The recent attacks on two women, one a Russian in Candolim and the other an artists in Saligao, once again brought into focus the safety of women in Goa, particularly those visiting the state alone. In the absence of any firm measures and the laissez-faire attitude of the police and the government towards such cases is indicative that no cognizance is being taken of these heinous crimes. The state is undoubtedly also gaining a reputation for being an unsafe destination for women travellers.
The heinous rape and murder of 15-year Scarlett Keeling in 2008 at Anjuna sparked global outrage. India Today, like several other media, reported how both the accused were acquitted after eight years in September 2018, although the case was being handled by the CBI.
Closer to date, according to a June report in Incredible Goa (is Goa becoming unsafe for women) a Russian tourist was slapped in a broad daylight for rejecting the offer for the lift at Arpora in late May, and soon after in early June case a 26-year-old Goan Artist, Ms. Durga Gawade was attacked and sexually abused by a local.
Let’s not forget the brutal rape and murder of a young Irish tourist Danielle McLaughlin in Palolem village, South Goa. The rape of a 42-year old British tourist at Palolem in December last and the molestation of an American lady in January are other recent incidents. These are but a few of the several cases occurring and reported every day in the State.
Attacks like these, especially on foreign female tourists, have been escalating bringing into focus Goa’s darker side and drawing negative international attention. Over the last decade, hundreds of tourists have been molested and raped and 245 foreign tourists have lost their lives in Goa many of them in mysterious circumstances.
What is equally appalling, as Incredible Goa and Goa Prism, have pointed out in related articles, is the State’s apathy is handling such cases. As mentioned earlier, Scarlett’s killers went scot-free after eight years. Justice denied for Scarlett!
In the case of the artist, Durga Gawade, although the accused Brian Franco was arrested under Section 354 (outraging modesty) and 354(d) (stalking) 323 (causing hurt voluntarily), and 504 (breach of peace), and he was out on bail in four days.
Remanded to police custody for two days and out on bail, he was re-arrested for two days more after Durga’s protests. But he now roams free. In fact, the accused was so confident of his release that even his behaviour, in front of the cops was indecent.
In her social media post, Durga said that “even though the cops were helpful, while I was giving my statement, Brian Franco touched his chest while looking at my low cut dress and said ‘very nice very nice!’ in front of the cops and grabbed his crotch.” “All this happened right in front of the police and the police had decided to remain neutral. What he did even in the police station is sexual abuse,” the post added.
Durga has now resorted to social media campaign #StandUpForYourself to get justice.
In another article in May 2019, Incredible Goa reported how a Russian tourist at Arpora was slapped by a bike-borne stalker after she refused his offer of a lift. It took the police over 10 days to apprehend the perpetrator and that too after repeated demands from the victim… “All I want from the police is to look at this case but I don’t want any other women tourists to be harassed or assaulted like me,” she told the Hindustan Times.
In January earlier this year, an American tourist posted the picture of her attacker on social media, before he was arrested.
While Danielle McLaughlin and a few others have received justice with speedy action from the police, it seems that most cases have to resort to social media to seek justice.
The government’s apathy towards these incidents was highlighted, once again in an article by Incredible Goa, in a 2015 case of two Delhi girls being raped by five men in Calangute.
Downplaying the crime, the then Tourism Minister, Dilip Parulekar, irresponsible statement ‘such incidents are bound to happen in Goa’ drew flak from all quarters. Although the opposition had then agreed that Goa is becoming unsafe day-by-day, no concrete steps have been taken to curb this menace.
In fact, under his tenure, as early as 2013, according to the Business Standard, the Tourism ministry had come out with a white paper to ensure the safety of tourists, particularly women.
It had plans to set up a Tourist Police Fore comprising of 200-250 Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) and around 50 of them would be women constables. It was also contemplating the formation of an all Women Police team for night patrolling. But in view of escalating incidents against women, these remain plans on paper only.
According to the Times of India, in 2017, the state government was once again keen to ensure that Goa’s image as an international tourist destination was not dented. The Tourism department has reiterated that safety and security of tourists is its priority and accordingly the Goa government through the Home Department was augmenting methods for safety measures in the State. Accordingly, a special women’s helpline 1091 had been set up.
In the absence of this of any firm policy or measures in places, the police attitude and action is also severely wanting.
If we are to retain our status as one of the most favourable tourists’ destinations, then the Government needs a strong wakeup call or Goa will land up being termed as an unsafe destination, especially for women.