I have been lazy about updating this blog because I am in South-East Asia, researching for my 3rd travel book. (And I am travelling alone, by the way. Like I did for six months last year, and like I did many, many times in India where I lived nearly 3,5 years). However, how could I not comment on the recent insane backlash against women who travel solo? You probably know the story: the tragic death of Sarai Sierra who was travelling in Turkey on her own, the media coverage that once again completely missed the point, and the comments from men who think women should not travel alone, and who would not “let” their “beautiful wife out of the door to travel alone” (creepy, that one).
Statistics have been brought up about violence in various parts of the world. Christine Gilbert at Almost Fearless wrote an excellent post and quotes some sobering statistics. When searching for more information, I came across this New York Times article from 2011 that reports on a recent study:
“Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner.” In the US!
So, let me ask a question that other female travel writers have also asked in the last few days: how did it happen that the problem was made to be whether women “should” or “should not” travel alone, whether it is dangerous to travel alone, and what countries women should avoid? Like this great post says, the problem is not women travelling alone and whether it is safe or not.
The problem is violence against women around the world.
And the question is not whether women should travel solo, the question is: what are we going to do about what Amnesty US describes as “global pandemic”?
According to UNDOC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) women make up two thirds of the world’s human trafficking victims. The UNDOC website says that the “vast majority of these female victims are young women who are lured with false promises of employment and then raped, drugged, imprisoned, beaten or threatened with violence, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated and/or are blackmailed.”
It points out: “Nearly every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, as a point of origin, transit or destination, and victims from at least 127 countries have been reported to have been exploited in 137 States.”
“In Europe, over 140,000 victims are trapped in a situation of violence and degradation for sexual exploitation and up to one in seven sex workers in the region may have been enslaved into prostitution through trafficking.”
According to Amnesty USA, “around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of women. Gender-based violence kills and disables as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, and its toll on women’s health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined.”
Violence against women does not only happen in faraway countries. It happens in every country, and it happens every day. Amnesty USA says: “without exception, a woman’s greatest risk of violence is from someone she knows.” And: “Violence against women is rooted in a global culture of discrimination which denies women equal rights with men and which legitimizes the appropriation of women’s bodies for individual gratification or political ends.”
This Valentine’s Day, One Billion Rising is a global event to increase awareness about violence against women. Check out the site to find events near you.
PS. I have written about travel safety before and I will write another post for women out there who are wondering about how to travel safely. Meanwhile, there are some great tips on this blog about travelling in India as a solo female traveller.
And Mariellen at Breathedreamgo has a list of blog posts written on this very same topic, check them out here.