Although a majority of woman will travel India with minimal hassles female travelers generally have to cope with more hassle then men. India is deservedly popular with seekers of adventure, spirituality, or just the curious and in our travels we met many female tourists in groups or going solo. Whether it's sexual repression, prejudice, media depictions, or cultural norms that frown upon dating without intending to marry, both Indian & foreign woman have to take extra care when traveling India. Woman in India tend to get unwelcome stares, gropes, and verbal advances and some rural parts or late at night it's quite unsafe for woman to travel alone. In addition, groups of men often verbally harass and attempt to grope both Indian and foreign woman, often called "eve testing." The best piece of advice if female and traveling in India is be aware of your surroundings, travel in groups, and if traveling alone please do so during the day. Having information and safety tips can be helpful to avoiding unwanted attention. Here are some links to resources about Woman's Issues in India:
Dress modestly: This goes for men & women. Take cover ups (shawls) if entering a religious site. Most Indians especially in smaller villages dress modestly covering most of their body. This is not to say you have to wear a full burka but please be respectful of local customs and do not wear tube/tank tops and short shorts as this is seen as disrespectful and may encourage unwanted male attention. In addition, whether you agree with it or not, dressing in scantly clad attire, possibly outside of popular beaches in Goa may attract stares, harassment, and groping.
Touching between men & woman typically does not occur in public in India. As a woman, If a man attempts to shake your hand or is overly enthusiastic in their greetings that requires physical contact, respectfully withdraw & greet them with hands clasped as if in prayer and a nod of the head.
Basic Safety: Solo female and male travelers should take similar safety protocols as you would in other sprawling cities or large towns such as being aware of your surroundings especially if walking around at night. Remember, you want to have a great experience but if your intuition tells you a situation is not quite right, kindly but firmly refuse any offers and quickly leave. Traveling in groups is always a better option and if at all possible avoid walking around at night, especially in unfamiliar cities or large towns unless in a crowded night market or in a well traveled area.
Beware of Fake Sadhu's: Although there are many genuine holy men seeking personal and spiritual refuge and enlightenment, some so called "Sadhu's" or Yogis thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to take on female students and get a little too "hands on." Many complaints have been made against yoga teachers or so called holy men who have attempted to sexually assault female guests. Men dressed as Sadhu's may themselves or get their agents to approach female or male travelers and offer to be their "guide or teacher" however they usually have an alternative agenda and become touchy feely very quickly. Here is a personal example: While on Sevegram Ashram in 2008 we were approached by a self proclaimed Sadhu who was initially very friendly then asked us to follow him up to the north. We kept our distance because our intuition told us something was false about him. We were later informed by the Ashram members that this man was previously accused of groping woman by locals and that fake holy men visit the Ashram often attempting to lure visitors into following and providing them with a livelihood. As they and many Indians have told us, a genuine Sadhu will rarely approach you and and are on a spiritual quest. Although they will teach others it will be out of altruistic means only. There are many genuine sadhu's & holy people devoting their lives to the ways of aestheticism, forgoing many worldly pleasures however there are always false Sadhu's with ulterior motives amongst the flock. A genuine aesthetic or sadhu will rarely approach travelers and definitely not females unless to ask for alms. They have taken vows of celibacy and are more interested in furthering their enlightenment & spiritual practice. The same advice goes for men as for woman, if a so called "sadhu" approaches you on the street & brags about how holy he is, demands money, or other things he is only pretending to be a holy person, he probably has ulterior motives. Here is a great article about holy men & fake Sadhu's of India taking advantage of villagers and other unsuspecting people: http://www.vocativ.com/world/india/godmen-of-india-satguru-rampal-scandal/
Here is a short blog of a female traveler describing an encounter with a self proclaimed "sadhu" that approached her: http://www.lindadreams.com/2011/02/linda-meets-real-sadhu-on-banks-of.html