A Critique of Tourism

Fighting the exploitation of women: A major Public education seminar on the theme: “Do Women Really Benefit from Tourism – The Goan experience” was held in September 2007 in conjunction with World Tourism Day. Presentations and discussions highlighted how women are the most exploited in the tourism sector and end up being the most marginalized when it comes to its economic benefits. Panel presentations included:

  • Trafficking of Women- Ms. Joanita Valadares
  • Case studies on Child Abuse – Ms Bernardete D’Souza
  • Globalization, Gender and Tourism impacts- Ms Vidya Rangan
  • Representation of Women in Tourism – Ms Judith Almeida
  • Testimony on ‘I am a mother…..’ Ms Cecilia Pereira

In a statement issued by the Archbishop of Goa on the occasion spelt out the position taken by CRT. The position was took into account expressions of disagreement by tourism groups in the country, notably EQUATIONS, CRTs main partners.  The Archbishop wrote:

“The World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO) had chosen as its theme for World Tourism Day, 2007: “Tourism opens doors for women”. In choosing the theme of women and tourism for the year 2007, it has focused its attention on this issue for the first time since 1980. Tourism is a sector of the economy that not only employs significant numbers of women, but provides enormous opportunities for their advancement” states Secretary General Francesco Frangialli, in his customary message on World Tourism Day.

Tourism does indeed employ many women. But as experiences highlight, the odds against women benefiting are extremely high. The UNWTO must go beyond a position of approbation and look at tourism’s record thus far, both in the empowerment of women and in the exploitation of women.

The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice. In Goa, women in the organized sector  in tourism are relegated to relatively low skill and low paying or stereotypical jobs like housekeeping, front-desk and reception, catering and laundry services. They face very high risks of sexual harassment and exploitation and are discouraged from forming unions or associations to consolidate their strength and influence. The proportion of women’s to men’s wages is also less. The role of women in informal tourism settings such as running home-stay facilities, restaurants and shacks, crafts and handicrafts, handloom, small shops and street vending is significant. Yet, their contributions are taken for granted.

Tourism is increasingly seen to have a role in this entrenchment in its links to trafficking, prostitution and sex tourism. Instances of girls as young as 15 and 16 years old being trapped in the sex industry having been attracted into it only by the lure of materialistic pursuits are much too frequent. We have probably never stopped to think that one of these young girls is a sister, daughter, or neighbor. Else, we might have behaved differently.

For us inGoa, we come face-to-face with these realities and often tend to bypass them with indifference and inaction. That is, perhaps, why the situation only worsens and those who perpetuate the oppression of women in tourism continue their crimes against women with impunity.

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