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“For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts.”

India’s tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, is facing backlash after suggesting female tourists avoid wearing skirts and going out at night “for their own safety”.

The comments were made on Sunday at a press conference where Sharma told journalists pamphlets would be handed out to tourists in airports with a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ for the country.

“For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts,” he said.

“Indian culture is different from the Western.”

Sharma is no stranger to facing public outrage after making controversial comments. Last year, he said nights out for girls were not part of Indian culture, and added he would defend India from “encroachment by Western culture.”

After facing intense criticism for his statement, Sharma has since backtracked and claimed he was referring to religious spaces and only speaking out of concern.

“I did not comment on what women should wear or not. I am the father of two daughters, I cannot put a ban on what women wear”.

He also added banning certain clothing would be unimaginable, but that it was “not a crime to be cautious.” Despite his clarification, many people have continued to express their disappointment in the damaging statements, online.

 

India’s Centre for Social Research director, Ranjana Kumari, said Sharma’s comments were not well thought out.

“The minister doesn’t realize the implications of such irresponsible statements,” Kumari explained, going on to note Sharma’s remarks reflected the trend toward victim-blaming women.

Nearly four years after the infamous and fatal gang rape of a 23 year-old on a moving bus in India, which lead to the enforcing of tough new anti-rape laws for the country, conversations around sexual violence are more visible and more important than ever. Statistics show over 90 women are raped every day in India, and the figure is widely believed to be an understatement.

Sharma’s comments about controlling the way women dress come a week after France overturned its controversial burkini-ban, renewing debate over the policing of women’s bodies.

Comment: What’s your reaction to Mahesh Sharma’s comments about what women should avoid wearing?