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What are the factors that contribute to female sexual harassment while travelling and the coping strategies that are applied to these experiences?

What are the factors that contribute to female sexual harassment while travelling and the coping strategies that are applied to these experiences?
Author: Francesca White
2 Commentries
Have you ever felt social injustice while travelling? Do you incorporate coping strategies into your daily travelling routine?
This paper looks at the factors that have contributed to the increased sexual harassment upon women while they are travelling, as well as identifying the coping strategies they have embedded into their routine towards these sexual harassment experiences.
Sexual harassment is a relevant theme within tourism and social justice, with substantial research being done to highlight the experiences of hundreds of women. However, with more and more females choosing to travel, especially alone, the number of reports surrounding sexual harassment and females while travelling increases, providing enough cause for these topic areas to be discussed to reduce the social injustice occurring.

When reviewing the literature which surrounded the factors which contributed to sexual harassment while travelling, a wide variety of factors came to light. However, the research conducted by Brown et al (2017) identifies a variety of factors which correlated with other researchers’ findings. They identified that female travellers attracted similarly high levels of unwanted attention when travelling alone and with a companion (Brown et al, 2017). The research conducted in Egypt also concluded that the way a female tourist looks can be a major factor contributing to their chances of sexual harassment; with tall, blonde and blue-eyed features being major contributing factors (Brown et al, 2017). These two factors come under the umbrella of ‘conforming’. Sexual harassment has proven to be extremely evident in foreign countries; primarily where English is not the native language, due to the dissimilar cultural norms. For example, Lozanski (2007) states that sexual harassment occurred when women did not conform to the normative gender rules and appropriate behaviour which is expected within that specific country.

The second theme explored within this report was coping strategies. The coping strategies which were highlighted related to conforming and avoidance strategies. Brown et al (2017) expanded their findings on gender rules and cultural behaviours and stated that women felt that they had to conform towards a country’s specific norms in order to reduce their chances of sexual harassment occurring and inevitably reduce attention to themselves. For example, the women within their study argued that they adopted a country’s restrictive dress code, which was deemed culturally acceptable, in order to reduce their chances of sexual harassment (Brown et al, 2017). Brown et al (2017) similarly identified that the women within their study limited their use of public spaces due to the large male presence, compared to female presence, within such public spaces. This proposal was supported by the previous research of Valentine (1989). Valentine (1989) researched the idea of the ‘geography of fear’ which women have associated with public spaces. Especially when considering Islamic societies, it becomes apparent that there is a lack of female presence, which has proven to aid women’s avoidance of public spaces (Brown et al, 2017). Valentine (1989) similarly adds that a coping strategy which is extensively used by women is not only avoiding public spaces, due to the high levels of male presence, but limiting their presence in a public space at certain times. For example, the study found that women tend to avoid public spaces once it is dark (Valentine, 1989).

The work of Brown et al (2017) highlights a high level of social injustice surrounding travel to foreign countries, especially Islamic countries. As shown in their research there are an extremely wide variety of factors which contribute to the sexual harassment women can experience. With language barriers proving to be one of the main contributors; due to the inability to properly communicate, especially when seeking help, it becomes clear that the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring upon women is ever increasing. However, the high number of coping strategies which women have appeared to have created and incorporated into not only their daily lives, but their lives while travelling, indicates that there is work that needs to be done to decrease their chances of experiencing sexual harassment. Valentine (1989) provided several coping strategies which became apparent in the research highlighting several ways which can reduce the experience women capture while travelling. By continuously being aware of your surroundings and having to incorporate several coping strategies into your travel experience, the level of enjoyment can severally decrease reducing their overall tourism experience.
This paper expresses the need for social justice to be sought within tourism. Although several contributing factors have been identified in this paper, due to the word limit, it was unable to fully examine the extent of which these factors spread across the tourism industry. However, it does express how more research needs to be conducted in obtaining this social justice.

Brown, L., and Osman, H (2017) The female tourist experience in Egypt as an Islamic destination. Annals of tourism research. 63, 12-22. Available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738316301736 [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Lozanski, K (2007) Violence in independent travel to India: unpacking patriarchy and neo-colonialism. Tourist studies. 7:3, 295-315. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240691285_Violence_in_independent_travel_to_India_Unpacking_patriarchy_and_neo-colonialism [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Valentine, G (1989) The geography of women’s fear. Areas, 21, 385-390. Available from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/20000063.pdf?seq=1 [Accessed 10 March 2020].
Commentary of 'What are the factors that contribute to female sexual harassment while travelling and the coping strategies that are applied to these experiences?' discussion paper.
Author: Rebecca Cardell
I have decided to conduct a commentary on this paper, which is interlinked and closely related to my topic of Asian solo travellers. The paper I conducted focused on the constraints and risks of Asian solo travellers, whereby this paper focuses on female solo travellers and the specific risk of sexual harassment and mitigation of coping mechanisms while travelling.

