the wake of protests against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian students hold candles to condemn the gang-rape of a student in New Delhi last week during a protest in Allahabad, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The hours-long gang-rape and near-fatal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi triggered outrage and anger across the country as Indians demanded action from authorities who have long ignored persistent violence and harassment against women. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian anti-riot policeman keeps an eye from behind a police barricade during a demonstration against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the gang rape. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indians holds candles to condemn the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi, during a protest in Ahmadabad, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the gang rape. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Members of All India Democratic Students Organization (DSO) hold placards and shout slogans condemning the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus in New Delhi during a protest in Ahmadabad, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police officials stand alert behind a barricade which covered by a banner calling for capital punishment againt rape in New Delhi on December 28, 2012, during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital. An Indian gang-rape victim was 'struggling against the odds' to survive after suffering a heart attack and brain injuries, as medics criticised a decision to fly her to Singapore. In a bulletin issued the day after her arrival in Singapore, doctors at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital said the 23-year-old was battling an infection in her lungs and remained critically ill after the December 16 assault in Delhi. (RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indians protesting against a recent gang-rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, display a poster calling for death penalty for offenders at a rally in Kolkata, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian police officer, left, sports a cricket helmet as policemen stand near barricades and stop protesters on their way to India Gate while protesting against a gang-rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian students protesting against a recent gang-rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, take out a rally in Kolkata, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. Poster at left reads: “We won’t tolerate Taliban style functioning, death sentence is not the solution, change attitude and prevailing male domination.” Poster in the background at right reads: “We will wrest our rights in the society, labor and state.” (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian protester shouts slogans during a protest against the recent gang-rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Policemen stop protesters from approaching a barricade on their way to India Gate while protesting against the recent gang-rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young rape victim was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police officials stand behind a barrier as demonstrators move towards India Gate in New Delhi on December 27, 2012, during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital. Protests across India over the last week against sex crimes have denounced the police and government, with the largest in New Delhi at the weekend prompting officers to cordon off areas around government buildings. One policeman was killed and more than 100 people injured in the violence. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian policeman uses a megaphone to direct demonstrators as they move towards India Gate in New Delhi on December 27, 2012, during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital. Protests across India over the last week against sex crimes have denounced the police and government, with the largest in New Delhi at the weekend prompting officers to cordon off areas around government buildings. One policeman was killed and more than 100 people injured in the violence. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian demonstrator holds a placard during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital, in New Delhi on December 27, 2012. An Indian student who was left fighting for her life after being brutally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi arrived December 27 in Singapore for treatment at a leading hospital. The attack sparked a wave of protests across India in which a policeman died and more than 100 police and protestors were injured. (RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian policemen block a road to prevent protests in central New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. Authorities have sealed off a high-security zone in the Indian capital for a second day to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian women protesting against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus try to remove police barricades as they try to approach the residence of Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus.(AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian protesters are escorted by police as they demonstrate against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the gang rape. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Temporary structures erected a month ahead of India's Republic Day celebrations lie on the ground after they were vandalized Sunday by protesters in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus.(AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian policemen block a road to prevent protests in central New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to a week of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus.(AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian police officer, left, tries to pacify protesters during a protest in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating against the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian man overwhelmed by tear smoke lies on the ground during a violent protest in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating against the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian protesters ransack police barricades during a protest in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating against the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian protesters ransack a public park during a violent protest in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating against the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    A protester gestures while climbing on the back of a police van that was vandalized by them during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian police officer fires a tear gas canister toward protesters during a protest in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating against the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian protesters destroy a police van during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police officers beat a protester with a stick during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian policeman beats women protesters with sticks, during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian protestors damage a government vehicle during a violent demonstration near the India Gate monument against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/ Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police officers use water cannon to disperse protestors during a violent demonstration near the India Gate monument against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protestors run as Indian police officers fire tear gas to disperse them near the India Gate as they protest against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protesters throw stones towards Indian police officers, foreground, during a violent demonstration against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. . (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police fire tear gas towards protesters, not seen, during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protesters react as Indian police officers use a water cannon to disperse them near the India Gate as they protest against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian police officers detain a protestor during a violent demonstration against the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Police in India's capital used tear gas and water cannons for a second day Sunday in a high-security zone to break up protests by thousands of people demonstrating. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protesters shield themselves as Indian police prepare to beat them with sticks during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian police officer fires tear smoke shell to disperse protesters demonstrating against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protesters shield themselves as Indian police beat them with sticks during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Protesters plead with Indian police not to beat them with sticks during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    A female protester shouts as she is hit with an Indian police water cannon during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday has sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian demonstrator escapes from a bus after being arrested by police during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators shout slogans from a bus after being arrested by police during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators are arrested by police during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    An Indian student tries to hit a policeman with an iron rod during a protest in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. Police used tear gas and water cannons to push back thousands of people who tried to march to the presidential mansion to protest the recent gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators burn an effigy representing rapists during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital, in New Delhi on December 26, 2012. Protests across India over the last week against sex crimes have denounced the police and government, with the largest in New Delhi at the weekend prompting officers to cordon off areas around government buildings. One policeman was killed and more than 100 people injured in the violence. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    A feral monkey sits on the head of a demonstrator as others shout anti-government slogans during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in New Delhi on December 24, 2012. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed for calm and vowed to protect women as police stuggled to quell increasing outragte over sex crime following the gage-rape of student. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN (Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators throw projectiles towars riot police during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. AFP PHOTO/ TENGKU BAHAR (Photo credit should read TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators react as riot police unleash a water cannon during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. AFP PHOTO/ TENGKU BAHAR (Photo credit should read TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators throw stones at police during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. AFP PHOTO/ Sajjad Hussain (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Delhi Rape Protests

