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ISSU'.S of 

men h tourism 

Development debate 

-An understanding 



SepUrsr f998 

Issues of 

Women in tourism 

Development debate 

-An understanding 



SeplsmLr f 998 


Issues of Women in Tourism Development Debate: An Understanding 

September 1998 

Cover Design: Dhanaraj Keezhara 

Compiled by; 

198, 2 ND Cross, Church Road 
New Thippasandra, Bangalore 560075 India • 
Phone: 080-5282313, 5292905 Fax: 080-5282313 
equation@giasbg01 in 

Introduction tv 

Understanding Tourism Processes: A Gender-Aware Framework 1 

Women and Tourism: Invisible Hosts, Invisible Guests 10 

Commoditisation and Commercialisation of Women in Tourism 

Symbols of Victimhood 17 

Why Not Acknowledge Women 22 

Working Women in Boracay 27 

Hors d'Oeuvres 32 

Tourism and Women -Tourism Impacts in Khajuraho 36 

Local Women: The Force Behind Trekking Tourism in Nepal 39 

Gender Culture and Tourism Development in Western Samoa 42 

Temple Town Loses to Vice 45 

Women and Children in Kovalam 47 

Legitimising Prostitution 52 

New Law Against Sex Tourists Planned 57 


Tourism is considered as one of the world's largest economic activities 

today. The Draft Tourism Policy 1997 sees the emergence of tourism as an important 
instrument for sustainable human development including poverty alleviation, employment 
generation, environment regeneration and advancement of women and other disadvantaged 
groups in the country. The emphasis in the policy is also to see tourism as a reason for 
better preservation and protection of our natural resources, environment and ecology. 
Research and studies have shown that the host communities have not been consulted while 
their resources are converted for tourism development. They have been deprived of their 
land, water and access to public places. Deeper analyses have made it evident that the 
effect of these deprivations exerts added pressure on women. For instance, the diversion of 
community resources like water for swimming pools, bathtubs, lawns etc, the inflation that 
takes place when tourists begin paying higher prices for necessities, scarcity and non- 
availability of goods that were once available etc. have direct impact on women who are the 
nurturers of the children, family and caretakers of the household. Government and industry 
seem to be oblivious to the fact that women are forgotten in the quest for globalisation and 
industrialisation. The Tourism industry also does not offer job opportunities that women can 
avail of. Few attempts have been made to examine the particular experience of women as 
hosts, entrepreneurs, craftspeople or even as observers of the tourist scene. But the debate 
on impact of tourism on women generally is limited to seeing women as victims, either in 
terms of sex work or advertising, which picture them as sex objects. 

We have brought together a set of articles from the resources available at the 
Documentation Centre in EQUATIONS. We have made an attempt to cover a wide range of 
issues, which have a direct bearing on women in the tourism sector. The articles we hope, 
will provide an insight and understanding of the role women play in tourism, it's impact on 
women and the critical need to look at tourism from the women's perspective. 





A Gender-Aware Framework 

A gender-aware framework for the analysis of tourism development processes and 
tourism related activity is offered. The paper focuses on three crucial issues in the 
pursuit of such a framework. It is argued that, (I) tourism development processes and 
tourism-related activities are constructed out of gendered societies; (2) gender relations 
both inform, and are informed by the practices of all societies, and (3) power relations 
surrounding tourism development processes represent an extension of the politics of 
gender relations. It is concluded that an analysis of tourism-related activity can be 
enhanced by focusing on the dynamics of gender relations. 


he profound social implications of 

tourism development require an 

analytical framework which addresses 

social differentiation. Tourism involves 

processes which are constructed out of 

complex and varied social realities and 

relations that are often hierarchical and 

usually unequal. Gender relations are 

one element of this complex. Whether 

we examine divisions of labour, the 

social construction of landscape (both 

natural and human influenced), how 

societies construct the cultural 'other', 

or the realities of the experiences of 

tourist and host, it is possible to 

examine issues of relationships, 

differences and inequalities resulting 

from tourism-related processes in terms 

of gender relations. This allows us to 

concentrate on women's and men's 

differential experiences, constructions 

and consumption of tourism. It also 

permits us to formulate an analytical 

framework focusing on the ways in 

which: (1) tourism-related activity 

expresses gender relations, and (2) 

gender relations inform and articulate 

different forms of tourism activity. 

The aim of this paper is to provide a 

gender-aware framework through 

which the various processes of tourism 
development and tourism related activity can 
be analysed. It is argued that, (1) tourism 
related activities and the processes involved 
in tourism development are constructed out of 
gendered societies; (2) gender relations both 
inform, and are informed by the practices of 
all societies; and (3) tourism's identification 
as an industry based on the economic, 
political or social power relations between 
nations or groups of people represents an 
extension of the politics of gender relations. 
We argue, therefore, that an analysis of 
tourism-related activity can be enhanced by 
focusing on the dynamics of gender relations 
in both host and guest societies. 

A gendered framework 

Recognition of the centrality of gender as an 
organizing framework for conceptual analysis 
is a relatively recent phenomenon viewed as 
; a principle organizing social arrangements, 
behaviour, and even cognition', gender is 
essentially structural and relational, and needs 
to be positioned within analyses which 
address systemic change over time. 
This paper focuses on the principal 
conceptual issues which we consider to be 
crucial in establishing a gendered framework 
within which to better understand tourism 

Jfau4i of lAsomen in ZJouriAm. djevalapmenl Jjebate - an IJnderttandu 

n 9 



development processes and the 
implications of tourism related activity. 
Selected literature is employed to 
exemplify each element of this 
framework. We readily acknowledge 
that the examples used here are not 
exhaustive nor are they exclusive to 
each contention. The ideas presented 
and literature reviewed point to specific 
issues and concerns relevant to the 
discussion of the economic, social, 
cultural and environmental impacts of 
tourism-related activity, all of which 
can be examined using a gender-aware 

1. The activities and processes 

involved in tourism development 

are constructed out of gendered 

societies. Consequently the 

masculine and feminine identities 

articulated by both host and guest 

societies are important 

components of the types of 

tourism taking place. 

We can begin to unravel the 

complexities of this statement by 

focusing attention on the gendered 

nature of tourism employment. Men 

and women tend to be segregated 

horizontally into different occupations, 

although the degree of segregation 

depends on the nature of the work: the 

greatest degree of segregation is found 

among the semi skilled, domestic and 

servicing type occupations, many 

mirroring functions carried out in the 

home. Women thus tend to remain 

concentrated in occupations which are 

predominantly female. Walby has 

argued that an understanding of the 

origins of gender segregation, and its 

maintenance at work, is the key to 

explaining women's subordinate 

position in the workforce. 

Conventional explanations have 

implied that if the best jobs and highest 

rewards are linked to an accumulation of 
human capital, women are inevitably 
disadvantaged because their process of 
accumulation is interrupted by, marriage, 
birth and childbearing. The position of 
women who continue to work- without such 
breaks and yet who remain in low-status, low- 
paid occupations is not explained by such 
conventional, approaches. However, even 
where there is evidence of men and women 
starting with equal skills, qualifications or 
experience, the distribution of higher status 
and higher paid grades remain uneven. 
Cultural theories suggest that women make a 
rational choice about the type of work they 
pursue and that their choice derives from an 
adherence to values associated with 
femininity and domesticity. Such a position 
clearly fails to address the underlying causes 
determining women's choices. 
Our understanding of the implications and 
structural consequences of employment in 
tourism related activity needs to be based on 
thoroughgoing critique of (1) the variations of 
quality and type of work activities available, 
(2) the differential access of men and women 
to such opportunities, (3) the seasonality of 
employment, and (4) the existing and new 
gender divisions of labour generated. 
Recent studies have shown that in a number 
of regions where tourism-related activity is 
pursued as a stimulus to economic 
development - employment opportunities for 
the local population are typified by a 
predominance of unskilled, low-paid jobs 
such as kitchen staff, chambermaids 
'entertainers' and retail clerks. As in most 
forms of employment, these categories of 
tourism work reinforce and transform gender 
divisions of labour with profound 
implications for women's potential income 
attainment, job security, work satisfaction, 
access to resources, social mobility and 
socioeconomic status. 

A gender focus within the hotel and catering 
industry, in Britain, for example, depicts 
gender stereotyping and sex segregation at 

different levels of activity: women are 
recruited into work which, is deemed to 
represent (an extension of) their 
traditional domestic responsibilities for 
which they will be inherently skilled. 
Although men are often employed as 
porters and stewards, they are over- 
represented in professional managerial 
and supervisory positions. Despite the 
potential improvements in economic 
status that women may attain as a 
consequence of involvement in 
tourism-related employment, strong 
cultural barriers, poor availability of 
government initiative, and the lack of 
organization among the women 
workers themselves constrain them 
from aspiring to political and 
communal leadership roles. 

Armstrong's research in highland 
Scotland, for example, found that 
although women were the main tourism 
workers, traditional male leadership and 
networking systems did not 
acknowledge leaders of established 
women's organizations as legitimate 
political figures. As a consequence, 
women had little influence beyond their 
own village. 

In hotels in Barbados, most women 
employed were in less stable, lower 
status work, such as housekeeping, 
reception and other service occupations 
with the lowest job security (partly 
because of lack of unionized women 
workers) and income levels. In Sri 
Lanka, even women who owned and 
managed their own guesthouse or 
restaurant did not gain increased status, 
because of the low value ascribed, to 
women's work. In a number of 
developing countries, however, where 
the transformation from agriculture to 
manufacturing and service industry 
employment is often viewed positively, 
lack of equal employment opportunities 

between women and men is rarely, expressed. 
Early advocates of tourism as a strategy for 
development, viewed tourism employment a 
positive for integrating underprivileged sub- 
groups of society into the mainstream 
economy. Such notions however, may be seen 
as echoing stereotyped racist and sexist social 
ideologies and re-enforcing existing social 
stratification systems. They also create overt 
ethnic and gender divisions of labour within 
the tourism industry. Research on women and 
tourism in Bali and Western Samoa for 
example, has emphasized that women's roles 
in economic production cannot be understood 
without reference to the cultural context of 
women's structural position in society and the 
home, which may be advantaged or 
disadvantaged by such roles. 
Lever's study, of Spanish migrant workers 
showed that much seasonal, unskilled low 
income and insecure tourism employment is 
undertaken by rural women who migrate as a 
result of poor rural employment 
opportunities. The exploitation of what is 
deemed women's work is again expressed: 
women are seen as 'cheaper' than men 
because, for example, they sweep and tidy, at 
the end of the day and perform other tasks 
which men refuse to do. While tourism 
migration may bring temporary improvement 
for individual migrants, it acts to postpone the 
need to address long-term rural development 
questions, not least employment provision for 

