Destinations Asia

2013′s Worst Idea in Travel: India’s “I Respect Women” Badges

@rafat

Jul 19, 2013 1:17 am

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There you go, problem solved. You feel safer now?

— Rafat Ali

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India’s endemic problem of harassment and violence against women is a huge and intractable issue, and solutions to it aren’t easy. Rallies and protests won’t solve it, awareness is just the start, and it will have to be a multi-generational societal change in a country stuck in between generations. That every rational person who abhors these crimes understands.

So in the meantime, what can India do to help stem the tide of bad publicity for the country, especially among foreign tourists coming to the country? This is a serious issue, and has by some estimates seen tourism plunge to the country by as much as 35 percent, though those numbers are disputed.

The solution India’s tourism authorities have come up with: a badge, with the slogan “I Respect Women” written on it, to be worn by tourism workers — tour operators, tour guides, taxi and auto drivers, hoteliers and others — in the country. The badges will be in English and other languages, including Korean, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin, and distributed in millions.

The aim, apparently, is to show to the world that not all Indians support crime against women, with the hope that this leads to an image makeover. This badge was launched today at the state ministers tourism conference by India’s tourism minister K Chiranjeevi, and 500 of these were distributed and worn by the attendees (the gallery above).

Seriously?

Clearly, the magic badge will have a mind-altering power that changes societal attitudes in an instant. What about the people who aren’t wearing badges? Should tourists avoid them, shirk them, or better still, report them to thought police? Beyond the face palm-worthy empty symbolism, if potential travelers yet-to-come-to-India are getting discouraged by all the negative reports about women safety, how will a badge worn in the country help?

This new badge is funded by World Travel & Tourism Council’s India branch, which further confounds. WTTC has been a rational and nuanced actor on world stage, helping foster great understanding of travel and tourism’s power as a business and economic growth engine. Until this.

This tweet pretty much sums it up:

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