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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 41
October 27 , 2007

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Tourism and women's rights

Mohammad Shahidul Islam


Women and tourism -- the thought has been receiving sincere consideration from United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO] for years. Women occupied special attention of world tourism day this year. 'Tourism opens doors for women' was the theme for the United Nations World Tourism Day observed on 27 September, the anniversary of the adoption of the original UNWTO statutes. Following on the 'Tourism Enriches' theme of 2006, this year's campaign highlighted the opportunities that the sector offers for women.

The theme 'tourism opens doors for women' satisfied the world human rights leaders. They thanked United Nation World Tourism Organization [UNWTO] for considering women in their international tourism theme-2007. They also expressed concern at the same time about the meaningful success of the theme.

Minu Hemmati, a renowned tourism expert writes in her article Women's Employment and Participation in Tourism [published in Sustainable Travel & Tourism Pp 17-20, 2000]

“Women's Rights, Stereotypical Images, Sexual Objectification: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), and respective national legislation are the legal and policy basis of addressing human rights and women's rights issues in tourism (Keefe & Wheat 1998)....

'The scandalous realities of sex tourism and trafficking of women are not being addressed here. They do indeed represent a most horrific violation of human rights and dignity. Fighting sex tourism and trafficking needs to be a priority on the agenda of everybody involved in tourism. Raising consumer awareness and introducing effective legal measures, including in the country of tourist origin, are among the crucial strategies.

'But there is also a strong case for eliminating less obvious variations of sexual objectification of women working in the tourism industry. Studies have shown that women are expected to dress in an "attractive" manner, to look beautiful (i.e. slim, young, pretty) and to "play along" with sexual harassment by customers (e.g. Gruetter & Pluess 1996, Griffiths 1999). Stereotypical images of women are in many cases part of the tourism product. Friendly smiling women, fitting certain standards of attractiveness, who seem to be waiting to submissively serve the customer's every wish are being portrayed. Women working at destinations as well as indigenous women are being shown in a stereotypical way in tourism brochures and other material. ”

Human rights leaders strongly believe, women would not be maltreated and no injustice will be applied to their employment history and other relevant approaches in the tourism industry. Their contribution and recruitment should not be seen as intentional or technical device. It is true that women are still struggling to reach the top of the hospitality industry because of difficulties juggling work and family commitments, leading figures in the sector have warned. Despite the increasing number of women entering the industry over the last decade, the highest positions in the industry are still commonly held by men, due largely to women shying away from longer hours when starting a family. If women want to see their kids after school, look after them when they are ill or spend time with them on holiday, then the senior, more time-consuming positions can be restrictive.

We hope, UNWTO will ask supports from employers in hospitality industry to offer more help to women. Women should be exempted from their odd timing of job responsibilities. But for this help, it needs assurance; their career promotion will not be hampered. They should not find it hard to juggle family. They must be privileged to see more home help and crèche facilities to allow women the time to reach the very top.

The world humanitarian leaders feel happy to urge the respective governments of developing countries to provide the women more legislative support. They need some sort of tax relief to help with childcare, more women on boards and equal pay for all. On the other hand, womanhood will be unconditionally entertained with esteem and admiration in the entire industry.

The writer is a faculty member of National Hotel And Tourism Training Institute (NHTTI).


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