A recent series of sexual assaults on women in India has raised alarm. Goa, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, is no longer the tourist paradise it once was.
For the last three years, Jane Kramer - whose name has been changed for this article - an IT professional from Sydney, has been periodically visiting the idyllic state of Goa along with her friends, drawn by the sunshine, the sea and the warmth the place exudes.
Kramer always enjoyed a carefree time while vacationing on the state's beaches, going for long solitary walks and visiting bars that were normally packed with young people and tourists. But things have changed, she told DW.
"Most Indians are welcoming and nice people, but somehow this time around, I have a feeling that men are discreetly taking pictures of women in bikinis and they look at you differently - some even hostile, especially in the bars when the night falls," Kramer said.
There are others like Kramer who share similar thoughts.
"Goa has always been my favorite destination," Jane Dillard, a tourist from the UK, told DW. "The swaying coconut trees, the beaches, the deep blue sea and much more … But I find this new male assertiveness, which was never here before, intimidating and upsetting."
A substantial decline
Two attacks on foreign tourists in India in March and the rape of a seven-year-old girl in Goa's Vasco da Gama city changed things for Goa.
A recent survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) pointed out that quite a big number of tourists now do not want to travel to India and opt for other exotic locations in Southeast Asia.
"During the last winter season, Goa, Jaipur, Agra, Kerala were congested tourist spots, but due to the recent incidents, there has been a substantial decline in the tourist traffic," D.S. Rawat, Assocham's secretary general said in a statement.
Things are, however, starting to get better with better policing. Different groups with stakes in Goa's tourism have come together and acted against the people responsible for the crimes; keeping in mind that tourism is Goa's mainstay which attracts over a million visitors annually, the state government has woken up to the problem and created a special committee to monitor the situation.
"We are setting up a team which will keep an eye on sexual harassment cases," Manohar Parrikar, Goa's chief minister, told the state assembly.
Parrikar admitted that the incidents of sexual assaults in Goa increased dramatically in the wake of the horrific gang rape of a medical student in Delhi in December last year.
"It is true that tourists are now afraid of going to isolated beaches. It is also true that what we are witnessing is also an increase in registration of sex crimes largely due to a proactive press," Shaila Desouza, a professor and a former member of the Goa State Commission for Women, told DW. "It is not as if these incidents did not happen before."
Activists also fear that once the media stops covering the issue proactively, the authorities too will stop taking interest in protecting women and tourists in the state.