A bride looking forward to her honeymoon in Europe has to produce a permit letter from her father, while her new hubby is spared the strange exercise forced on an adult.
Such a bizarre document is listed as ‘must’ for women obtaining visa for non-professional tours to the UK or the Schengen member countries of Europe. Those discriminated against are not just newly married women travellers, but also women travelling alone (married but without a spouse’s name on passport, or unmarried).
The document listed as mandatory is a “no objection certificate” (of NOC) with a signature of the woman’s parent along with convincing evidence that the signature of the undersigned is an authentic one.
This applies to honeymoon couples (the bride) or single women who do not have the name of their spouse on their passport.
This has come to light after the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) explained on its website the documents required to obtain visas while booking package tours to the UK and the 26 countries of the Schengen.
Incidentally, several travel agents too insist on such documentation which spare the male traveller of all that embarrassing procurements that “make us feel like kids”, feel several women travellers who have recently taken package tours to these European countries.
Interestingly, these documents are mandated by the embassies of the United Kingdom and the 26 Schengen countries of Europe, who however do not specify the reasons for mandating such awkward documentation that makes women feel like “taking a parent’s permission to go on a school picnic”.
A similar “permission” from parents is also mandated for under-18 travellers who are travelling alone – another reason for women to see red for treating them like minors!
The embassies, through their respective consulates and appropriate government channels, have conveyed the ‘requirements’ to the authorised travel agents – one of which is the IRCTC, an Indian Railways body which alongside other functions also organises package tours for private parties to European countries.
Although no explanations are given why the European embassies are insisting on letters of permission from parents of women travellers (the “bride’s” in the case of honeymoon couple), IRCTC officials speculate that it must be for security reasons with fears abounding over people illegally overstaying in those countries.
IRCTC supervisor (Tourism), Thiagarajan N, is however quick to point out that it is not the IRCTC that has mandated such documents, but the embassies themselves: “The embassies concerned have made it mandatory for every tourist wanting a visa to visit their country. Our department is just following their rules and regulations and has specified the same in the package tours on our website. If the specified documentation is not provided they would not provide the visas to the tourists to enter those countries.”
He said all the travel agents have been asked to follow the same procedures when they provide package tours to these countries.
Balaji VP, a travel agent, reported to Bangalore Mirror that several women had expressed their anger at him when he informed them that they would have to submit documents signed by a parent and duly proved that it is their parent who has signed.
Interestingly, although this “rule” from the embassies has been implemented for some time, there have been no questions raised on such discrimination.
But now that the bizarre issue is out, people – especially women – are irked. While expressing utter displeasure at the European consulates for demonstrating such gender bias, Bhavana N, a procurement HR with realty firm, said, “Why are such rules not applied to the citizens of those countries too while visiting our country? These conditions are way too complicated to travel to UK and Europe than the Asian countries. Our government should take note of these and put up regulations to others visiting our country.”
Chandana S, owner of a retail chain says, “If they want us to carry a ‘NOC’ to get our visas to travel to their country, it is difficult for newly married women. I would travel to these places only to explore new places and not to find a job.”