Dear foreigners, if you ever decide to spend some time in our fair land, do keep the skimpy clothes at home. We ask because this -- what the Union Tourism Ministry refers to as a 'set of guidelines' -- is now part of our new 'code of conduct for safe and honourable tourism.'
We have tried sending you this subtle message before. In January 2010, Goa Tourism Minister Francisco Pacheco announced that his government would no longer feature women in bikinis in its advertisements. A month later, the state's deputy director of tourism allegedly blamed the rape of a foreigner on the latter's choice of clothing. It was bound to titillate the senses of locals, she pointed out. Earlier this week, a skimpily-clad foreign couple was fined Rs 2,500 for entering the Bombay High Court. Are our hints not getting through?
According to Sultan Ahmed, Minister of State for Tourism, the new code of conduct is not a legally binding instrument. Its objectives are the prevention of prostitution, sex tourism and forms of sexual exploitation at places frequented by tourists.
Presumably, suitably-covered foreigners will now feel a whole lot safer here. Locals may start taking the Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is God) campaign, introduced by former tourism minister Renuka Choudhury in 2005, a little more seriously. We may even see that long-standing plan to deploy tourist police at major tourist destinations across India put into action.
Why make such a song and dance about clothes, you may ask, considering we are responsible for the peculiar beast known as the 'item number.' In our defence, we can only quote Lord Montaigne, father of Modern Scepticism: 'Man is the sole animal whose nudity offends his own companions, and the only one who, in his natural actions, withdraws and hides himself from his own kind.'