When you think of Iran, you often associate with it veiled women and a female image that is not equal to that of men. As a European woman, who wants to travel to Iran, one should deal with a few things in advance.

 How safe is Iran for women?

 

In general, Iran is considered a fairly safe country to travel, and many women even travel alone without any problems through Iran. Most women who travelled alone report that Iran has been experienced by them to be one of the safest travel destinations.

As a Western woman, one has to expect to be stared at in public. Mostly, this gaze has to do with interest and curiosity. We advise you to ignore the stare and, above all, not to pay too much attention to it.

Iranian cities have their own tourist police stations, which you can contact if you need help or information. In larger cities the sight of foreign women traveling alone or in groups is more common and you are greeted by locals and families friendly. Nevertheless, one should abide by a few rules.

 

Not all women in Iran cover themselves so much

 

How to dress

According to the present Islamic rules, women have to cover all body parts (and hair) except face and hands. Religious women in Iran usually wear a chador, a black robe that covers the body from head to toe. Most women, however, prefer to wear a kind of coat, the manteau, which can be long, short, tight, loose, and in different colors (but not too short or too tight). In any case, the manteau must not be shorter than 10cm above the knee. The shawl women use to cover their head can also be colorful. In fact, the clothing of women in Iran has a great variety of shape and color. Many women prefer to wear black because it is more formal, especially at work.

Foreign women need to cover their hair with a scarf or cloth and should wear long and loose blouses with long sleeves. Pants and skirts must cover the body to the ankles. Modern Iranian girls prefer to wear jeans. Both sandals, boots and other shoes are okay.

No body contact with men

Men and women do not shake hands when greeting each other, they only greet each other verbally. In the bus, the woman is sitting next to another woman, her husband or alone. In the subways there are compartments for women, which you don’t have to use.

Any physical contact between a man and a woman is forbidden in public and should not be done even as a foreigner.

 




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“Are you going alone to India? But you’re a woman! That’s too dangerous!!” Too often have I heard these words – from best friends to work colleagues or even my own family doctor. In the meantime, I have already traveled seven times to India. Sometimes accompanied by friends, but very often alone. And I have had almost exclusively good experiences.

by Ulli Felber

 

Through India as a woman: dream destination or danger zone?

Since I have developed such a close relationship with India, the negative coverage of this unique country makes me quite sad. At the same time, it is good that all these terrible incidents were and are frequently and thoroughly reported in the media, because that has set things in motion – and there’s still a lot to be done. Rape is a horrible crime that must be punished – everywhere in the world.

The vast majority of my own personal experiences in India have been good or very good. Even more so: I have enjoyed many beautiful and surprising moments. Often, people helped me spontaneously – with honorable intentions, without someone being intrusive. The few dangerous situations in which I found myself in could have been avoided, if at the time I had been already following these tips:

My 10 Tips for women travelling alone in India

  1. Dress with moderation
    In India, shoulders, cleavage and knees are considered particularly erotic, as is any sort of tight clothing. There are some differences depending on the region, too. For example, touristy Goa is relatively relaxed in this aspect, while the opposite is true for the conservative and strict Muslim region of Kashmir. In principle, however, and this applies to all regions, a moderate dress is fashionable – something wide and airy that keeps your shoulders and knees covered. Tank tops, wide necklines, leggings (except when combined with dresses or skirts), shorts and hot pants are complete no-gos. Note: This also applies to yoga classes! (Even when the courageous instructor is used to it.)

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Dressing moderately prevents many awkward situations. Here pictured: Ulli Felber.

  1. Just in case: avoid eye contact
    Eye contact is a very big deal in India. Strangers can start behaving in an uncomfortably friendly way (or worse, a threatening or confrontational one) after locking eyes for just a second. Whoever wants to be left alone – by pushy taxi drivers, random strangers or inquisitive (if very dear) Indian extended families – must learn to look away quickly. This is specially recommended in areas where you do not feel comfortable, or in the evening hours. In any case, never lose sight of the situation!

