India tourism bosses worry after rape complaints

NEW DELHI Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:37pm GMT

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian tourism officials are meeting this week to discuss the safety of tourists after at least seven foreign women and girls said they had been raped or molested over the past 20 days, a ministry spokesman said.

Several of the alleged attacks took place in Rajasthan, one of India's popular tourist destinations, known for its palaces and desert scenery.

The tourism ministry is worried that the reports could deter potential visitors to the country, which is visited by about 4 million foreign tourists each year.

"We've asked states to report to us what happened in these incidents and how they can not be repeated," a ministry spokesman said.

A 35-year-old woman who holds dual citizenship of France and Switzerland told the police on Saturday she had been raped in the Rajasthan town of Pushkar, the Hindustan Times reported.

An American woman said she was molested in the same town a few weeks earlier, while a British woman said she was raped in the city of Udaipur, also in Rajasthan, just before Christmas, the paper said.

Several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, warn their citizens that women sometimes face physical harassment by local men, euphemistically known in India as "Eve-teasing".

Guidebooks and travellers often suggest that women wear loose, long clothes as a way of avoiding unwelcome attention.

The tourism ministry says India is no more dangerous for women visitors than other destinations.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)

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