In a perfect world… I could sit on a flight in India without worrying about being assaulted or harassed.
A few years ago, India was rated one of the worst places to be a woman. Sexism, the common occurrence of unreported rape, stories seemingly in the news every day about the harassment, and even in some cases brutal rape, such as the international incident in 2012 of the brutal gang rape and torture of a foreign medical student. Unfortunately, lately these are the images that linger in my head just as prominently as the Taj Mahal, Hawa Mahal, rich food and culture, jewel toned embroideries.
I asked my friend Andrea, who studied abroad in the country her take. Independent, fierce, wild, Andrea wasn’t one to be caged in. She reported her time in India to be among the best of her life. But still, there was something to these headlines. The US State Dept actually advises women to NOT travel on their own to India with other countries like the UK and Australia following suit. But the state department does advise a lot of things I ignore… I haven’t made the solo trip to India yet, but today was pleased to hear that airline companies like AirIndia and Vistara are making efforts to ensure the safety of female travelers.
Earlier in the year, AirIndia announced that it was dedicating two rows on their planes for women travelers. Today, New Delhi based airline, Vistara announced it’s Women Flyer Service which include free services such as taxi escorts for women travelers. A big problem for women travelers, especially those with evening arrivals, was finding legitimate taxi services and an escort to taxis; Vistara now plans to help solo female travelers with this. Another one? No middle seats.
I understand the problem is bigger than Vistara airlines, there needs to be a larger change in societal norms in India that make it so unsafe for women, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. Or is it? Does it seem like a step backward to force women to be segregated in order to feel safe?
Have you traveled alone to India? Share your thoughts and experiences with me below!