Indian minister for women claims 'rape problem is putting off tourists'

'In the world, we ranked among the lowest four countries in terms of rape cases'

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The Independent Online

An Indian government minister in charge of welfare for women has complained about the country’s rape and sexual violence problem deterring foreign tourists.

Maneka Gandhi, India’s cabinet minister for women and child development, told a workshop for female journalists the government has a “zero tolerance towards rape”, but suggested the issue had been exaggerated in the press.

“In some [foreign] countries [rape] does not become big news, as their newspapers don’t report these cases like we do”, Ms Gandhi said. “We have zero tolerance towards rape and our newspapers write about it everyday. Someone said to me that no one wanted to travel to India.

“I had data with me and I took a look at it and then showed it to him. As per that data in the world, we ranked among the lowest four countries in terms of rape cases. Sweden was No 1.”

Ms Gandhi highlighted the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case, during which a young woman was gang raped and tortured to death on a Delhi bus, as an example of an incident which had created international outrage. “I went to Sweden two years ago when, because of the Nirbhaya incident, cases were being reported every day,” she said.

According to most recent statistics from India’s National Crime Records Bureau, there were 34,651 reports of rape in India in 2015 - putting it in the top four nations in the world. The conviction rate for reported rapes was 29.37%.

As many as 2.24 million crimes against women were reported in India over the past ten years, roughly equating to a report every two minutes, according to IndiaSpend.

Loveleen Tharmani, a journalist who attended the conference, said she disagreed with the minister’s claims. “In my state there are countless rape cases. The minister seemed to be saying that rape is not such a big problem, but I disagree. It is an everyday matter,” she told Times of India.

“Perhaps it’s true that the government isn’t really doing anything about it, there are so many reported cases still lying in files, and nothing has really been done.”

In 2014, Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Nirbhaya rape was “a small incident” that had cost the country billions in tourist dollars. His comments were widely condemned.

In November, a gang rape victim from Kerala was allegedly asked by police, “Which one [of the men] gave you the greatest pleasure?”, leading to further local outbreaks of protests.