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Goa's tourism boss links sexual assaults to bikinis

A shocking case provokes outrage. The local government blames swimwear.

But weeks before Mascarhenas' remark, the minister's statement irked many Indians, who felt it implied that rape victims invite assault by dressing in particular ways. “Goa is a family holiday destination and not a sex tourism destination,” Pacheco said Jan. 7. “We will make sure that bikini babes do not symbolize Goa tourism in future.”

“In India they still morally land the responsibility on the victim if the victim is a woman, because of cultural conditioning,” said 35-year-old Anurashi Shetty, a resident of Donapaula Goa. “[The impression is always that] she must have done something to provoke it. It's a national mindset.”

That mindset includes many government servants.

“The general impression that the government felt is going out to the domestic tourists and others is that Goa is a place where you can dress whichever way you want, and that may be one of the reasons for the rape cases and security problems we have been having recently,” Naik said.

On Jan. 29, Goa police arrested Aman Bharadwaj, prime suspect in the alleged rape, in Mumbai. The central government and Goa administration have reportedly both been under pressure from Russia's embassy in New Delhi. But the speedy apprehension of a suspect may not warm diplomatic relations for long as India's glacial court system grinds down victim and accused alike.

After the incident, the embassy criticized the Goa police for failing to protect tourists and threatened to recommend that Russians — the second-largest group of visitors to Goa — avoid the state in the future.

"We are shocked and deeply outraged by the reports about the disgusting incident in India's well-known resort in Goa when a 9-year-old child from Russia became another victim of a rapist," the Russian Embassy said in a statement.

Comments about the way the 9-year-old victim may have been dressed will not be a balm on Goa's troubled waters.