In specific tourism-dependent regions of 
Britain and Ireland, economies are gendered 
in their inclusion of women in the tourism- 
related labour force. Issues of employment 
opportunities, in both historical and 
contemporary contexts, ghettoize women in 
work in a way which is seen to be an 
extension of domestic activity especially in 
relation to their 

involvement in the provision of bed-and- 
breakfast accommodation. Utilizing tourism 
as a strategy for development (and the gender 


'omen in ^Jouriim 

—De.ue.loiimenl djeoaUi ~ an (JncLntandinj 


division of labour it reinforces) creates 
a situation in which women, otherwise 
marginalised in the workforce, are very 
much part of the prevailing capital and 
patriarchal social and economic 
structures. However, changing gender 
relations may be evident as women 
particularly, move their traditional 
domestic labour into the public domain. 
Women earn publicly and gain an 
element of financial autonomy through 
work that does not appear to threaten 
existing gender roles and can be 
accommodated within the prevailing 
sexual division of labour. 
The gendered nature of tourists, the 
tourist experience and the tourist's 
structural role is but poorly researched 
and understood. Although studies 
addressing women's leisure have 
appeared since the 1970's, until 
recently they have tended to lack a 
gendered central organizing focus 
failing to evaluate leisure roles in 
relation to gender differences and 
inequalities within society. Two key 
issues appear to be crucial in such a 
debate, however: (a) women's 
experiences of time tend to be much 
more fragmented than those of many 
men, (b) women tend to be the 
facilitators of others (particularly 
husband's, children's, and parent's) 
leisure, and only secondarily the 
recipients of leisure themselves. Little 
research has focused specifically on 
distinguishing between the motivations 
of male and female tourists, and on the 
extent to which women 

organise/control their own and/or their 
family's leisure and tourism 
experiences in terms of timing, length, 
destination, accommodation, transport 
and actual leisure activities. 

Recognition of the gendered nature of 
the motivation acts and aspirations of 

travelling, however, has seen lately a 
proliferation both of anthologies of women 
travellers and of guides aimed at women who 
travel. Assessing the motivations of women 
travellers over a period of more than 200 
years, Russell discerned a wide range of 
triggering factors, including the need to: (a) 
escape from domesticity or a routine job; (b) 
overcome a loss of emotional ties; (c) 
experience the thrill of danger; (d) 
demonstrate women's abilities, and (e) 
undertake scientific discovery. Certainly, 
changes in personal circumstance, whether a 
broken romance or marriage, death of a close 
relative or sudden inheritance, have often 
appeared to provide the releasing mechanism 
for women to embark on concerted travelling. 
In a study of young, educated, long term 
budget travellers, Riley found that women 
more than men said they wanted to travel to 
establish independence from their families 
and to feel comfortable with doing things 

Gendered patterns of travel and tourist wants 
are of direct interest to the tourist industry in 
that specific types of accommodation 
transport and activities could be developed to 
meet them. However, while some critics of 
mass, large-scale tourism development have 
advocated the pursuit of small scale, 
'sustainable', 'alternative', 'responsible' or 
appropriate' tourism which is locally 
controlled, sensitive to indigenous cultural 
and environmental characteristics and directly 
involves and benefits the local population, 
gender considerations have yet to be placed 
centrally within such a debate. 
In summary, access to tourism-related 
employment is overtly gender-based. There 
is evidence from the literature to suggest that 
the majority of menial jobs, especially those 
of low skill, wage and security are occupied 
by women. However, it is important to 
emphasize that the prevailing social and 
cultural norms regarding 'women's work' have 
underpinned this process and have permitted 

it to take place. It seems that 
stereotyped perceptions of women's 
roles permeate transnational tourism 
organizations and diverse cultures and 
serve well the economic and political 
agendas of the transnational tourism 

2. Gender relations both 
inform, and are informed 
by the practices of all 
societies. Therefore, 

economic, social, cultural, 
political, and 

environmental aspects of 
tourism related activity 
interact with the gendered 
nature of individual 
societies and the way in 
which gender relations are 
defined and redefined over 

The tourism literature has generated 
considerable debate over the social and 
cultural impacts of tourism-related 
activity. We can elaborate on a number 
of these issues to illustrate the overt 
way in which tourism arises out of the 
social and cultural interaction between 
host and guest societies, and the ways 
in which these activities are gendered. 

As a process for development, tourism 
provides a strategy for economic and 
social change that has been widely, 
debated within the framework of 
modernization. At the same time, 
however, the tourist's quest for the 
unique creates a demand for the 
traditional cultural 'other'. Discussions 
of tourism's relationship with 
authenticity, commoditization and the 
changing nature of the meaning, of 
cultural arts is well documented. Yet, 
more recent comments suggest that an 

analysis of the impacts of commoditization on 
those involved in the production of ethnic art 
depicts an understanding of how issues of 
gender, class and ethnicity, intertwine. 
Swain's analysis of the development of ethnic 
tourism among the Sani of China provides 
such an example. The government of China 
promotes ethnic tourism using exotic images 
of Sani women wearing traditional dress. In 
this instance, however, the commoditization 
of culture and tradition goes beyond the state- 
promoted image. Many Sani women are 
involved in the production of ethnic 
handicrafts and the marketing of them in 
nearby towns and cities. Sani men are 
employed in providing tourism services and 
support women's home craft production. 
The ways in which individual societies deal 
with the commercialization of their culture 
may be profoundly gendered, and women and 
men play different roles in the selling of their 
traditions. Whether we focus on the Kuna in 
Panama, the Sani in China's traditional dance 
in Bali, quilt making in Amish Pennsylvania, 
the production of tapa in Western Samoa, or 
the masculinization of heritage tourism in 
Stirling, Scotland, gender relations and roles 
are an important element of authenticity and 
tradition, and change in response to the 
demands of tourism development processes. 

Another way in which to recognise tourism's 
interrelationship with social practices is 
through analyses of the family. Changing 
gender relations are expressed through the 
way in which tourism interacts with families 
and changing family structure. For example. 
family situations and household status which 
often determine women's access to 
employment opportunities. The 

demonstration effects of tourism development 
for the institution of the family vary 
according to geographical context. In the 
Caribbean, for example, Antrobus argues that 
a gender-aware focus within analyses of 
tourism development processes reminds us 

Jfiiuei of \A/omen in JJouridtn ^Oei/eiopmeni ^Debate - an Ljnderilanding 


that women's interaction with tourism 
has a more profound impact on the 
family then does that of men, because 
of women's position within the family. 
In Crete, Kousis found that thanks to 
mass tourism, change in rural family 
structure reflected more widespread 
control of decision making among 
family members and the possibility, of 
increased autonomy for women. 
However, determining that economic 
rather than cultural factors induced 
change she suggested that profound, 
gendered practices such as the 
importance of marital arrangements, 
and the dowry system had lost little of 
their significance. Further, the 

development of relationships between 
local men and female tourists required a 
revision of local moral codes, which, 
only applying to male Cretans, thereby 
widened the gap of behavioural 'norms' 
between local men and local women. 
In Mexico, Chant found incidences-of 
female headed households more 
dominant in areas of readily available 
tourism employment. Here, women 
found economic autonomy, and the 
ability, to better control their own 
family environment. We urgently 
require systematic analyses of such 
potential interactions between factors of 
change, the local sociocultural context 
and. family relations in which gender is 
centrally positioned. 
Appreciation of the environment is 
socially constructed both temporally 
and spatially, and one way in which we 
'see' the environment is based on the 
changing economic, social and 
geographical organization of leisure 
and tourism. However, while issues 
relating to the gendered nature of the 
construction of environmental values 
are well recognized, the ways in which 
they relate to processes of tourism 
development have yet to appear in the 

literature. Research which deconstructs 
environmental values through gender, class 
and race differences would provide a valuable 
contribution to an understanding of the 
significance and roles of the environment 
within tourism development processes. 

Many of the social and economic processes 
noted are a result of the movement of large 
numbers of people from one place to another, 
carrying with them different sets of 
motivations, preconceptions and desires to 
'find something new'. Host/guest relations 
involve at least some exchange of social and 
economic values. The extent to which these 
exchanges take place and their degree of 
symmetry depends on the nature and context 
of interaction between host and guest, not 
least in terms of the underlying ideology of 
the host regime and its structuring of the 
tourism industry relative levels of social and 
economic development of host and guest 
societies, type of tourist, and form of tourist- 
related activity. Unless tourism is managed 
in a comprehensively 'prescribed' manner, 
some form of interaction will always take 
place, and the ways in which resulting 
changes in social and economic value systems 
are gendered is significant. 
The issues raised under the first two points 
are reinforced through our third contention. 

3. Discussions of gender and 
gender relations are concerned 
with issues of power and control. 
Gender relations are political 
relations at the household, 
community and societal levels. 
Identifying tourism as an industry 
based on the economic, political 
or social power relations between 
nations or groups of people 
represents an extension of the 
politics of gender relations. As 
such, tourism revolves around 
social interaction and social 
articulations of motivations, 

desires, traditions and 
perceptions, all of which 
are gendered. 

International processes of tourism 
development have been perceived by, 
some as part of global economic and 
political power relations inevitably 
involving some degree of power and 
control by, one group over another. 
Indeed, tourism is often seen as a 
mechanism for the incorporation of 
developing countries into an essentially 
exploitative global economic system, or 
is linked to the colonialism and political 
economy of North-South relations. 
Such discussions provide insight into 
the explanation of concepts of 
international economic and political 
power relations within international 
tourism. However, power relations also 
exist within national tourism and are 
focused much more acutely at the local 
level within issues of race, class, and 

We can elaborate on this issue using the 
following two subthemes. First, in any 
society, gender relations are constructed 
out of the varied social realities 
involved in the complex network of 
social interaction and control. If we 
accept that the tourism industry and 
tourism-related activity involve 
articulations of power and control, then 
we must be able to rethink our analyses 
of tourism-related impacts at the local 
level and look for ways in which 
societal differences embody the 
(re)presentation of the politics of 
gender relations. 

The ways in which dominant (power) 
structures dictate tourism policy can be 
reflected in the way in which tourism is 
presented in different places. Edensor 
and Kothari have highlighted the 

promotion of tourism through an appreciation 

of Scottish heritage and nationalistic pride 

which is configured exclusively by one - in 

this case white, heterosexual male - set of 

values, emphasizing battle and a warrior 

ethic. By contrast, in Western Samoa, 

Fairbairn-Dunlop argues that while, as 

elsewhere, tourism has tended to 

commoditize traditional beliefs and practices, 

women possess well defined rights and 

resources derived from those very traditions, 

which have permitted them skillfully to 

identify and exploit opportunities to dominate 

the tourism industry, from a position of 

strength. Here, for both women and men, a 

widespread fear is that tourism's global power 

structures will undermine traditional Samoan 

customs, and with them the complementary, 

gender-influenced organization of Samoan 

tourism and values of hospitality. 

