SILIGURI, India — By the time the Ranchi Kamakhya Express trundled into Siliguri station, running over 10 hours late, it was almost midnight.
Siliguri is the nearest train terminal for the Himalayan state of Sikkim, where a group of nine teenage girls from Jharkhand were headed. Despite having already traveled on the train for 24 hours and exhausted, they decided to press on to their hotel in West Sikkim, a six-hour drive away. The arduous journey was preferable to compromising their safety.
“I thought of a night’s break at Siliguri, but decided against it,” said Malini Gowrishankar, who was coordinating the group’s tour from Bangalore in south India, some 2,400km away. Gowrishankar, founder and chief executive of F5 Escapes, one of the many startups revolutionizing travel for Indian women, said some of the Siliguri hotels looked “shady.”
India, a deeply patriarchal society, can be a dangerous place for women traveling on their own. The country has witnessed a steady rise in crimes against women, even after 2012, when the gang rape and brutal murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in New Delhi made international headlines.
In the five years since the incident, thought to be a “watershed moment” in India’s fight against misogynistic crimes, there has still been a 277% rise in rape cases in Delhi, according to IndiaSpend, a data compiler and news provider.
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