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UK, US issue travel advisories for Delhi following gang-rape

Women protest for justice against rapistsThe UK and US updated their travel advisories at the weekend, suggesting that nationals avoid central Delhi and stay up-to-date with news in the area. This follows the death of a 23-year-old Indian student who was gang-raped and tortured on December 16 in New Delhi. A group of men attacked her on a private bus with a metal bar, and she died in a hospital in Singapore on December 29 after sustaining life-threating injuries.

The Indian student’s ashes have been scattered in the Ganges River, the largest river in India, by relatives. The small ceremony was held in the Ballia district, where the woman was born, according to senior officials. Uttar Pradesha state home secretary R.M. Srivastava said that the ceremony was a private event for the family.

The situation sparked protests in streets throughout India, while the government has promised to enforce harsher punishments on the offenders amid international criticism. Five men and a teen were detained yesterday and police say charges will likely be filed today or tomorrow. The charges are likely to include abduction, gang-rape and destruction of evidence. Police have confirmed they are pushing for the death penalty for the four men, as they can recommend prosecutors seek certain punishments for Indian trials. The teen can’t be executed, but the brother of the victim has called for them all to be hanged.

Meanwhile, there have been more reports of attacks on women in Indian media this week. A stalker is alleged to have set a woman on fire in Uttar Pradesh, while another woman was stabbed to death in a market district in eastern Delhi. Protestors also held small rallies and candlelight vigils yesterday. A ‘New Year, New Attacks, New Rapes’ debate was aired on NDTV, in which politicians and lawyers vowed to quickly toughen laws. A rape is reported every 20 minutes on average in India.

In its travel advisory update, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that Delhi Police feared large-scale demonstrations and closed most of the city centre to the general public. The agency advised citizens to avoid the area until the circumstances are clearer. It also recommends nationals avoid protests and stay updated with local news information.

The US State Department updated its advice as well, but it already warns women of the rape dangers in the country. It advises that citizens shouldn’t travel alone, particularly women. The department notes that figures from Indian authorities indicate that rape is the quickest growing crime in the country, with the number of crimes against the female sex being the highest in Delhi.

The tourism ministry is concerned about the impact travel advisories and queries will have. It has written a request to all of its 16 offices for the situation to be explained. A senior official says the offices need to reiterate the Prime Minister’s assurances and ease any worries travellers may have. Tourism Secretary Parvez Dewan says, however, that there hasn’t been an adverse impact on travel to India. Tour operators haven’t reported any cancellations, he added. The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) also says they haven’t seen any travellers cancelling their plans. President Subhash Goyal says the incident was tragic, but it hasn’t hurt tourism.

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