Swain's research on the Kuna of Panama and 

the Sani of Yunnan, China, not only 

exemplifies the control of tourism policy by 

dominant power structures, but also depicts 

the ways in which those structures interact 

with, and reinforce broader (western) 

economic and political agendas within the 

tourism industry. She concludes that 

although women in both societies have 

derived some measure of economic 

independence and empowerment, from their 

participation in tourism development they 

remain 'exoticized female images of the 

other, with little real power in their distinct 

state societies'. In the case of the Kuna of 

Panama, women produce mola artwork, a 

traditional fabric handicraft and although they 

sell it in local markets men control the 

commodity's wholesaling in urban centres 

and generally define the political and 

economic forums and structures through 

which the community, interacts with tourists. 

This is not to say, that processes involved in 

tourism-related activity, always reinforce 

gender differences and inequalities. All 

processes of development and societal change 

~ 7 

Jtaauaa of iA/omea in tourism ^Development ~Uebale - an Understanding 


are, however, constructed out of 
different social relations which 
inevitably embodies power, inequality 
and control and are dynamic in their use 
of gender relations. What, therefore, 
does tourism development mean for 
women and men in different societies? 
Second, the relationships, consequences 
and eventual configuration of the 
tourism experience for hosts and guests 
is gender specific. The differential 
effects of tourism as a strategy for 
development are evident in our 
conceptualization and analyses of the 
implication of tourism-related activity. 
In addition, the way in which all 
societies, whether host or guest, 
embody a changing set of gender 
perceptions, stereotypes and relations, 
and articulate these as part of their 
individual understanding of 'reality', 
has implications for the marketing of 
tourism: for the motivation of guests to 
visit and for hosts to entertain. For 
example, the advent of sex-tourism, 
which has been widely discussed within 
the sociocultural impact literature, is 
overtly concerned with female/male (or 
male/male) host/guest encounters. This 
form of tourism-related activity, has 
flourished in societies which have a 
particular set of gender/power relations. 
These relations are often steeped in 
historical traditions which interact with 
the modernization and globalization of 
local and national economies and 
societies. Female prostitution in 
developing countries signifies the 
continuous interplay between the new 
international division of labour and the 
manipulation of the sexual division of 
labour. The popularity of organized sex 
package tours in Southeast Asia, 
especially among Japanese male 
tourists has been viewed as representing 
an economic power relation reflecting a 
long history of class, gender and race 


relations within the region. According to 
Kikue, South Korea's notoriety as a 
destination for Japanese sex-tourists is 
partially due to Japan's former colonization of 
the Korean peninsula and the racist overtones 
this implies. The phenomenon in developing 
societies of male hosts interacting with 
female tourists is as yet poorly researched. 
The ideological constructs of the advertising 
industry constructing and diffusing fantasy, 
meaning and identity - infuse the tourism 
industry, not least the representation of 
women. Images of First World women 
tourists and Third World women tourism 
hosts are frequently compared and contrasted: 
the latter as submissive, for the benefit of 
male tourists, the former, potent, yet 

In summary, the way in which gender roles 
and relations are represented in the process of 
tourism development is an aspect of political 
power sharing which is readily seen at the 
local level. The differential experiences of 
women and men, and their social interaction 
with others as either hosts or guests, is 
dependent upon the particular construction of 
gender relations in any society and how they 
change over time. Examples of women's role 
and position in tourism-related employment 
(including the sex tourism industry), in 
representing culture and tradition, and in their 
motivations for engaging in tourism-related 
activity (as either hosts or guests) attest to this 
claim. The involvement of women in new 
tourism enterprises in Ireland, for example, is 
•accepted in a society where, historically 
women's work has been intensely controlled. 
The view of a woman as wife, mother and the 
carer for others has remained dominant in 
Irish society. Consequently, the extension of 
this role into providing lodgings for tourists is 
acceptable and does not challenge the 
prevailing notions of gender roles and 


Unless we understand the gendered 
complexities of tourism, and the power 
relations they involve, then we fail to 
recognize the reinforcement and 
construction of new power relations 
that are emerging out of tourism 
processes. From the values and 
activities of the transnational tourist 
operator to the differential experiences 
of individuals participating as either 
hosts or guests, all parts of the tourism 
experience are influenced by our 
collective understanding of the social 
construction of gender. 
Tourism-related activity is one of a 
number of projects of (re)presentation 
which are undertaken through the 
perceptions and motivations of the 
tourist in relation to the nature and 
articulation of the tourism product as 
defined by the host in conjunction with 
a variety of marketing agents. 
Therefore, tourism development and the 
generation of various forms of tourism- 
related activity in a particular place is a 
two-way process which is dependent 
upon the social relations present in both 
host and guest societies. Attention to 
these social relations is required in 
order that we may reveal the ways in 
which they are used and change over 
time as a result of tourism development. 
The tourism literature reveals case 
studies which highlight the ways in 
which societal constructs and practices 
cut across conventional categories of 
tourism analysis. Consequently, it is 
difficult to look at the economic 
impacts of tourism without an 
integrated discussion of their social and 
political implications. Similarly, an 
analysis of the social and cultural 
changes inherent in the processes of 
tourism development requires an 

understanding of different social and cultural 
practices within particular societies, the ways 
in which these practices interact with others 
as either hosts or guests, and the 
reconstructed and reconstituted social 

relations that emerge from the process. 
The social implications of processes of 
tourism-related activity and development 
demand an analytical framework which 
addresses differences within societies. A 
gender-aware framework moves us towards 
this goal and suggests an agenda for further 


The authors would like to thank: first,, the 
anonymous referee for her/his helpful 
comments and support; 
commented on an earlier version of the paper 
when it was presented in January 1995 at the 
Institute of British Geographers Annual 
Conference, University of Northumbria at 
Newcastle; and third, the editor of Tourism 
Management for her encouragement. 

- Vivian Kinnaird, Derek Hall, Tourism 
Management, Vol 17, No. 2, 1996 

Jfisati of Women in ^JourUm ^Development -UebaU - an Understandi 



Women and Tourism: 
Invisible Hosts, Invisible Guests 

Tew outside the burgeoning tourist 
industry defend the over development of 
the South for the pleasure of the 
Northerner seeking the formula of "sex, 
sea, sand and sun." Not only have host 
communities not been consulted about the 
use of their resources and the 
appropriation of their culture, but their 
land, water, and access to public places 
have been taken away in many tourist 
centres, often over their strenuous 
objections. Long after the damage has 
been done in many parts of the world, the 
impact of tourism is being described and 
catalogued — but only up to a point. To 
the extent that women have been 
considered at all in the debate about 
tourism, is generally as victims, either in 
terms of sex work or advertising which 
portrays them as sex objects. Few studies 
examine the particular experience of 
women as hosts, entrepreneurs, 
craftspeople, or even as observers of the 
tourist scene. 

This essay looks first at why so much 
attention has been paid to sex tourism, 
then reflects on the few studies which look 
at the many other impacts of tourism on 
women. Our intention is that the 
information be used as a starting point for 
future research, analysis, strategy and 
action to be taken by policymakers, 
community activists, and academics. 
Ultimately, the hope is to learn more about 
what really happens to women in tourist 
areas, and spread the word so that: 
• the damage tourism has already done 

to women can be understood and 


• future development can be designed in 
a way that includes women and their 
interests from the very beginning 

• policy guidelines can be developed so 
that tourism development can be as 
constructive for women as possible, 

• women's experience in one community 
can be conveyed to those in another, to 
help them make better decisions. 

Virtually all of the attention to the female 
half of the host countries has been focused 
on sex tourism (both independent and 
organized tours). Why? There are 
certainly constructive reasons, but some of 
the criticism is based on Northern 
stereotypes of Southern women as helpless 
victims on the one hand, and on the other 
as sensationalized, lascivious whores ready 
to fulfill every male fantasy. Sex tourism 
outrages such a broad race of political 
bedfellows. Feminists, nationalists, 
religious organizations both locally and 
internationally, community members who 
are fearful of change angered over the way 
women have been used. Righteous 
indignation spouts both from the defenders 
of the purity of womanhood and those who 
seek rights and liberation. Coming from 
competing different and often conflicting 
perspectives, the critics of sex tourism 
converge to oppose it. The root causes are 
so deep, however, that few would say 
much progress has been made, and some 
indicate that the sex trade is livelier than 
ever. Reformism will have little effect 
until women have real occupational 
alternatives to the "quick buck" of 


Some parallels between tourism and 
prostitution have been noted by 
Shubhendu Kaushik and others: a natural 
urge satisfied unnaturally, profit by the 
middleman, money as the driving force, 
and degradation of the buyer. The issues 
seem to be even deeper. Sex tourism is a 
powerful symbol of what has happened to 
host communities. Even though tourists 
are a relatively small percentage of clients 
in many "destinations," they contribute 
disproportionately to the economy, and 
their presence may lure women in with the 
hope of escape (Walter Meyer). 
Prostitution within a community is 
unfortunate enough, but it has different 
implications when tourism is involved, not 
only in scale and stakes. Tourism 
represents the commodification not only of 
a particular culture, but of women's role as 
nurturer and caretaker, the all giving — 
taken to the extreme in sex tourism, in 
which the woman's actual body is sold. 
When women are up for sale to outsiders, 
especially for a price which is cheap to 
them, the community has lost something 
irretrievable. Unfortunately, it is often 
cast in terms of males losing access to the 
sexual services of females as being an 
outrage to their manhood, rather than 
women's having no other viable economic 
options as being an outrage to their 
womanhood. The prostitution of women 
also represents the loss of something 
private and sacred, for female reproductive 
power was worshipped before anything 
else on earth. If tourism policy is a signal 
to the North that a country is ready to meet 
tourist's expectations (Cynthia Enloe), 
surely sex tourism is the ultimate 
concession or selling out. 
Even in the Northern context there is 
controversy about prostitution - whether it 
is simply degrading to women, or whether 
it is a valid way for a woman to make an 
independent living doing what others do as 

unpaid work. It is difficult, however, to 
make a case that the bar girl in Manila or 
the streetwalker in Bangkok is in any way 
in control of the rural poverty which drove 
her into her job, or the system which keeps 
her there. While she may feed her family 
and have some years of relatively lucrative 
employment, she is in a death trap in the 
long run. She earns, but at the price of her 
Health, her self respect, and the recognition 
usually available to women in her society. 
In the context of the tourism Industry, the 
steadiest, least seasonal, and by far the 
most lucrative opportunities for women are 
in sex work. It is tedious, a health hazard, 
can be degrading and dangerous, and is 
characterized by a downward career path. 
But for a Southern woman pressed by 
necessity, caught between the ideal of 
female sexual purity and the ideal woman's 
providing food for her family, there are 
few other choices. Once in the system, her 
fate is often sealed, and it is no surprise 
that many conceal the true nature of their 
work from their families, and even from 
themselves (Kathryn Poethig). In many 
ways, the commercialization of sex is a 
metaphor for the inauthenticity of the 
guest/host relationship, in that it is an 
attempt to buy and sell what really cannot 
be bought and sold. In spite of everything, 
however, some real relationships do 
develop in both situations (Erik Cohen). 
The prostitution of women is simply at one 
end of a continuum of service activities 
provided for tourists, and, as the extreme, 
it has attracted more comment than the 
more palatable forms of prostitution: the 
hotel manager who is anticipating and 
catering to the tourists every whim; the 
packaging of a traditional dance or 
festival; the modification of handicrafts so 
they appeal to the Northern taste; the ad 
which depicts an air hostess's compliant 
smile. The only difference is degree, not 
kind. Some of the criticism of sex work 

Jfnuei Of \AJomen. in Uourism ^Development -Debate - an Undenlandiny 



undoubtedly stems from a legitimate 
concern for women's welfare. But much is 
based instead on outrage that women are 
violating the standards of female purity, 
that they are earning their own money and 
have, to varying degrees, escaped the 
control of their families. 