 

  1. Girls only!
    In recent years a lot has been done to specifically improve the quality of life of women in India… or at least in its major cities. There are taxis that are only for women – and have also exclusively female drivers (for example, in Delhi: “Meru EVE”). At metro stations, there are sections that are reserved for women, and the trains themselves have cars and compartments destined only to women. The same applies to buses. Wherever you may have to go through a security control (Airport, Train Station, museums, shopping centers, etc.) there is always a separate line for women and a female security officer performing the check.

 

  1. Be smart
    Travelling alone as a woman, one is naturally more exposed to danger than when in a group – no matter where in the world. Common sense goes a long way in many situations:
    • Ideally, always research previously in which areas you will be travelling.
    • Do not wander alone in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, especially at night.
    • When riding taxis alone, try to do it during daytime.
    • When on the (night) train, best to be seated next to a local, nice family.
    • Do not fall for the lies of illegal traders, transport pirates and other opportunists that claim to offer supposedly better accommodation at train stations and airports.

 

  1. Fake wedding ring
    Those women who’d like to have peace and quiet to travel should purchase a false wedding ring. A smaller, cheap gold ring can be worth a lot! Once in India, you will be asked soon enough, and very frequently, by an endless list of suitors of all ages, eager to become husbands. To throw water on such unwanted propositions, just show your ring and tell briefly of your beloved husband at home… maybe add a few children to your story too, just in case ;-). Optionally, you can also say that your husband is already on the way “here”, etc. Especially when a woman has reached the 30-year-old-limit and is “still” travelling alone, a false wedding ring can do wonders in keeping unwanted attention away – like pityful looks at you or, on the other side, well intentioned Indian families who try to match you with a relative.

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Any woman travelling alone on the train is best suited next to a family. That can also be fun!

  1. Good Story
    For emergencies, a good story can always be a good deterrent. Depending on the situation: the husband is coming soon to…; the father has a high position in the government; etc. Sounds silly, but it can have a big impact.

 

  1. Always with you
    For anybody that doesn’t want to travel without her trustworthy pepper spray on the handbag: this great defense tool is cheap and easy to find in many Indian drugstores.

 

  1. Don’t touch me!
    From time to time one hears of travelling women that they were groped by anonymous men in the thick of a busy street. Just to embarrass this disgusting kind of man, you should scream loudly: “Do not touch me!” As my Indian friends recommend, the first step should be just verbal and without personal insults. For an Indian, this simple call to attention is incredibly embarrassing and they will usually disappear in the blink of an eye.

 

  1. Be calm, firm and explicit
    In extremes cases, when things go really bad, this has helped me: first, calmly but very firmly express your discomfort and anger – without being rude. Even better, follow up (always keeping calm and firm) with an oversized side-dish of lies (the best ones always include mentioning some important or famous character that we know personally!). It’s worth to try… In my case, it has always worked out.

 

  1. Shout it out loud
    When all else fails: leash out and defend yourself vociferously. Take it all out. Just don’t show any fear! Indian men don’t expect such a reaction and can be easily intimidated. But ATTENTION: Here I speak from personal experience. This is not a universal panacea and can also sometimes have the opposite reaction.

 

To summarize: Travel smart. I feel that India is not more dangerous than other places that I have visited. Naturally, something can always happen. But for me India was and remains as worthy destination! And whoever pays attention, respects the local ethos and generally travels with open eyes and an open heart, will without question enjoy an indescribably great country and many beautiful experiences.

 

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Ladakh is much safer for women than most other regions of India.

 

Alone as woman in Ladakh
Alone in Ladakh as a woman: Ladakh is culturally very different from the rest of India – here it is much safer for a woman to travel alone, and one hardly sees herself exposed to dangerous situations.

WITH US YOU ARE ALWAYS SAFE
Whoever doesn’t want to travel alone in India despite the advice from Ulli Felber, is in good hands with us. We know our drivers, guides and all other staff. And if you travel in a group, you are even safer: to our group tours!

 




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Only recently we shared a post about how we don’t like to go around publicizing good deeds: Doing good the quiet way. Now we talk, and for a good reason.

