It’s happened again. A British tourist walking from Canacona Railway Station to Palolem was dragged to the fields and raped early Thursday morning. Yes, the police acting fast did manage to arrest a person the same day, but that is of little solace to the victim and her family. The crime is outrageous, has to be condemned and the perpetrator has to face the legal system. There should be no leniency shown, there has to be justice delivered for the victim. But these are mere words that will appear in print and be read. It is what is happening on the ground that is important.
The rape of a British tourist in the southernmost taluka is a haunting reminder that this is not the first such crime in the State. It brings back to mind the rape and murder of Danielle McLaughlin who was killed in March 2017 in the same village. It takes us back ten years to 2008, when Scarlett Keeling was found dead on the beach at Anjuna, and also to the death of Denyse Sweeney who was found dead in 2012. And we discover that nothing has changed in Goa, not for the unsuspecting tourists who are still preyed upon, attacked, violated and even killed. And also not for the local women who have also been violated along the beaches of Goa, as happened earlier this year in Betalbatim.
We still don’t know who killed Scarlett Keeling. The two accused have been acquitted. The death of Denyse is still a mystery. The trial of the Danielle murder is still on in court. The main accused of a gang rape of a young Goan girl has escaped police custody and is still on the run for over a week. And we are now dealing with the rape of another woman, a tourist who was out walking alone. Such crimes shred the very fragile trust that women can place in society, and this is something that Goa can ill afford.
Is Goa, as a tourist destination still a welcoming land for tourists? Pray, where is the security for women in Goa? We can even rephrase the question: Is there any security for the women of Goa and in Goa? That is turning into a difficult question to answer, as evidence starts pointing to the contrary, especially when you look closely at the coast.
The crime has once again brought Goa back in the national and international media glare as an unsafe tourism destination, and we are entering the high tourist season, with Christmas four days away and just about 10 days to go to New Year’s Eve. The death of Scarlett had brought up the question of security on the State’s tourist circuit and dealt a blow on the tourism industry. The murder of Danielle again raised the seriousness of the issue. The rape of the British tourist proves that security along the coast is a grey area in the State and needs to be strengthened. While Scarlett and Danielle were supposed to have been killed by person known to them, this rape is by a stranger to the victim.
Goa’s reputation as a tourist friendly destination takes a beating every time such a crime occurs and can have a spiraling effect on the industry. The social media is already giving the State a stick, with comments that actually say ‘time to find a new place’. Policing and investigation have to be strengthened. The arrest of a person is no consolation. It has to lead to a conviction. Without that, the case remains open with justice not having been delivered. There have been many such cases that have seen no closure. It could, in the long run, lead to a closure of the tourism industry.