Amid India's growing sexual assault problem, the country's tourist minister, Mahesh Sharma, doled out some questionable travel advice to female tourists about what they shouldn't wear, the Guardian reports.
"For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts," Sharma said at a press conference on Sunday. "Indian culture is different from the Western."
Sharma was promoting the country's welcome kits, which are handed out to tourists at the airport on arrival and outline the dos and don'ts of traveling in India. In addition to fashion suggestions, the kits warn that women shouldn't walk alone after dark.
Critics argue that Sharma's advice places the burden on women to prevent rape in a country with a rampant sexual-assault problem, a poor police-to-citizen ratio, and lack of forensic testing sites. Although India has tried to strengthen its laws and sentencing against sexual assault, the country has seen a decline in tourist travel, particularly among women, in recent years.
Ranjana Kumari, the director of a think tank focused on gender equality in India, told the Guardian, "The minister doesn't realize the implications of such irresponsible statements," adding that they reflect "the syndrome of blaming women."
Sharma later tried to backtrack on his comments, saying,"We have not given any specific instructions regarding what they should wear or not wear. We are asking them to take precaution while going out at night. We are not trying to change anyone's preference."
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