Sex tourism deserves significant attention 
because it unites diverse constituencies 
against a common problem, it symbolizes 
what happens to host communities, and is 
the most extreme and obvious form of 
prostitution. Anyone who cares about 
women is outraged by it. Action is 
needed, and needed urgently. Yet tourism 
affects women in many, many ways other 
than pushing them into sex work. In the 
flurry of outrage over prostitution, the 
much commoner, more everyday and less 
extreme effects have been noticed only 

For example, critics rightly decry the 
diversion of community water supplies to 
hotels so that tourists can over consume in 
swimming pools, bathtubs, lawns, and so 
on. The resulting lack of water for the 
hosts themselves may be protested, or even 
the worse quality of the drips which 
remain. But few have taken the next step, 
to notice and object to the fact that it is a 
local woman who must pay the price for 
the tourist's luxuries. It is she who must 
go farther and farther to find smaller and 
smaller amounts of water, who must carry 
less over greater distances. She is the one 
who must make do with less in cooking 
and in washing herself and her children. 
Her working day, often already 
overextended to include paid as well as 
unpaid work, is lengthened further. 
It's particulars like these which must be 
observed, understood and analyzed if 
future strategies for tourism are to assist 
women rather than burden them further. 
In areas where tourism has already run 


riot, advocates need to include the costs 
and benefits to women in their calculations 
about appropriate remedial action. Where 
new development is being considered, 
women must not only be thought about, 
but they must have a voice in the process. 
When critics of tourism advocate 
consulting the community, they must mean 
women as well as men ~ and those women 
need to have access to the experience of 
others elsewhere to help them make good 

Remarkably little attention has been given 
to the full range of issues concerning 
women and tourism: the roles the industry 
creates for women, women fighting 
tourism development, women shaping 
tourism policy and practice, and how 
tourism affects women. Basic questions 
remain virtually unexplored: 

• What are the roles which the tourism 
industry creates for women? The 
information available indicates that the 
roles are very similar to those in 
Northern economies: primarily service 
jobs, often seasonal, invariably low 
waged and perhaps temporary as well. 
The only decently paid work to which 
most women have access is sex work, 
and it involves numerous 
disadvantages. The coercion of 
poverty, which drives women into 
many forms of substandard 
employment in the tourist industry, 
operates more strongly on women, 
who are poorer than men the world 

• What part are women playing in 

restraining tourism? In communities 
around the South, people are objecting 
more and more strenuously to 
unthinking tourist development and 
practices. Who are the women leaders 

in that movement? What role do 
women play at the global level in 
addressing tourism issues? If their 
perspectives are fully heard and 
incorporated into the overall agenda of 
transforming tourism surely the issues 
will be defined more comprehensively, 
in a way that includes gender as an 
important variable. A basic question 
never asked is a variant on the classic- 
"What do women want from tourism?" 
Are they looking merely for income? 
Is it the possibility of marrying a 
foreigner and escaping poverty, like 
the Thai sex workers (Erik Cohen)? Is 
it a glimpse of another world - just 
such a glimpse as the tourist him or 
herself seeks? 

To what extent are women shaping 
tourism, as policy makers, managers, 
owners, guests, workers and service 
providers? Each of these deserves a 
study of its own. While women are 
probably a tiny minority in the more 
powerful roles, the underside of the 
iceberg gives it shape at least as much 
as the tip, and women are all too well 
represented as air hostesses, 
chambermaids, waitresses, and other 
"invisible" occupations (Cynthia 
Enloe). As guests, women are almost 
unstudied (Valene Smith), even though 
there is ample evidence that they are 
critical decision makers in travel 
destinations, and have somewhat 
different priorities than male tourists. 
While we know a lot about male 
guest's fantasies of paradise, how 
much do we know about women's? 
The meaning of the tourist experience 
is different for them. To some extent, 
a tourist destination is a place where 
men of one class can enjoy the 
privileges of men of another class, and 
women can enjoy the privileges of 

men. Someone else will cook their 
meals, make their beds, and clean their 
toilets. In some places, like the 
Gambia, women can also solicit male 
prostitutes, or, probably much more 
commonly, take their pick among the 
many host men who show an interest. 
Now there are even women pedophiles 
(Ron O'Grady). Are these women 
simply playing out male fantasies, or is 
something deeper and more authentic 

• How does tourism affect women in 
terms of their daily lives and activities, 
their opportunities for health and 
prosperity, and their roles? How does 
it affect their status, both as their own 
community sees them, and as women 
striving for self-sufficiency worldwide 
might see them? Thus far, it seems 
that tourism is a double-edged sword 
for women, as it is for men; it both 
gives and takes. The information 
collected so far indicates that women 
often pay the costs of tourism 
disproportionately, while reaping few 
of the benefits. On the one hand, 
tourism does provide a chance for the 
fisherwomen in Goa to earn some 
money by renting her hut to tourists for 
which she is grateful. It may improve 
her status in the community because 
she is a more important contributor to 
family income, but she may instead be 
seen as a kind of prostitute. Tourism 
has the potential both to degrade and to 
improve women's status. The threat of 
the latter is so great that, in some 
cases, governments and industries have 
been involved in elaborate 
machinations to ensure that the 
employment through tourism will not 
challenge the status quo. The Maltese 
government actually enacted a law 
prescribing sex discrimination in favor 

Jfiiuei of lA/orrwa in Jouriim UJevew/jinenl JJ>ebaU - an bfncbrilandina 



of men because too many low waged 
jobs had been created for women; one 
employer paid wages to girls fathers to 
ensure that male authority was not 

From the moment tourism enters a 
community, women are positioned 
differently than men to take advantage of 
whatever opportunities or benefits it 
offers. They are generally less schooled, 
less likely to know a truly "foreign" 
language, less comfortable dealing with 
the world outside. And yet they are also 
among the most useful pawns the industry 
has to move to the front of the board to 
attract the Northern male tourist, depicting 
them as compliant, submissive, and 
ultimately accommodating. Once tourism 
goes beyond the point of a few individual 
adventurers, virtually every woman in a 
community is affected by tourism, whether 
she ever sees a tourist or not, whether she 
works in the industry or not, and whether 
she can identify tourism as the source of 
what she observes or not. 

If the information gathered so far is 
typical, the ordinary woman outside the 
industry pays higher prices for necessities, 
because tourists have driven them up; 
faces scarcity or exorbitant prices for 
goods she once considered normal; is 
restricted in her movements because of 
explicit banning of "natives" or because of 
her reluctance to expose herself to 
harassment; and is trying to make pay that 
never increases stretch farther. 
Researchers and activists should examine 
the effects of broad tourism policies and 
actions — such as tax breaks for hotel and 
infrastructure development, or 

manipulation of the exchange rates - on 
women's daily lives. As important as 
those quotidian impacts are, the overall 
effect of tourism on women is more than 

the sum of those parts. Women's roles can 
be deeply affected, for better and for 

We need a much better understanding of 
where and how tourism actually has 
helped women to lead better lives, as 
opposed to the all too familiar stories of 
prostitutes ravaged by drugs. What has 
benefited women? Can petty trading help 
improve women's lives? If so, how can 
they be enabled to do it? What chance do 
women have of moving into hotel or 
restaurant management? What enables 
them to keep control of the money they 

From a Northern view, it is easy to 
construct a romanticized view of a female 
petty trader on the beaches of Goa, selling 
traditional handicrafts produced under 
ideal conditions in a comfortable country 
cottage. Surely she has opportunities 
because of tourism which would not have 
presented themselves otherwise. But does 
she have control over her own money? 
Does her community see her with more 
status and respect, or is she despised for 
pandering to foreigners (Shireen 
Samarasuriya)? Turning to the women 
making the handicrafts, what are the 
conditions of their work? What benefit do 
they reap from their labor, as opposed to 
the middleman and the petty trader? Are 
they seen as significant contributors to 
family income? What is the wage gap 
between their earnings as men's, and how 
does that affect their value in the 
community? How can the community's 
concepts of what is appropriate for women 
be changed, so that it is possible for 
women to benefit from tourism — or is that 
one more imposition of outside values and 
norms? These are the subtleties that must 
be explored situation by situation, even 
village by village: If we are to come to an 
understanding of what tourism has already 
done to women, and of what women have 


done to tourism, and of what can be done 
in future so that the waves of tourism will 
carry women forward rather than drown 

It would certainly be possible simply to 
advocate obtaining for women a fairer 
share of the benefits of tourism as it now 
exists. Instead, asking fundamental 

questions about women should also 
involve a much broader evaluation of the 
industry and how it has developed thus far. 
Strategies to help women benefit from 
tourism can improve the industry. If, for 
example, one of the criticisms of tourism 
as it exists is that there is so little realistic 
communication between guest and host, 
women would be ideal "bridge people," as 
they are in other realms of life. Because 
women in many cultures are socialized to 
be gregarious, to develop sophisticated 
interactive skills and to assess and meet 
others needs, they could make ideal tourist 
educators and guides. 

To speculate about what keeps them from 
moving in that direction, the fear of 
contamination due to contact with 
foreigners comes immediately to mind. 
Women themselves need to be consulted 
about the best ways to overcome those 
barriers: for example, a licensing system, 
the use of uniforms, and public recognition 
might help. At another, more practical 
level, obstacles include not knowing 
foreign languages or being unfamiliar with 
cultural differences, and the 

communication and other potential 
problems they imply. Yet English, often 
the language of foreign tourists, is child's 
play compared to many local languages, 
and people living in diverse countries are 
often multilingual. Teaching English as a 
foreign language can readily be done in a 
way that also familiarises participants with 
other cultural realities. Women can be 

part of the solution, not just part of the 

While there has been some attention to 
women's issues other than sex work by 
tourism's critics, and some attention to 
tourism by women's groups, few would 
argue that there has been enough of either. 
A change is timely. Women's concerns are 
just as deeply linked to the environmental 
issues now most popular in the agenda of 
the critics (A. Sreekumar), as they were to 
the cultural impacts which received more 
attention earlier. Women tend those who 
become ill because of degraded water or 
air; they bear the brunt of most 
reproductive effects of toxic substances. 
They go from well to well, and are the 
cleaners and sweepers who must cope 
somehow with increasing solid waste. 
They are the ones who must make do in 
the market with the leavings of tourists, 
whose rituals connecting them to the earth 
may become the subjects of photographs 
or even displays. 

