Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bicycle Tourist Gangraped in India

I am shocked and horrified by this incident.  The couple, a 39-year-old Swiss woman and her 29-year-old male companion (or husband), who were bicycle touring through central India, were apparently hunted down by 8 men to their campsite in the woods, beaten, the man tied up and the woman raped and finally robbed.  Full story here.

My wife and I bike tour by ourselves in Asia, so this raises fresh questions about safety and security with cycle touring.  We've been rather relaxed about personal safety.  In the past, our concerns have been limited to keeping our bikes, money and belongings safe; but now, personal safety is our primary concern.

I've been thinking of ways to keep safe while bike touring:
  • I think the number one item on the list should be to keep yourself up to date on current affairs and travel warnings issued by various national organizations.  For example, there's a warning issued by the Swiss on travel in India.  Treatment of women in India, and in particular sexual assault, has been in the spotlight since the brutal rape and murder in December of a 29-year-old student on board a bus in Delhi.  I'd take heed and avoid solo travel in India/Pakistan or otherwise travel in a larger group.
  • The second on the list is to avoid known trouble spots or potential problem areas.  Find out by reading the travel forums online or check with the locals or other travelers.
  • Portray a relaxed, confident attitude.  Never arrogant or aggressive.  Smile a lot, make eye contact, and always have your radar up.  If someone or a group is not smiling back or avoiding eye contact, that's a warning sign.  Similarly, if a group is staring at you, or appears to be watching you, that's a warning too.  Be kind, smile and talk to the locals.  This builds allies who may give you a warning, or perhaps talk a hostile local out of action, or perhaps shame someone with hostile intent away from acting out.
  • Number four would be to not display wealth or expensive items, like a laptop, or a lot of cash, in restaurants or in public.  
  • Number five would be to not leave town in the evening, especially after dinner.  It's too easy for someone with hostile intention to watch you, make a plan, gather reinforcements and follow you out into the darkness.
  • Number six:  Camping in Asia is usually not done.  It's too crowded and too easy to be observed.  I keep thinking back to Ned Gillette, who was shot to death in his tent while camping in Pakistan.
That's all I have for now.  If anyone has any more ideas, I'd love to hear from you.  Just post them to the comments below.  Thanks.  Peace :)

1 comment:

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