New Delhi: Thirty-year-old Hannah Backmeier from Germany is apprehensive
about her safety every time she steps out of her hotel room in the
The tourist arrived here with three female friends days soon after
last December's brutal gang-rape when the nation was seized with
anger and shock.
The sense of insecurity among women that gripped the city affected
them too. Fearing that something could happen, one of her friends
flew back after staying for just a week.
"When we arrived here, the newspapers were full of the gang-rape
news. My friend was very scared and left for home," Backmeier, a
backpacker staying in the Paharganj area in central Delhi, told
"We decided to stay and luckily, nothing untoward has happened to
us," said Nikola Brauer, Backmeier's friend.
A visit this reporter made to markets thronged by foreign tourists
and residential areas where foreign students live revealed that
women were still apprehensive and not willing to trust anyone.
"I often come to India for holiday and north Indian cities like
Delhi, Haridwar, Pushkar are my favourites. Things have definitely
changed for me after the Delhi rape," Sandra Portman, a backpacker
from New Zealand, told IANS.
Portman, who too is staying in Paharganj, an area near the New
Delhi Railway Station filled with budget hotels, said she is
scared to venture out after sunset.
"When I'm in Delhi, I don't venture out after sunset and I'm
suspicious of everyone, be it the hotel guys or the auto driver,"
said Portman who was on her fourth visit to the city accompanied
by three friends.
The Dec 16 incident shook the conscience of the country when the
23-year-old trainee physiotherapist was assaulted and gang-raped
by six males in a moving bus. She succumbed to her injuries Dec
29. The incident led to mass protests with demonstrators demanding
stricter anti-rape laws.
Delhi reported more than 650 rape cases in the National Capital
Region last year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
In 2011, the capital and surrounding areas reported 522 rape
According to Adla Oduba, a Kenyan pursuing her masters degree in
philosophy from Jawaharlal Nehru University, sexual harassment and
lewd comments were an everyday affair for her on the roads. But
now, she feels scared.
"Earlier, I used to ignore them but now, I'm afraid. If people
here have the audacity to rape a girl for an hour in a bus, they
can surely follow me home," Oduba told IANS.
She said the average Delhi male thought of a female foreign
student as an "easy catch".
"They think we are always available. From my landlord to the
vendor, it's the same story," said Oduba who resides in a rented
flat in south Delhi's Green Park area with her sister.
"Just because we go to parties with male friends and return late
at night, our neighbours look down upon us," she said.
Aleydis Pieska from Holland, on her first visit to the city with
her boyfriend, has already got a taste of Delhi's hospitality.
She was walking along the road with her friend in Paharganj when
someone brushed his palm on her derriere.
"It was disgusting and I was furious. I saw his back. He ran after
touching me and within seconds disappeared into the thick crowd,"
she told IANS.
The foreigners though agreed that strict policing can definitely
bring about a major change.
"Police are there in public places but they need to be more
active. They need to roam around. The minute their visibility
increases, hooligans will misbehave," said Pieska.
Police said they have increased patrolling and were more visible
on Delhi's roads, especially at night.
But Backmeier said she saw a lot of police in the posher markets
of Delhi but not many in popular market places such as Paharganj
or Karol Bagh which are always crowded.
Raisa Abramov from Ukraine, who loves to travel around the world,
said such incidents happened in other cities too.
"It's a sad reality, but every metropolis is plagued by high
incidents of rape today. You can't stop that from exploring the
world. Just take precautions where required," said Abramov.
(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)