Thus far, the balance of the impact of 
tourism on women has almost 
unquestionably been negative overall. As 
we move toward a world where tourism is 
an ever greater force for change, it will 
take the efforts of both tourism's critics, 
and women's advocates, to begin to use the 
enormous economic and social resources 
of tourism as positively as possible. 


Beyond the question of how tourism 
affects women is the larger issue of how 
tourism fits into interconnected gender, 
race and class oppression. One commonly 
held view is that tourism has evolved 
parallel to earlier colonial patterns of 
economic dependency, and is merely 
imperialism's latest manifestation (John 
Lea). If one takes the view that all 
oppressions are intertwined it's worth 

Jfiiuei of (A/otnen in Jouriim. ^Development .-Debate. - an '.Understanding 



examining tourism as a tool and 
expression of patriarchy, as Cynthia Enloe 
begins to do. Feminist scholars and 
theorists could certainly afford to amplify 
her and others' analysis. 
As an example of looking at tourism 
through the feminist lens, consider what 
the tourist seeks. The tourist's desire is 
usually to be indulged like a child - being 
cooked for, having one's bed made, being 
free to indulge one's appetites at will, to 
play all day and stay up late at night if one 
wishes. In every culture across the world, a 
return to childhood means being taken care 
of by The Mother. Thus, entire host 
communities play the role of The Mother 
to a tourist whose regression and 
artificially amplified wealth makes him or 
her feel entitled to demand almost 
anything, The Mother is endlessly 
indulgent and appears to have no needs or 
timetable of her own, and enforces no 

How much of the outrage against tourism 
stems from men being coerced into 

playing female service roles with respect 
to tourism? As Cynthia Enloe points out, 
there is often much more objection to the 
idea of a nation of busybodies as opposed 
to a nation of chambermaids. What's 
profoundly objectionable about tourism as 
is currently structured is that it forces 
whole communities into the same 
unacceptable position as women in most 
societies: a subordinate role in which the 
hosts' needs must be ignored and 
subsumed, the entire structure of life is 
geared primarily to satisfying the tourist's 
whims, and the dignity of the hosts must 
be sacrificed. Just as male values, styles, 
priorities, activities and work are valued 
more than women's in most contemporary 
societies so the tourist has greater weight 
than the host. The values of the tourist are 
seen as better; he has more, therefore he 
must be and deserve more. Transistor 
radios thus penetrate into small African 
villages, and cellular telephones appear in 
Bombay airport. 

-- Mary Fillmore - EQUATIONS Monograph, 1994 


and Commercialisation of Women in Tourism 

Symbols of Victim hood 

Oender discrimination in India today 
is being presented as an aberration in 
the inexorable drive towards 
development. Despite the attempts of 
the Government to promote the view 
that the new economic thinking is 
gender sensitive, the ideological and 
cultural changes that are coming in the 
wake of the process of globalization are 
denying the space that women in India 
had created through their struggles and 
through their participation in several 
significant mass movements. The 
denial of this space is being projected 
as the only route to modernisation, and 
the prices we have to pay for modernity 
is the process of structural adjustment. 
In many Asian countries which 
embarked on these processes before us 
we have seen that essentials have 
become unavailable, poverty has been 
enhanced and unemployment has made 
survival a day-to-day struggle for 
sections of the people described as 
under-developed, marginalised etc. 
Amongst these groups and in society as 
a whole, in the process of globalisation 
we have seen women emerge as 
symbols of victimhood. 

Global tourism offers us many 
illustrations of this victimhood. Where 
the 45's formula is the invisible export 
for hard currency hungry power elite 
being manipulated by the irrationality 

Nina Rao 

of market forces. International organisations, 
financial institutions and the travel trade have 
acquired a mythological status and our 
governments submit, with a sense of 
inevitability, to the dictates of the World 
Tourism Organisation, PAT A, A ST A. ITB 
etc. This is because the mythological stature 
of these key ideological institutions 
manipulate consumption around exercise. 
This is done through setting impossible 
targets to net the 558 million international 
tourists who form the market and the 
competition now lists the top ten destinations 
as well as the top ten earners of the tourist 
'dollar'. There is even a formula for being 
declared a 'destination' - a country which 
earns 10% of its GDP from tourism. 

Tourism is legitimised as the human need to 
recreation. What this statement ignores is the 
fact that tourism has grown out of gendered 
societies which inform all aspects of tourism 
development and activity and all these 
processes embody gender relations. Our 
diverse and complex social structures, 
economic, social, cultural, political and 
environmental are conditioned by gendered 
relations. Tourism engages in all these 
structures in the process of its change, with 
consequences for the marginalised individuals 
and communities that become a part of its 
structure. The impact of tourism on gender 
has only recently been studied by social 
scientists, although the cultural construction 
of gender, in combination with the variable of 
race is only now being looked at. In the area 


auei of V\som*n ia Jouriim 

~Uevelopm*t\l -Uebale. - an LjnasrtLinduiq 


factors, and access to resources and 
politics. However. I was still left 
wondering why there was no deeper 
analysis of where women featured in all 
of this and wanting to know what 
tourism development means for 
women. The crucial and missing 
ingredient for me was how women 
perceived these complex linkages and 
how they saw themselves in relation to 

I was convinced from my own 
observations that women are not all 
passive victims within the tourism 
industry. For example, a study carried 
out in San Cristobel, Mexico, showed 
that local women welcomed the arrival 
of western styles of dress, such as T- 
shirts and underwear, even though the 
attitudes of both their men folk and the 
tourists encouraged them to continue to 
wear their traditional dress. 
The women were quick to learn that 
tourists were more likely to buy 
handicrafts from them if they wore 
traditional clothing. They therefore 
chose to compromise by wearing non- 
indigenous clothing beneath their 
traditional wear, which they took off 
once at home. The existence of 
women's groups such as Bailancho 
Saad in Goa, actively negate the 
stereotype of the 'passive' female victim 
in destination areas. A further example 
is the women's agro-tourist cooperative 
in Greece, described by Maria 
Castelbourg-Koulma, where women in 
rural areas have opportunities to earn 
money for themselves directly from 

Such examples show it is misleading to 
talk about women in general. There 
needs to be research which analyses 
how different women living in the same 
society can and do have differing 
experiences of tourism development. 


For instance, a study of South India showed 
how migrant women successfully increased 
their earning potential as fruit sellers and 
petty-traders on the beaches, as compared to 
local women. Local women had fewer 
opportunities to earn money directly, as the 
beach mats they made at home to sell to 
tourists were then sold for a higher profit by 
young middlemen. The migrant women, in 
turn, gained respect from visiting Indian 
tourists who were amazed to see mainly low 
caste women interacting so successfully with 
foreign tourists. And such activities are not 
restricted to women - I met a young three- 
year-old from Kamataka on her first day of 
selling fruit on a beach in Goa. 

Access to resources 

Through my discussion with both Bailancho 
Saad and local and migrant women, I was 
given numerous examples where access to 
local resources is restricted as a result of 
tourism development. In Goa, it is common 
for groups of young girls or older women on 
festival days to enjoy picnicking on the 
beaches. Because of the rapid growth in mass 
tourism in this area and because many of the 
luxury hotels have illegally denied local 
people access to the beaches, the women can 
no longer do this. If they do go on to the 
beaches, they are faced with scenes of near or 
total nudity from the tourists. A couple of 
years ago, Bailancho Saad undertook some 
direct action in response to this and organised 
a 'dress-up' campaign, where local women 
walked along the beaches asking the tourists 
to put their clothes back on. The issue of 
access to beaches for local people, both men 
and women, is by no means confined to Goa 
but is a problem in many destination 

Tourism development also affects access to 
other natural resources. This is felt most 
acutely where tourist demand makes use of 
already limited resources. In most of these 

destination areas, the collection of 
water and fuel is defined as women's 
work. This means that women are now 
having to spend longer at wells or to 
walk further to collect fuel. 
Additionally, they may be spending 
more time at the market negotiating 
over the price of food as prices tend to 
inflate during the tourist season as 
restaurants and hotels pay higher prices 
and corner the market. 

Women's work 

Even if these women are not living in 
or near to the tourism development 
areas, they may find that their 
responsibilities to their families and to 
the community increase because their 
men have migrated to the tourism areas 
for work. This is often referred to in 
the literature on women and 
development as the 'double' or even 
'triple' burden for women (as women 
have responsibility for production of 
food, reproduction and the care of 
children, as well as reproduction in the 
sense of the wider community). 
In terms of paid employment, it is often 
assumed that tourism as a service 
industry brings increased opportunities 
for women. My research shows that 
there are numerous studies and official 
documentation to support this belief. A 
World Tourism Organisation report, in 
1988. argued that tourism has the 
potential to generate substantial 
employment for less privileged groups 
such as women and youth. A report by 
the United Nations a year later on 
women and development highlighted 
the service industry as one in which 
there exists a high concentration of 
women from developing countries. 
They pointed out a regional variation in 

this and cited Asia as having the highest 
concentration of women in this sector. 
However a survey conducted by the 
International Labour Organisation discovered 
a very different scenario. 
Their survey showed that men tend to 
predominate in the formal sector of the 
tourism industry . in many developing 
countries, with women comprising only a 
small percentage of those employed: 2.98 per 
cent in India, 14.9 per cent in Sri Lanka, but 
rising to over 35 per cent in the Caribbean 
and Latin America. It is highly likely that the 
same survey carried out in this country or any 
other so-called 'developed' country would 
produce similar results. 
One of the problems with trying to assess the 
employment opportunities for women arising 
out of tourism development is that many such 
opportunities never appear in the official 
statistics, as women are more likely to be 
found in the 'informal' sector. Such jobs 
include washing clothes for tourists, petty 
trading, cooking for or looking after the 
children of other women officially employed 
in the tourism industry or providing other 
'sendees', such as massages on the beach or 
sexual services. At a people's conference in 
Thailand, a female caddie talked about her 
work, for which she gets paid approximately 
£3 per day, and of the 'extra services' young 
Thai women are now forced to offer as 
caddies. A further problem arises out of 
seasonal fluctuations and women may move 
in and out of both formal and informal 
employment at different times of the year. 
Certain types of formal employment within 
the tourism industry are defused as being 
more suitable for women, such as reception 
work and chambermaiding. It is often 
assumed that women possess the necessary 
skills naturally and they are therefore not 
recognised as 'skills'. Consequently, this 
work is given lower status and therefore 
lower wages. As in other industries, large 

" 25 

J}iiux3 of Women in ^Jouriim ~£j*vtlopmunt mlJebau - an L^ndMriiandina 


transnational tourism corporations are 
quick to find out that defining work as 
women's work helps keep costs down. 
Obviously cultural and ideological 
factors play a part in how work is 
defined. Very often the only work 
available for women in the tourism 
industry is not deemed to be acceptable 
by their families and the wider 
community. For example, in many 
parts of the Mediterranean it may be 
more acceptable for women to rent out 
rooms at home to tourists than it is for 
them to go and work in hotels. 
The few studies that do exist on women 
in the tourism development process 
illustrate clearly that it is far too easy to 
generalise about its effects on women 
and to see all women in destination 
areas as a universal category. 
Furthermore women can and do play an 

active part in the process of tourism 

I remain convinced that there is an urgent 
need for research to be undertaken which will 
examine and analyse how women can create 
and sustain both their material and cultural 
autonomy when faced with such 
development. A fascinating study carried out 
in the late 70s by a Sri Lankan researcher, 
Shireen Samarasuriya, concluded that "little 
is known of the changes in the lives of 
women due to the so-called tourism 
development process". I am deeply 

concerned that twenty years later nothing has 
really changed. Women are certainly not 
'invisible' in tourism development but they 
remain unacknowledged and unaccounted for 
in the research literature and in the subjects 
being covered in tourism and development 
courses. . 

