Written by: Carrie Knori Pasquarello, CEO Global Secure Resources Inc. and Jennifer Surface, Founder and Principal, Vantage Intelligence
American women are increasingly traveling all corners of the globe. Their destinations range from the unusual and exotic to more common destinations for American travelers, such as Europe. Europe is often painted as an ideal international travel destination—due to the fact that relatively few communication barriers exist, cultural differences are manageable, and European countries generally espouse similar societal principles and values as the US (i.e. freedom, democracy, tolerance, etc).
Furthermore, most prime European travel destinations enjoy generally positive reputations in terms of safety, security, and openness—including for female visitors and residents.
Despite these popular conceptions and narratives, violence against women in Europe—like so many other places in the world—is a keen reality. Here we address several issues of which women should be mindful—both at home, and especially while traveling abroad.
Women traveling alone face heightened risk, specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women.
A 2014 study from the European Union found that an estimated 17 million women have experienced sexual violence. One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15—and one in 20 have been raped since age 15.
Women traveling alone face heightened risk. A 2013 United Kingdom Study found that women between the ages of 16 and 19 (age group for students studying abroad) were at a high risk of sexual assault, particularly if they were alone. Rates were also higher for individuals that frequented pubs once a week, while those who visited nightclubs were the most likely to experience sexual violence.
Deeply problematic attitudes toward women can persist virtually anywhere. Europe today is more a cultural and attitudinal “mosaic” than “melting pot.”
As the world becomes “smaller,” more connected, and truly globalized, it is worth remembering that our world is not a melting pot but rather an ethnic, religious, and cultural mosaic.
Global mobility and increased migration is not necessarily followed by cultural and attitudinal assimilation.
In today’s day-and-age, people are more mobile than ever. As an example, in Europe both legal and illegal immigration brings droves of people to the Continent in hopes of a better life. The 2015 United Nations International Migration report found that high-income European countries, like Germany, receive some of the highest numbers of migrants and refugees in the world. More than 76 million migrants live in Europe today, with 81% of these migrants relocating to high-income countries.
Migration patterns impacting Europe, stem from a variety of countries—including some with horrific safety records toward women and longstanding patterns of human rights abuses.
While immigrants contribute positively and significantly to society in many ways, including economically, their presence also creates cultural and attitudinal complexity—which has both positive and potentially negative effects.
It is critical to remember that, in some not-so-distant corners of the world, women and men are not even allowed to interact with one another; women are subjugated to customs that mutilate their bodies; death can be a consequent of shame; rape is common; and prosecution of perpetrators is weak.
All women should take into consideration the powerful and shocking research from the WomanStats Project, which finds that women lack (or have low levels of) physical security in the vast majority of countries in the world. While women tend to have moderate to fairly high levels of physical security throughout most of Europe, countries will continue to be impacted by immigrants originating from countries where women lack physical security.