Solo travel is on the rise. It means many things to many people. For some, it may be about discovering oneself, in some others, perhaps it triggers the idea of independence. However, for some, women particularly, the appeal of solo travel may be mixed with concerns of safety. Concerns that can muddle the act of choosing travel destinations. Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, explores the context, few statistics and suggests some of the safest places in India for solo women travelers.
Is India Safe for Women Travelers?
In recent times, media stories following violent crimes against women in India have captured the world’s imagination. Rightly so. While the mainstream narrative successfully evoked unprecedented public demonstrations, by both women and men, that voice of protest against rape failed to leave an indelible mark. As a result, India got portrayed as an unfriendly country for women, instead of one that takes to its streets to demand justice for women.
The fallout began soon after – Indian men got stereotyped. The line between criminal versus the obnoxious behavior (Indian men are often accused of staring at women) got blurred. Indian backpackers were, at times, refused entry to hostels and mixed-dormitories. It got worse. Indian male students were denied opportunities overseas. Case in point: Leipzig University.
So, are the unprecedented street protests an indicator of enhanced safety for women in India? Or does the media coverage mean that India is somehow more dangerous for women than most other countries? Perhaps neither. But it raises the question – why the disproportionate, almost vilifying focus on India? Why lock a universal gender issue within the confines of a political boundary? For a discussion on such points and more, here’s a recommended reading by Maria Wirth, a German, and a solo woman traveler to India.
Safest Countries in the World for Women Travelers?
With a population of 1.3 billion, you might expect India to lead the statistics of crimes against women. Guess what? It does not. United States of America, with a quarter of India’s population, retains that spot. It gets scarier in Europe. England and Wales, Germany and Sweden, considered amongst the most progressive societies, and with even a smaller fraction of India’s population, are amongst the most dangerous places for women. This, despite the fact that men in these countries, unlike in India, are not known to stare at women. Yet, the world awaits the loudest voice of protest against rape from the streets of London, Washington, Berlin, or Stockholm to hit global headlines (Data source, except England and Wales: rape statistics by country, UNODC).
Violence against women is a deplorable, global problem. Would you, as a solo woman traveler concerned with personal safety, stereotype their men and avoid going to Europe or The United States of America? Or would you rather follow contextual safe practices while visiting these fabulous countries? If you agree with the latter, there’s good news: you are a smart traveler who knows how to take care of herself irrespective of where you are in the world, including India.
Safest Places in India for Solo Women Travelers
Fortunately, despite the negative fallout of a sustained media campaign, solo women travelers continue to travel across the length and breadth of India. With commonsensical practices, you would be safe pretty much anywhere in the world. And though many of us may intuitively know the places in India that are considered relatively safer for women, lets look at data for top ten Indian states and union territories (in the ascending order of crime, 2001-2012).
|Indian states and Union Territories||Total crimes against women|
|D and N Haveli||354|
|Daman and Diu||423|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||806|
Lets also consider factors like total population and sex-ratio to consider secondary data for crimes per 1000 women. The data (just as the previously cited global data) may be criticized since all cases may not be reported – let alone the convictions. So, please take it with a pinch of salt. That said, it might depict a general trend of how things stand.
|Indian states and Union Territories||Crimes per 1000 women|
|D and N Haveli||1.330673|
Do you see a pattern here? The data in some way reaffirms what we always knew – that our Islands, Goa, Daman and Diu and North East India could be termed the safest for women. That said, it is always good to follow general safety practices (irrespective of where you are) while you travel. So, try your luck to see the Olive Ridley turtles at Morjim beach, North Goa or farther still – learn scuba diving on the islands or go for those long walks on the streets of Gangtok, Sikkim (North East India). Peace of mind in the lap of nature. Safe travels, Happy travels!
Think North East India
Planning to visit? Pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own choices. Buy now!
Have you traveled solo in India? What things did you do for your safety? We would love to hear from you (please scroll below to leave a comment).
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Credits: This piece is edited from its original version, written in response to a question, on Quora?
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