    Indian demonstrators gather for a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police. AFP PHOTO/ TENGKU BAHAR (Photo credit should read TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images)


As a Canadian, should you be scared? Not really. As Mariellen points out, and as I agree, travel is a safe and rewarding experience for the overwhelming majority of travellers -- no matter where we go. But ask, is India as safe to travel as anywhere else? The answer is no, it's not.

According to statistics from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, the violent crime rate against Canadian travellers in India is much higher than in most other popular destinations. For every 100,000 Canadians who visit India, 7.5 of them are violently assaulted or murdered. By comparison, Mexico has a rate of 3.1 such incidents for every 100,000 Canadian travellers and the United States is at a rate of 0.09 for every 100,000.

Why are these statistics more relevant and believable than the numbers that show India's per-capita rape count is roughly the same as Canada's (1.8 vs. 1.7 for every 100,000 people)?

Because the Department of Foreign Affairs' statistics come from one agency while international statistics rely on accuracy from each nation, and rapes are grossly underreported in India and some other developing nations where politicians and police are not watched as carefully as they are in countries where the rule of law can usurp the will of rulers. While reports say that rape is the fastest-growing crime in India, it's more accurate to say it is the country's fastest-growing reported crime. Indian women are, thankfully, adopting the idea that they should speak out.

Yes, there are more dangerous places than India, and yes, in a nation of 1.2 billion people the cumulative amount of crime will be greater than just about every other country. But when 635 rapes are reported in Delhi, as occurred last year, and only one case sees a conviction, there is something criminal in both the streets of the nation and its legislature.

Sustained media scrutiny from Europe, Canada, Australia, the United States and elsewhere will eventually lead to action. If that helps give women in India the protection they need from their would-be attackers and the attention of lawmakers who haven't shown enough care, then we should welcome more media attention on this ugly aspect of the country -- not less.

If the definition of news is coverage of a situation out of the ordinary, then attempts to persuade the media that what is happening in India isn't unusual in a global context actually works against the best interests of the women of that nation. The argument that it (violence against women) happens everywhere, so India shouldn't be chastised if South Africa isn't only serves to maintain the status quo. It allows the police and the legislators who are facing pressure to argue "we're no worse than anyone else, so stop picking on us."

Use Your Travel Dollars to Send a Message to India

What does this mean for travellers to India?

For one thing, it means you need to understand that India is the most romanticized developing nation on the planet. Its marketing efforts are pinned on the Taj Mahal -- the world's greatest symbol of one man's love for one woman -- and the laudable aspects of its culture, including its deep spirituality that has spurred an industry around yoga travel and the beautiful legacy of non-aggression left by Mohandas Gandhi.

That's the veneer. It's the salespitch that entices you to commit your travel dollars to come. What's the reality?

Read Vacay.ca for the rest of Adrian Brijbassi's article on "Why You Shouldn't Travel to India"

Read Vacay.ca writer Mariellen Ward's take on travelling to India on Breathedreamgo.com

 

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