LUCKNOW: Union Culture and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma on Sunday advised foreign tourists to avoid wearing skirts in India and refrain from going out alone at night.
"We are telling the foreign tourist not to wear skirts in India and stay indoors at night," the minister of state told reporters today in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal before which Princess Diana was photographed in a purple skirt 24 years ago.
Asked to elaborate, Sharma said: "All we want to say is that India is a nation of different cultures and religious places. They (foreign tourists) should wear dresses in accordance with the same."
He said the government was handing welcome kits to foreign tourists at airports and these included a booklet with a list of dos and don'ts.
Sharma's comments come a month after a khap panchayat in Muzaffarnagar, western Uttar Pradesh, ordered women not to wear jeans or skirts or use cellphones, saying these were provoking criminals to assault them.
While khap panchayats are illegal kangaroo courts known for sometimes passing retrogressive edicts such as "honour killings", Sharma is sworn to uphold the liberties granted by the Constitution.
Some western agencies do advise tourists not to wear skimpy clothes in Asia, including India, keeping in mind cultural sensitivities. But advice on keeping out skirts altogether without any qualifying riders is not common. It will also raise questions whether the country is so unsafe that the mere sight of women in skirts can provoke untoward incidents.
A year ago, Sharma, a doctor and a lifelong Sangh member, had spoken about ending "cultural pollution".