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06/04/2013

How gang rapes are killing India's tourism industry

An American tourist's claim that she was gang-raped in Northern India on Monday night will likely further depress India's tourist sector, which has already been hurt by a string of recent high-profile rapes of both foreign and local women.

Indian media report the 31-year-old American woman was travelling in Manali, en route to meeting friends. The Hindustan Times reports she accepted a ride from four men in a truck. The men were aged 18-to-25, she said.

"She said than on one or the other pretext the driver kept moving the vehicle from one place to another while the three occupants in truck raped her," the Hindustan Times reports.

After the assault, the assailants robbed the woman of a mobile phone, about $150, an iPad and a Nikon camera. She said her rapists dropped her at a bus stand in Manali at about 3 a.m. She went from there to a local police station.

No arrests had been made by Tuesday evening in India. The police have established roadblocks around Manali, a popular tourist destination.

The attack, which comes the same day as news of another gangrape outside of New Delhi, this one involving a local woman, is more bad news for India, which is already struggling this year to attract female tourists.

In February, The Los Angeles Times reported that the flow of female travellers to India has plunged 35 per cent as women from Britain, Canada and the United States scrap tours they had already booked, local businesses told the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. Many said tourists had sent them emails wondering whether traveling in India was still safe.

The group said travellers are choosing Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines instead of India.

The Asian Development Bank last month urged delegates to leave their shorts and revealing clothes at home while attending a meeting in New Delhi.

There has been a flurry of media coverage of sexual assauts across India, including a notable case in December in which a 23-year-old university student was gang-raped and later died in New Delhi.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

 

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