Dear India’s tourism minister, let women exercise their freedom

New Delhi, India (CNN)

Dear Mahesh Sharma,

As I write this letter to you, I recall a recent trip I took to Shillong in the north east of India. Here, I was a clear outsider or tourist, standing six inches taller than most men or women.

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    According to IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, India’s economic output could increase as much as 27% if the number of female workers were to increase the same level as the number of men.
    But women will not leave their homes if they do not feel safe, and they will not feel safe if our leaders promote a culture of misogyny.
    Recent inappropriate comments have included: “When Bharat (India) becomes India with the influence of western culture, these types of incidents happen,” Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the right-wing nationalist RSS party, said about sexual violence.
    Vibha Rao, female chair of the Chattisgarh State Women Commission, said: “Women are equally responsible for crimes committed against them.”

    Why not work on changing mindsets instead?

    Dr Sharma, instead of adding to this culture of misogyny, why not add to the culture of change? Instead of distributing safety kits, asking women to change what they wear, why not work on changing the mindsets of our people?
    It is possible to create an India which is safe for women. Places like Shillong teach us that. We need to encourage women to exercise their freedom, rather than discouraging them for the sake of their “protection.” In this endeavor, we need our leadership to support us more than ever before.
    Yours sincerely,
    Ira Trivedi

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/30/opinions/india-minister-skirts-open-letter/index.html