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WOMEN

French embassy in India ‘seeks rape warnings’

France’s embassy in India is seeking to warn French women to be particularly vigilant when visiting the country, French media reported on Wednesday. It comes after a series of recent high-profile rapes of foreign and Indian women.

French embassy in India 'seeks rape warnings'
Tourists walking in the Indian capital of New Delhi. Photo: Manpreet Romana/AFP

The French embassy in New Delhi has reportedly appealed to France’s foreign affairs ministry to place a notice on its official website, warning female tourists to take “extra caution” while visiting India, according to a report in French daily Le Parisien on Wednesday.

The call comes after a recent series of sexual assaults on women in the world’s second most populous country, including a horrific incident on March 15 when a Swiss woman was gang raped, while on a cycling holiday with her husband.

A number of French tour-operators have already taken the initiative in warning their female clients, with one company, ‘Voyageurs du Monde’ (world travellers) even refusing to take bookings from women planning to visit India alone or in pairs.

“There is a certain sexual frustration in India, and this makes women more vulnerable,” spokesman Gino Pierre told the Parisien.

However, regular French visitor to India, Cécile Bigeon disagreed, telling the Parisien she had travelled to the country alone on numerous occasions, without any problems.

“Just don’t go out at night, don’t dress provocatively, and don’t hang around in isolated areas,” she added.

India, visited by more than 6 million foreigners every year, has seen its reputation as a destination for female tourists suffer in recent months.

This began in December, when an Indian student was gang-raped and brutally beaten by six men on a bus, later dying from her injuries.

Four days after the attack on the Swiss traveller a British tourist in her 30s was hospitalised after jumping from a hotel balcony in the city of Agra, to escape what she feared was an imminent sexual assault by two men.

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WOMEN

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.

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