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Avoiding culturally inappropriate clothing can help enormously

  • Female travellers

Highlights

  • "No matter where you are, try to check the reputation of any teacher or therapist before going to a solo session"
  • Avoiding culturally inappropriate clothing can help enormously

 

(IIP) - Women have reported being molested by masseurs and other therapists, especially in Varanasi and McLeod Ganj. No matter where you are, try to check the reputation of any teacher or therapist before going to a solo session. If you feel uneasy at any time, leave. For gynaecological health issues, seek out a female doctor.

Keep conversations with unknown men short – getting involved in inane conversations with men can be misinterpreted as a sign of sexual interest. Questions such as ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ or ‘You are looking very beautiful’ are indicators that the conversation may be taking a steamy tangent. Some women prepare in advance by wearing a pseudo wedding ring, or by announcing early on in the conversation that they are married or engaged (even if it isn’t true).

If you still get the uncomfortable feeling that a man is encroaching on your space, he probably is. A firm request to keep away is usually enough, especially if your voice is loud enough to draw the attention of passers-by. Alternatively, the silent treatment (not responding to questions at all) can be remarkably effective.

When interacting with men on a day-to-day basis, adhere to the local practice of not shaking hands. Instead, say namaste – the traditional, respectful Hindu greeting – and bow slightly with the hands brought together at the chest or head level.

Female filmgoers will probably feel more comfortable (and decrease the chances of potential harassment) by going to the cinema with a companion. Lastly, it’s wise to arrive in towns before dark and, of course, always avoid walking alone at night, especially in isolated areas.

Clothing
Warding off sexual harassment is often a matter of adjusting your behaviour to match the prevailing social norms in India. Avoiding culturally inappropriate clothing can help enormously. Steer clear of sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts (ankle-length skirts are recommended) and any other skimpy, see-through or tight-fitting clothing. Baggy clothing that hides the contours of your body is the way to go.

In some areas, such as Goa and Mumbai, there’s generally a more liberal attitude towards dress. Beachwear is normally fine on the beach and party clothes are OK for nightclubs, but away from these areas, take your cues from local women. Most Indian women wear saris,salwar kameez, or long shorts and a T-shirt whenever swimming in public view. When returning from the beach, use a sarong to avoid stares on the way back to your hotel.

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