—Tourism in Focus, Winter Issue, 1993, Number 10 


Working Women 
In Boracay 

Sylvia Chant, 

The disparity of employment both between men and women and between migrant 
and local women on Boracay, Philippines, is explored by Sylvia Chant of the 
London School of Economics. She illuminates how women are exploited by both 
local male entrepreneurs, the authorities and visiting tourists. Sylvia has published 
widely on gender and development, with particular reference to female employment 
and household survival strategies. 


hough still one of the smallest and 
quietest tourist resorts in the 
Philippines, Boracay is without doubt 
its fastest growing destination and 
presently attracts nearly one twelfth of 
the country's foreign visitors. Heralded 
by the Philippine government as the 
'centre-piece' of the nation's tourist 
development strategy, Boracay receives 
priority funding from the Department of 
Tourism and is given prominent 
coverage in both national and overseas 

Lying just off the coast off Panay Island 
in the Western Visayas, Boracay was 
'discovered' by a foreign film crew in 
the late 1960s. It was only in the 1980s 
that major public and foreign 
investment reached the island, and even 
then, the development fuelled by 
outside capital has stayed broadly 
consonant with the island's own 
distinctive brand of 'backyard tourism'. 

Boracay is traditionally home to a 
series of small fishing and farming 
communities. Its main tourism 

attractions are its white palm-fringed 
beaches, crystalline waters, and wide 

range of water sports. Most accommodation 
is in the form of rustic beach cottages and 
low-rise hotels. Although backpackers have 
long predominated among tourists to the 
island, the recent growth in package holidays 
(largely organised by agencies in major 
Philippine cities such as Manila and Cebu). is 
giving rise to increased numbers of families 
and older groups of visitors. 
None the less, Boracay continues to differ 
quite substantially from the national picture 
insofar as it does not receive the usual 
quotient of lone male tourists in the 40-r-age 
bracket. While men are three quarters of 
foreign tourists to the Philippines as a whole, 
in Boracay they are 55 per cent and two thirds 
of both male and female visitors to Boracay 
are 35 years or below. This in part arises 
from the lack of an established 'sex trade' 
infrastructure common to so many other . 
Philippine tourism destinations such as 
Manila, Cebu, Puerto Galera and Pagsanjan. 

Boracay is actively promoted as a family 
resort, with strict clamp-downs on the 
opening of 'girlie bars' and staunch resistance 
on the part of the island authorities to make 
compulsory the issue of health certificates to 
bar and restaurant workers, mainly for fear of 
acknowledging and legitimating the operation 
of sex-oriented enterprises. Boracay is 

JriAiui of lA/arruin in Uour'um mjjei'elopmtnt ~Qti>aU - an UmUritandina 



presented by government officials as a 
clean and wholesome alternative. Only 
locals and visitors know that the 
underlying reality is somewhat less 
glossy than the promotional rhetoric 
would lead one to believe. 
Notwithstanding the presence of a 
discreet, low-level (and growing) sex 
trade on the island, the vast bulk of 
Boracay's populace are engaged in a 
wide range of more conventional 
commercial and service activities 
normally associated with sun and sea 
destinations. Indeed, the rapid growth 
in the tourism labour market from the 
mid-1980s onwards has attracted 
migrants from surrounding farming and 
fishing communities, as w r ell as from 
towns and cities further afield, 
including Manila. This has contributed 
to swelling the population to around 
8.000 - about one third of whom were 
born outside the island. 

In keeping with national patterns, 
women have figured prominently 
among migrants and interesting lines of 
segmentation in the labour market have 
emerged not only between women and 
men. but also between migrant and 
native women. 

In terms of 'the general configuration of 
the labour market, two distinct types of 
employment are apparent: that of a 
'formal' nature whereby people work for 
employers in restaurants, hotels and 
shops, and that of a more 'informal' 
nature where people are wholly or 
partially self-employed. The latter 
includes such activities as beachfront 
vending, boat operating or taxi-driving 
(taxis on Boracay consist of pedicabs or 
motorised bikes and tricycles). 

In formal employment. women 
predominate as sales assistants, 


chambermaids, laundry women and in certain 
kinds of restaurants (particularly beach bars 
and eateries) as waitresses. While men are 
also found in room cleaning, laundry work 
and waiting, occupations tending to be 
exclusively male include cooking, gardening, 
maintenance, security, portage, and guest 

Rationalisations by employers for the 
recruitment of men and women into different 
activities include those based on 'natural' 
factors such as strength, as well as the 
different skills assumed to be acquired by 
men and women in the course of their 
different types of upbringing. With the 
notable exception of cooking, which is very 
much a male preserve in Philippine 
restaurants and hotels, women are thought to 
have an aptitude for most other domestic- 
related activities such as cleaning, since they 
are more likely to have helped their mothers 
in the home. Men on the other hand, are 
thought to have an affinity for more technical 
jobs associated with maintenance. 

Beyond this, however, and for occupations 
requiring direct contact with the public, a 
number of more tenuous explanations are also 
used to justify the selective recruitment of the 
different sexes. Female sales assistants are 
seen as being more adept at arranging 
merchandise, more patient, and more 
importantly, likelier to attract custom. Many- 
shops are open-fronted and assistants are 
often expected to stand outside and encourage 
passers-by to walk in. In addition, female 
sales assistants are imagined to have 'more of 
a way' with clientele and thus greater powers 
of persuasion necessary for a competitive 
retail market. 

The same kind of principles apply to female 
recruitment in beachfront restaurants. Indeed 
one criterion for applicants obtaining 
hostessing or waitressing work is to have a 
'pleasing personality'. This widely used 

Filipino term means, amongst other 

things, youth, good looks, grooming, 

charm and a 'well-modulated' voice. 

Moreover, female restaurant workers 

often have to dress-up in 'native' 

costumes with flowers in their hair to 

give them further appeal. Thus 

although these jobs are not apparently 

associated with the direct use of 

Filipino women as sexual commodities, 

there are obvious sexual overtones 

embodied in recruitment and 

employment practices. 

The general male-female divisions in 

formal employment tend to be mirrored 

in the 'informal' sector. Men dominate 

in passenger and freight boat transport, 

in taxi-driving and in fishing, whereas 

women are predominantly ambulant 

vendors or sellers of services such as 

domestic labour and child-minding. 

Although men are around 1 5 per cent of 

all ambulant vendors, they are involved 

in a rather narrow range of products. 

While women are engaged in the sale of 

massages, manicures, fresh fruit, 

coconut oil, home-cooked snacks, 

shorts and T-shirts, shellcraft and 

wickerware, men are generally confined 

to the sale of three items: ice-cream, 

fish and newspapers. All these tend to 

have a guaranteed market and do not 

require the 'hard sell' necessitated by 

those peddling 'nonessential' services or 

products such as massages and 

handicrafts. Guaranteed markets also 

mean that male vendors normally have 

higher and more stable earnings than 


There are also differences between 
migrant and native women's 
employment. On the whole, migrant 
women are involved in formal 
employment, whereas native women 
predominate in informal commercial 

activity. Many of those in formal 

employment, particularly in restaurants and 
hotels, are migrant, young and single and 
live-in where they work, sharing a room with 
up to ten female colleagues. The relevance of 
the live-in system and its interaction with 
migrant status can be seen from a number of 

As far as employers are concerned, migrant 
live-ins are more flexible as they work longer 
hours than those who have local homes to go 
to, and are also less prone to absenteeism. In 
addition, deductions for bed and board can 
amount to half the salary to which they are 
legally entitled and unscrupulous employers 
use it to pay their workers far less than the 
minimum wage. Other advantages include 
the fact that provision of a home to a 
vulnerable migrant tends to foster loyalty, and 
more importantly, fear. Migrant workers 
lacking family in the vicinity are often scared 
to put a foot wrong in case they are thrown 
out on the street. 

Setting-up home under the paternalistic wing 
of an employer can also provide a certain 
amount of psychological and emotional 
security for teenagers and young adults from 
remote rural villages. Moreover, without the 
responsibility of running their own homes and 
feeding themselves, migrants can use most, if 
not all, their cash earnings to help family 
members back home (which is often the 
major factor motivating their decision to 
move in the first place). Especially common 
is the practice whereby a migrant worker of 
either sex takes responsibility for the 
schooling costs of younger siblings. As for 
the women born in Boracay itself, especially 
those over thirty, the tendency is to work in 
the informal sector, especially in independent 
commercial activities such as ambulant 
vending or home-based retail and production. 
Domestic-based enterprises include sari-sari 
stores (front-room shops selling everything 
from beer to matches to cleaning fluids); 



1/ouristn uJevetopmenl ^Debate - an Undentandir, 


carinderias (home based eateries often 
under a nipa palm canopy, which sell a 
range of cooked snacks such as sticky 
rice and barbecued banana), and 
shellcraft workshops where women 
(and often their children) make 
jewellery, lampshades and door 
hangings for sale to tourist shops. 
The prevalence of mature women in 
this domain is largely explained by the 
dearth of formal sector openings for 
them. They also usually have children 
to take care of which makes the long 
shifts common in formal employment 
extremely difficult. 

Some of the more positive reasons for 
the movement of older women into 
independent commerce is that they may 
have more in the way of assets 
(savings, property and so on) necessary 
to set up their own businesses. Local 
women have the added advantage of 
being in place when tourism started to 
evolve and have in several senses 
colonised the market. Migrants to 
Boracay are conceivably put off by 
existing competition, and lacking 
capital and assets, often find it easier to 
work for an employer instead. 
Despite the immense range of formal 
and informal jobs performed by 
women, the highest earners in Boracay 
still tend to be men. One reason is that 
women are often more flexible in their 
profit margins. Ambulant masseuses, 
for example, charge a regular rate of 50 
pesos ($1.30) for a half hour massage, 
but depending on their custom that day 
and the type of massage the client 
wants, will lower their prices to have 
the work. Men who operate motorbike 
taxis on the other hand, not only rarely 
deviate from their standard rate (15 
pesos minimum for a short ride of up to 
5 minutes), but will often overcharge 

and refuse to take passengers who baulk at 
paying inflated prices. 

