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In December, I watched a glorious three-minute ad promoting travel across India. In it, India looks, well, incredible, as promised, and a tourist jaunts from the Himalayas to Kerala and beyond. The visitor is ethnically ambiguous, traveling alone—and female. I loved the scenic vistas, but couldn’t quite grasp how she did it. Was she safe? Were shorts appropriate dress across India? How did she board that bus without feeling those stray hands everywhere, then suddenly nowhere?

Here’s the commercial from the “Incredible India” campaign:

This was before the Delhi gang rape that has captivated the world and forced India to answer some tough questions on its treatment of women. In fact, on the day of the rape, I landed in Hyderabad for a two-week visit. Hearing about the gruesome crime, looking at my own itinerary, reflecting on the ad campaign, I wondered again if India really is safe for female…

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