India is rated as the fourth most deadly and dangerous country for women in the world, just behind Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Congo. In a country that is pacing quickly ahead through economic progression, India’s cultural traditions keep this nation in a violent past, especially when it comes to the rights of women and girls. During my last few weeks in India I met a young woman who was working with survivors of human trafficking. She introduced me to an organisation called Odanadi, where the world of human trafficking lost it’s facelessness forever. Odanadi, founded in 1993 by two journalist, Stanly and Parashu, is committed to rescuing, rehabilitating and reintegrating victims of human trafficking. Human Trafficking is the third largest international crime industry. Unfortunately, when there is space for exploitation, vulnerable women, especially young girls are the first to suffer.
India has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to safety for women and girls. Often travellers are scared off visiting by the many news stories which cover some of the shocking truths about India’s culture, from frequent sexual assaults to constant caste and religious based violence. After the brutal rape and murder of a local 23-year old medical student on a night bus in Delhi 2012, as well as a string of sexual assaults of Foreigners in 2014, much of the world labelled India a suicide mission for solo female travellers. While there are certainly truths to India reputation which must be acknowledged, I do believe it is possible to safely navigate this country and have a great time doing so!
Agra, India, the home of one of the largest and extravagant symbols of love, The Taj Mahal. Most travellers avoid spending the night in this part of India’s golden triangle, given that there is almost nothing to do. Recently I spent six days in Agra, a fact that astonishes other travellers. The reason – Sheroes Hangout. A local hangout for the rehabilitation and empowerment of acid attack survivors.
If you are planning to travel to India, most people would agree to make sure to start in the South. It’s less populated, more liberal and allows you to warm up to the perks and quirks of India in a much more mellow way. There is so much to see and do in the Southern state of Kerala, from trekking mountains, exploring tea plantations, floating through the backwaters, tasting their famous seafood and of course relaxing by one of Kerala’s beautiful beaches. Here’s our guide to getting the best of Kerala’s sandy shores.
India’s Hijras became officially recognised by law in 2014 as ‘The Third Gender’, despite a 4000-year history in the country. Historically, Hijras were most commonly recorded as eunuchs, neither man nor female, which is how the term Third Gender came about. However, in modern times Hijras have since expanded to become a sect of the LGBTQ community and now include persons who identify as transgender or intersex. While some Hijras are happy to be in an anonymous gender category, other wish to identify as their chosen gender. With an estimated 2 million Hijras living in India, the complexity and diversity of understanding the needs and protecting the rights of this gender-variant subgroup continue to grow. Once celebrated in ancient Hindi texts such as the Kama Sutra and Mahabaratha, the existence of Hijras as empowered beings with special powers of luck and fertility can be traced back for centuries in India. Hijras traditionally played a valued role in their communities, using their powers to perform blessings at many sacred occasions, from births, weddings, and deaths.
Royal Mysore, the city of palaces, is a must see in South India. Aside from its famed palace, silk and temples, Mysore offers travellers a place to slow down their pace. Mysore is the second cleanest city in India and its streets still prioritise pedestrians, a nice change from most Indian cities. The roads are wide and reasonably quiet, with coconut vendors and cows being most of the crowd. Mysore is also the home of Ashtanga yoga, so it draws in thousands of yogis each year. Whether you’ve come to practice, explore or relax, Omology’s guide to Mysore has you covered.