In short, men appear to have the luxury to 
turn down business in a way that women 
cannot, and to be less prepared to take a cut in 
profits. Part of this may be due to the fact 
that women are the economic mainstay of 
many households on the island and therefore 
have to generate income. Indeed local culture 
seems highly tolerant of men not only being 
unemployed, but taking their wives' earnings 
for drinking and gambling. Women are thus 
caught in a double bind of earning less and 
paying more for making a living. 

In light of the above, it is not perhaps 
surprising that some younger women, mi- 
grant and native alike, do end up breaking 
into sex work on a casual, if not full-time 
basis. While there is no formal sex industry 
on Boracay, the idea that Filipina women are 
available and companionable is pervasive, 
and lone male tourists will often pick 
someone up to 'take care of them during their 

Some women seem to enter such 
arrangements with a view either to marriage 
or to a relationship which will help them 
leave the country to work abroad (again 
indicative of their low earning potential in the 
Philippines). Nonetheless, more crucial to the 
emergence of Boracay's sex industry is the 
increased influx of older male tourists who 
view the island as just another place where 
they can buy women, a process undoubtedly 
exacerbated by local employers who recruit 
women into jobs with a strong customer 
relations component on the grounds of their 
charm and beauty. 

The resolute commitment on the part of the 
authorities to maintain Boracay as a 'clean' 
alternative to the sex spots of the capital and 
elsewhere is to be welcomed, but it should 
also be borne in mind that failure to 


acknowledge, let alone intervene, in the 
developing local sex industry carries 
major risks. While sex workers in most 
Philippine cities and resorts are subject 
to weekly health checks, are given HIV 
and AIDS awareness training, and 
granted free supplies of condoms for 
self-protection, women in Boracay have 
no such resource. Key questions to be 
asked are whether explicit recognition 
of the problem is a necessary evil for 
the longer term health and welfare of 
the island's population; whether 
measures might be taken to enhance 
women's general access to work and 
earnings (and protect them from the 
abuses attached to male insolvency at 
the household level) and whether 
international pressure might be brought 
to bear on those men from the advanced 

economies who see the Philippines and other 
Third World settings as havens of cheap 
sexual gratification. 

(This article arises out of a larger project directed 

by the author and funded by the Economic and 

Social Research Council entitled Gender, 

Development and Poverty in the Philippine 

Visayas. Preliminary fieldwork was funded by 

small grants from the ESRC, Nuffield 

Foundation, British Academy and the Suntory- 

Toyota International Centre for Economics and 

Related Disciplines. The author gratefully 

acknowledges these organisations for their parts 

in financing the projects.) 

--Tourism in Focus, Winter Issue, 1993, 

Number 10 

Li '/ ' / , * i 

saw ' 


Jfi6u£i of \AJomen in Jouriim UJtveiMpmenl ~LJebale - an Ljndentandiny 



Hors d'Oeuvres 

Lisa Adkins 

What's in a, smile? Dr. Lisa Adkins, from the Department of Economics and Social 
Science at the University of West England, reveals the full extent of women's sexual 
objectifi cation in tourism. This is based on her research in a seemingly innocuous 
leisure park for families and a hotel which is part of an international chain. 

IVIost if not all work on employment, 
including that produced by feminists, 
has until recently either completely 
ignored sexuality or denied that sexual 
relations operate in the labour market at 
all. This has been despite radical 
feminist's concern with sexual 
harassment and all the feminist research 
showing how important male defined 
sexual relations are for creating gender 
inequalities elsewhere, in society. 
In some research I undertook on the 
employment of men and women in 
tourism I looked at the work of men 
and women in a hotel and a leisure park 
in Lancashire. In both work places jobs 
are highly gender segregated although 
there are equal numbers of male and 
female staff. I looked at the gender 
dynamics of recruitment; the forms of 
control to which workers were subject 
and the different kinds of work which 
men and women did. 

. I found that the kinds of work men did 
was occupational! y specific, whereas 
part of the work women did was not. 
For women, it was a condition of their 
employment that they engage in and 
respond to male initiated sexual 
interactions with both customers and 
employees - in 'sexual servicing'. 

In order to be employed at all at either 
workplace, regardless of the jobs they 
applied for, women had to be physically 

attractive. No parallel requirement operated 
in relation to men. Men simply had to have 
skills and abilities which varied with specific 
occupations, but being attractive was required 
of women as a group, regardless of the 

For instance, by far the majority of bar staff 
were men and by far the majority of waiting 
staff were women. These two occupations 
were very similar being high customer 
contact jobs, involving taking orders from 
customers and serving them with drinks 
and/or food. Given this, one might assume 
the personnel specifications for the two 
occupations would require similar worker 
qualities, and indeed, both jobs did require 
employees to be 'helpful and enthusiastic'. 
But bar staff, unlike waiting staff, were also 
required to be 'strong', 'smart' and to have 
'good communication skills'. Waiting staff, 
on the other hand, were required to be 
'attractive' and 'caring' (requirements for all 
the other 'women's' occupations too). 
These differences cannot be adequately 
explained by the requirements of the jobs 
themselves. Why, for example, was strength 
needed by bar staff and not waiting staff, 
when delivering food to tables all day 
requires just as much physical 
stamina/strength and is just as physically 
demanding as lifting crates and changing 
barrels in bar work? Why were waiting staff 
required to have a 'caring' attitude when bar 
staff needed to be good communicators with 
customers? Why were bar staff required to be 

(only) smart, when waiting staff were 
required to be attractive as well. 
Similarly, at the leisure park women 
had to look attractive to get hired. The 
work was seasonal and each summer 
women were recruited in all 
occupations not simply on the basis of 
their having particular skills (that is, not 
just because they knew how to pull a 
pint, add up a bill or make sandwiches), 
but rather because they looked 'right'. 
As one manager said, women had to 
look "attractive and fresh" to get 

I knew a number of women who were 
not offered employment there because 
their appearance was not up to standard. 
For example, one because she looked 
'weird' (she wore a scarf tied around her 
head) and a number who were said to 
be 'too ugly' and/or 'too manly'. 

Women at the leisure park not only had 
to fulfil appearance criteria to get the 
job, they had to maintain their looks to 
stay there. They were instantly warned 
if their appearance deviated from the 
prescribed standard. If they failed to 
correct such 'appearance problems', 
they were dismissed. 

During the time I was there women 
were warned about looking tired, 
having chipped nail varnish, wearing 
'weird' make up, and looking 'sloppy'. 
In all these cases management told me 
they had "no option" but to try to get 
the women to correct their appearance 
problems". But no such controls 
operated on men's appearance. Both 
men and women had to wear clean 
uniforms, but this was all men had to 
do. Men could look tired, sloppy or 

weird without their jobs being under threat. 
Women at the hotel were also obliged to 
conform to a plethora of standards relating to 
personal appearance. Unlike male 

employees, they were given strict guidelines 
on the way they should wear their hair (to 
ensure facial display), and how to wear make- 
up and their uniforms. Failure to adhere to 
these standards again led to warnings and the 
possibility of dismissal. 

It seems clear that part of the job for women 
consisted of looking good, since women not 
only had to look good to be employed but 
also had to stay looking good to remain there. 

Sexualising uniforms 

One particular aspect of the control on 
women's appearance at both the hotel and the 
leisure park was the way in which women 
were required to wear their uniforms. At the 
hotel, they had to wear skirts, of a particular 
length, sheer stockings, and polished high- 
heeled shoes. In the bar at the leisure park, 
women had to wear full-skirted gingham 
dresses, pulled down 'off the shoulder'. 

These controls turned the women into 
sexualised actors- 'objects' for men's use. 
Women in the bar risked dismissal if they 
refused to wear their uniform 'off the 
shoulder'. But both they and everyone else 
knew it sexually degraded them. The women 
concerned said that the uniform worn in this 
way was a way of the manager trying "to turn 
us into sex toys or something." Their 
costumes meant that they were often subject 
to sexual attention from male customers, co- 
workers and management - including the bar 
manager himself. It was he who decided this 
was the 'correct' way to wear the dress, and 
he aggressively enforced the requirement, 
often pulling the women's dresses down into 
the 'correct' position, thereby 'legitimately' 


*ynu*6 of \A/otnen in Uouriim ^Development UJeoaie - an Ljnderdandiny 


paying them sexual attention (touching 
their clothing and their bare shoulders), 
and simultaneously degrading them as 

This connection between clothing 
requirements and the sexualisation and 
degradation of women workers was 
also evident in the innuendoes and 
directly sexual and degrading 
comments with which women at both 
workplaces had to deal routinely. The 
degree of sexual attention paid to the 
women's appearance was so marked 
and so routine that one woman 
employee compared working there to 
"being in a tits and bums show". 
Another said that the male customers 
■'seem to think we are on display for 
them". It can therefore be argued that 
sexual looks were part of what women 
sold to employers in exchange for 
employment and part of the service 
employers sold to customers. 

Male customers 

Women working in such workplaces 
had to develop strategies to cope with 
the various and frequent forms of 
sexual attention they received from 
men. They did this either by 'laughing 
it off or by playing along with it'. They 
said the worst thing they could do if a 
man made comments to them or 
touched them was to get annoyed, look 
angry or not respond. This would make 
the man more likely to carry on 
bothering them, often more intensely. 
Such compulsory interactions were so 
regular for the women that they 
regarded it as a part of their job. 

This is why I say part of these women's 
work was therefore sexual work. When 
male customers paid women sexual 


attention, the women had to respond to some 
extent. They therefore sexually serviced men 
whether they wanted to or not. 
Contrary to other researcher's suggestions 
about sex at work being a source of power 
and pleasure for women which women can 
get on their own terms, in the time I spent in 
the hotel and leisure park it was always and 
only male customers who initiated and 
defined the nature of such interactions, and it 
was men who were made to feel good about 
themselves, never the women. It was men 
who got their egos boosted and their sexual 
thrills. The way women workers were made 
into sex objects therefore produced a sexual 
power relationship (as well as the more 
usually recognised customer-servicer 
relationship) between men customers and 
women workers in which men dominated 

Male co-workers 

This relationship between men and women 
was not limited simply to male customers. It 
also operated between women workers and 
male employees. Because women's 

employment status was defined primarily 
through their position as sexualised workers, 
women were no better placed to resist sexual 
interactions with male workers than they were 
with male customers. There was again 
nothing women could do except, cope with 
such behaviour. One woman manager was 
dismayed that she could not prevent male 
employees sexualising and harassing the 
women who worked in her department, not 
least because they did it to her as well. 