 

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Girls from poor rural areas are the main targets of human traffickers. Photo: Nana Ziesche.

Human trafficking is one of the biggest problems in India

Nowhere in the world are more people traded than in India. Approximately 80% of the trafficked persons are women and children. Most of them end up as sexual slaves. It is estimated that up to 1.2 million children have been sold to Indian brothels.

We have been aware of these facts for a long time, but this issue is so monstrous and scary that one subconsciously tends to look away. What else could you do? Wear a cape and fly to the next brothel like a superhero to save the captive women and children? We are not superheroes and, unfortunately, we are not very brave either. After all, the human trafficking scene, with its brothels and red-light districts, is one of the most dangerous of India. Making money at the expenses of the innocent’s suffering requires a black soul and a bloody predisposition to violence, and the people behind it will defend their profit by any means necessary. It requires an immense know-how and incredible courage to venture into the shadowy alleys of the red-light districts to take the sex slaves out of their dark hellish existence and back into the light. Sadly, we can’t do that, so we researched and tried to find another way to help. And we found it.

 

 

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Betrayed, tortured and raped

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The traffickers are very creative when it comes to capturing women and children to sell to the brothels: they are promised a better life, or an honest work; women and girls are wooed with empty words of love, tricked into fake engagements, deluded by the prospect of marriage; most victims are drugged or coerced or simply kidnapped… However, the last step is always the same: they are sold to pimps (many of whom, especially in India, are women – the so-called Madams) who continue lying, manipulating, threatening and torturing until even the most strong-willed break. They usually lock the victims in dark rooms, or even tiny boxes without any light, and leave them scared and starving, torturing and raping them until they are agree to “voluntarily” sell their body several times a day. Many of them are still of primary school age, because the price of a virgin is very, very high.

While researching, we came across several organizations that have made it their goal both to prevent human trafficking from happening and to free and rehabilitate the women and children already affected. One of these organizations has especially inspired us.

 

 

Rangu Souriya, the angel from Darjeeling

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By chance, we came across the project of Rangu Souriya, a social worker that has kept thousands of women and children out of the clutches of the traffickers, and freed many others from their nightmarish red light district prisons. With the backup of her own organization, she has the necessary experience, knowledge and, without a doubt, amazing courage to take this task upon herself. She has been threatened in several occasions, but Rangu Souriya doesn’t give up.

Obviously, the first thing one tries to do is to take the rescued back to their families and villages, but this often fails due the strict morality of village societies. On top of that, when the affected victims are infected with the HIV virus – unfortunately, there are too many cases – reintegration is very difficult. One of the biggest problems for Rangu Souriya is then finding a place to properly accommodate all these women and children.

And so, our idea was born.

 

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We don’t want to simply witness anymore, and that’s why we have started our own foundation, White Umbrella, whose primary purpose is to support Rangu Souriya.

We want to help her raise the approximately 21,500 EUR she needs to build and start operating a Victims Protection Center in Siliguri, West Bengal. In the long term, the rescued women and children should also have the opportunity to study and work there.

We have even spontaneously transferred almost 1,500 EUR, and launched at the same time a support campaign through social media.

 

 

 

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Help us to help; join us in giving sexually exploited women and children a chance.

How you can help?

  1. Friend and follow the White Umbrella Foundation on Facebook and Twitter
  2. Help us to reach more people by sharing posts and talking about it (you can also share this post)
  3. If you have the means, you can also donate

 

Our Bank account details

Donation account: White Umbrella
IBAN: AT382032032504917655
BIC: ASPKAT2LXXX

 

 

 

Our commitment to you

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This is a completely non-profit initiative: every cent that finds its way to the bank account above, will be exclusively used for the project. For maximum transparency, we will also publish transfer statements and payment receipts on the social media pages of the White Umbrella Foundation. We are currently working on a website for the initiative, and will of course continuously publish information and documents there too.

 

 

If you are interested in the topic, we can also recommend you the following short documentary

 

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