The author of the discussion paper focused on the themes of sexual harassment and the coping mechanisms that are implemented, which formed a specific relationship between dissimilar cultural norms and gender roles within the country investigated, using Egypt as an example. Fuch’s (2013) research paper highlights that travel risk is a construction of the backpackers identity, and highlighted additional risks such as financial, physical, psychological, political instability and terrorism dimensions which presents a multi-dimensional phenomenon, that varies across the individual's characteristics such as gender, experience and ethnicity. Although to an extent the findings of the discussion correlate with my findings of Asian solo travellers, Yang et al (2017) presented additional risks and constraints which could expand the authors' findings of dissimilar cultural norms and gender roles interlinked. It is found that such aspects as sexual dimorphism of Asian females and a collectivist society pose additional constraints and risks to female solo travellers. This also highlighted additional coping strategies to those highlighted in the paper, such as selecting all-female dormitories to preserve the Asian values of conservativeness (Wantanoo and Merkercher, 2019).

The author has researched the topic in detail and concluded that the main constraint was the risk of sexual assault due to the ‘geography of fear', and identifies the mitigation techniques that are implemented. Future academics could benefit from identifying how destination management organisations can use marketing techniques to mitigate negative perceptions of solo travel for women and improve destination image and perception of fear, as the female solo travel market is rapidly expanding with the intention of accelerating cultural awareness and new experiences.


Fuchs, G. (2013). Low versus high sensation-seeking tourists: A study of backpackers’ experience risk perception. International Journal of Tourism Research, 15(1), 81–93. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jtr.878?casa_token=BSjDcLQORNUAAAAA%3A4Sex2YaTwEONr9qBZLixHI45byuvArg1NqaN2RjGZz8ELYVzahmd70LuXMLXH1sVv0p7rguq0KpYTLM [Accessed 01/05/2020].

Wantanoo, A and Merkercher, B (2019) Backpacking and risk perception: the case of solo Asian women. Tourism recreation research. 45 (1) 19-25. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02508281.2019.1636180?casa_token=DY9w5silAfsAAAAA%3AxPgkJDOTj-e8LyQ9G5KF7UMaTl0fI0_7jjr9TZPvR8fUa27RyySne3g05jEZ5y9vTBxsGV16IiNM [Accessed 03/05/2020].

Yang, E, Lattimore, C and Arcodia, C (2017) A narrative review of Asian female travellers: looking into the future through the past. Current Issues in Tourism. 20 (10) 1008-1027. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13683500.2016.1208741?src=recsys&journalCode=rcit20 [Accessed 22/03/2020].
A commentary of 'What are the factors that contribute to female sexual harassment while travelling and the coping strategies that are applied to these experiences?'
Author: Eleanor Ferry
I have chosen this paper to produce a commentary on as it is similar to my own discussion paper of solo female travellers, however my own focused on the safety issues. This paper focuses on the coping strategies as a result of female sexual harassment when travelling.

The author chose to focus on the qualitative data for sexual harassment. When researching the quantitative data to show the extent of sexual harassment, an online survey found that more than 3 out of 4 women have been verbally harassed, whilst only 34% of males have. 27% of women have experienced sexual assault and 51% have experienced unwelcome sexual touching (NPR, 2018). However, these are American statistics and do not state whether this occurred at home or whilst travelling.

Focusing on Asia, it has been found that the males are the dominant gender in these countries. 57% of women in Bangladesh have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. This shows that it happens to the locals as well as the tourists (ActionAid, 2015). The males in the country’s women are travelling to have dissimilar cultural norms as mentioned by the author. There is a lack of statistics when it comes to sexual harassment as a tourist as it is difficult to report in an unfamiliar country and when reported, it can be hidden to protect the destination’s image.

The author of this paper has outlined the injustice in detail when researching Islamic countries. This research is qualitative data which accurately shows the affect the sexual harassment has on women travelling and the coping strategies adopted by women. Focusing on the aftermath of the sexual harassment, Sachs (2017) offers advice on how to report the harassment and preserve the evidence to report. However, reporting may not be an option in certain countries as to how it has been dealt with in the past (Sachs, 2017).

Overall, this author has selected an interesting topic to research and has produced an approach to this topic in a unique way. This paper demonstrates the passion the author has for this topic and shows their own interest in a personal way.

ActionAid (2015) Fearless. London: ActionAid UK. Available from https://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/safe_cities_for_women_may_2016.pdf

NPR (2018) A New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment. United States: NPR. Available from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment?t=1589384717563

Sachs (2017) Female travellers and sexual harassment: Tips and advice for women tourists overseas. Traveller, 19 December. Available from https://www.traveller.com.au/female-travellers-and-sexual-harassment-tips-and-advice-for-women-tourists-overseas-h06c8w