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Female tourists shun India after gang rape, murder

The number of female tourists visiting India has fallen by more than a third since the gang-rape in which a 23-year-old student died, according to business leaders there.

Visitor numbers have dropped in all parts of the country, not just in New Delhi, where December’s attack took place, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said Monday.

The brutal assault was shocking even to a nation inured to sexual crimes against women, and thousands of protesters took to the streets in the weeks that followed to demand tougher action.

Four days later, a British woman in Agra jumped from a second-floor hotel room when she feared the manager was trying to break in, while in another case a Swiss man was held at gunpoint while his wife was gang-raped in Madhya Pradesh.

 “From December 2012 onwards the inflows of women foreign tourists to the country have gone down by 35 percent and the overall tourism being affected by 25 percent,” said Assocham’s secretary general, DS Rawat, in a press release.

Tour operators have reported that canceled bookings -- “especially from women” -- were mostly from the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia, Rawat said.

He said the string of high-profile sex crimes “raised concerns about the safety of female travelers to the country,” adding that the cases attracted “international attention.”

He called on his country to strengthen security at major tourist spots, warning that India’s unsavory reputation could inflict “long-term” damage on its $17 billion annual tourism revenues.

About 6.6 million international tourists visited India last year, India’s tourism ministry estimates.

In the Dec. 16 attack, police say the gang lured the 23-year-old victim onto a bus in New Delhi, where they repeatedly raped and assaulted her with a metal bar before throwing her bleeding onto a highway. She died of internal injuries two weeks later.

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