The sexual power relationship between men 
and women workers systematically 
undermined the status and the overall 
structural position of women as workers vis- 
a-vis male workers in the workplaces. Men 
did not have their status as workers 

undermined by their status as sexual 
subordinates. Women did. 
Men were able to claim (and be seen) to 
possess various labour market resources 
such as strength and specific 
occupational 'skills'. But because they 
were sexualised, women workers could 
never challenge this situation. They 
were not able to possess particular 
skills because the primary labour 
market resource they were recognised 
to possess, was their value as sexual 
servicers - they're being attractive 
women. Male managers participated in 
the creation of regulations on 
appearance which reduced women's 
status, and men in all occupations 
colluded in producing the conditions in 
which women could be and were 
routinely sexualised. 

All part of the job 

characteristically been defined as economic, 
and sexuality as a non-economic entity. But 
far from being separate, or differentiated from 
economic relations, sexuality can constitute 
part of gendered economic relations. 

The way in which the women I talked to had 
to cope with sexualisation by male customers 
and workers on a day-to-day basis, as part of 
the job, was an outcome of the manner in 
which sexuality structured service-sector 
production. This gendering of production 
also created sexual relations at the two work 
places, since being a sexual worker placed 
women in a position where they were 
consistently sexually objectified and used by 
men. The relations of production thus 
contributed to the production of a form of 
male dominated sexuality. Moreover, women 
had no choice but to participate in male 
constructed sexuality if they wanted to retain 
their job. 

The women interviewed enjoyed some 
of these sexualised interactions, but 
they found most of them annoying and 
embarrassing, even though not 
explicitly coercive. They were in no 
way 'pathetic victims', but equally they 
could do little to resist. What little they 
could do, some did, such as being 
sarcastic and flippant. 

The fact that women's work in the 
labour market can be sexual (without 
being prostitution) has important 
implications for our understanding of 
the way sexuality figures in the labour 
market. In previous feminist analyses 
of the labour market theory, 
employment/waged work has 

Thus both coercive and 'non-coercive' 
heterosexual interactions in the work place 
were structured by male power and 
dominance, and both were exploitative for 
women. This obligation to do non- 
occupationally specific labour probably 
applies to the majority of women's 
occupations, for example in nursing, 
secretarial work and teaching. In the tourist 
industry the additional requirement is clearly 
sexual servicing. 

(This article is based on an extended version 

printed in 
Trouble and Strife, 24, Summer 1992.) 

—Tourism in Focus, Winter Issue, 1993, 

Number JO 

Jf6iuei of injamen in Jourustn Jjevelopme-nt -Debate - an [JnaUrilandlny 





Tourism and Women- 
Tourism Impacts 
in Khajuraho 

Suhita Chopra 


he interaction of women with tourists 
is minimal. Socio-structural and 
cultural factors prevents women from 
taking up employment in large hotels. 
Lack of education and skills needed in 
embroidery, handicraft, and food 
processing prevent them from cashing 
on the opportunities made available by 
tourism. Their culinary skills, too, are 
so modest that they themselves are 
pessimistic about marketing their 
products. Poverty has habituated them 
to cook with meager oil and spices. 
Not many tourists prefer to eat such 
bland food. There are no family 
extended hotels in Khajuraho and only 
two modest looking wayside eating- 
houses are run by a husband and wife 

The exclusion of women from tourism 
related occupations implies least 
exposure to tourists and hence, minimal 
exploitation - a feature not commonly 
noted in other tourist resorts. Another 
effect of such minimal exposure is that 
women's role is not drastically affected 
and the normal rhythm of family life 
concerning women and her activities is 
least disrupted by tourism. 

A woman's role is still strictly defined, 
circumscribed and structured by the 
agricultural economy of Khajuraho. 
Maintaining strict codes of conduct 
before male members of the family, she 
lives a life of immurement, cooking 


food on primitive mud ovens by burning large 
chunks of firewood; washing, drying, and 
storing grain (food grains) in large mud 
containers designed by herself, grinding, and 
husking rice and pulses; preparing kaiida 
(cowdung cakes); looking after the cattle, and 
the frequent repair and maintenance of 
Kutcha houses. 

Each home has a spade which is frequently 
used by women and children to dig earth and 
use the same for repair of their houses and 
allied purposes. I seldom came across a 
woman with clean hands. She is always 
smeared with mud, chuimitti, (a variety of 
soil) or cowdung. So common are women's 
masonry duties, that I felt that living in 
concrete structures would bring major 
changes in their lifestyles. This proved to be 
wrong because women, whose husbands were 
allotted staff quarters by the government, 
were equally busy making attaris (play 
houses) for children and additional kitchen 
for themselves, since the staff-quarters did 
not make adequate provision, for outlet of 
smoke emanating from firewood, and were 
designed essentially for modern cooking 
techniques. The entrance to their concrete 
houses were also painted with chuimitti and 
cowdung, and small enclosures were made of 
mud and broken bricks. The spade was still 
an important feature in their daily lives. 

Above all these duties are, of course, a 
woman's role as a mother. The cycle of 
pregnancies and suckling babies leaves very 
little time for other activities. I never chanced 
to come across a woman engaged in 

handicraft, needle work, or any other 
activity requiring finer coordination of 
her finger muscles; never did I chance 
to come across any conscious effort to 
prepare edibles for the hotels. A few 
enterprising women disclosed to me 
their interests in stitching dresses, but 
lack of know-how and disapproval from 
their husbands have led to non- 
materialisation of their plans. It is 
difficult for women to shake the 
bondage of tradition without any 
conscious effort of the government to 
obviate their misery. SADA, with its 
priorities restricted to the tourism 
sector, can hardly be expected to 
undertake this responsibility. As the 
block level too, there are no Extension 
Officers in charge of women's welfare 
and their upliftment. 
At the Basti, four Kirana shops 
(grocery) and one emporium are 
managed by women. Except for these 
cases, women have no exposure to the 
outside world. They are both the 
victims, as well as, bearers of tradition. 
It is through them that obscurantism is 
maintained, concepts of purity and 
pollution preserved, and often the right 
to offer prayers to Gods is solely 
reserved for them, for men are now less 
bound by tradition, and often consume 
liquor and meat - particularly those in 
the tourist trade. 

The above picture fits the lives of 
women of high castes more than those 
of the lower caste categories. Low 
caste women often enjoy more freedom 
than their higher caste counter-parts. 
Women of Dheemar caste are now 
exposed to new standards of living. 
They serve as housemaids to many of 
the migrant families who have settled in 
Khajuraho. On account of their 

exposure, they are considered by the local 
populace to be a highly vulnerable lot. One 
often hears rumours about the alleged 
involvement of Babu with a Dheemaran and 
the latter's involvement with tourists at 
different hotels. According to the local 
populace there has been a spurt in the number 
of abortions among the women of this caste. 
It is difficult to find out the element of truth 
in these allegations, since most cases are 
treated at the district hospital where a 
sufficient degree of anonymity can be 

While it is difficult to assess the nature and 
degree of exposure of women and its effect 
on them; it is nevertheless sufficiently clear 
from these rumours, that according to the 
prevailing cultural norms a woman's exposure 
to the outside world - the world of migrants, 
tourists, and excursionists - is prohibited. 

Despite limited exposure, changes have 
percolated into the strongly guarded well of a 
woman's life. She is now fashion conscious 
and despite her over-worn saree and 
traditional ornaments, she proudly admits 
changing to new styles when she visits other 
places as a tourist. Women, whose husbands 
are in the tourist trade, are well informed 
about cosmetics and recent advances in 
personal hygiene. Female tourists are often 
generous with gifts - perfumes, lipsticks, and 
even items of personal clothing and hygiene - 
after a successful business bargain has been 
struck, or after having obtained favours from 
the local boys. These items are then handed 
over to the women, at home. Seldom do the 
ornaments and clothing suit the reluctant 
wearers. I overheard the, wife of a tourist- 
guide narrate how her husband had presented 
her with ear-rings, which were most 
unbecoming on her, and how on finding her 
husband disappointed she requested him to 
bring a videshi lugai (foreign wife) to wear 

Jri6uei of lA/omen in ^Jou-riim ^Development -Debute - an (Anderitandi 




I sometimes wondered how women 
could cope up with a situation where 
they knew that their men folk were 
often in the company of female tourists 
who were not only generous with gifts, 
but also liberal in their attitude towards 
people of the opposite sex. To my 
surprise women coped well, accepting 
the flirtatious behaviour of their 
menfolk as part of the business which 
fetches money; but at times trying to 
figure out the nature and extent of 
flirtations needed to make business a 
success. On such occasions their 
defences broke down. An interesting 
insight, into the effect of tourist-host 

interaction and its effect on marital harmony 
was afforded by frequent invitation by men to 
take me to their in-laws. Often, I accepted 
these invitations, but at least on two occasions 
I was taken by surprise to see the wives of the 
men, who invited me, weep profusely in my 
presence. Later, it dawned upon me that I 
was being 'used' to threaten in-laws and wives 
of possibilities of remarriage with a 
"Madam", if things were not to the 
satisfaction of the husbands. 

—Tourism and Development in India, 

Pg, 197-200 Ashish Publishing House, 

New Delhi, 1991. 


Local Women: 

The force Behind Trekking 

Tourism in Nepal 

Dibya Gurung 

Tourism Concern has often used the Annapurna Area Conservation Project as an 
example of good community based tourism development. In this article Dibya Gurung, 
Women 's Development Officer at ACAP, Describes how women 's involvement in tourism 
in the area is fundamental to its success. 


he Annapurna Himal area in Nepal is 
renowned for two things. One, the 
superstars of the second world war, the 
Gurkha soldiers, who rank at the top of 
the list of the world's all-time fierce 
fighting men. The other, trekking 
tourism, which is known as the third 
religion of Nepal after Hinduism and 

The Annapurna area has a great deal to 
offer tourists seeking the unusual. Here 
tourists can actually walk through the 
world's deepest valley, Kali Gandaki, 
and the world's largest rhododendron 
forests. It is one of the easily accessible 
areas from which to view the 
picturesque snow-clad mountain ranges 
of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and 
Machapuchhare, and attracts around 
forty thousand tourists every year. 
Along with the monetary benefits, 
trekking tourism has negative impacts 
too. The once abundant forests were 
cut down to cook food, boil water for 
bathing and provide heating for the 
much-appreciated trekkers. Traditional 
houses were modified and local 
handicrafts were modernised to meet 
the tourists' demands. The local people 
- once rigid and conservative were 

willing to change for the tourist's benefit. 
Starting a -lodge business in the early days in 
this area was as easy as tying a shoelace. It 
meant merely letting out your rooms and beds 
for the trekkers to sleep and cooking some 
extra food. Family members, especially 
women, formed the cooking, cleaning and 
management staff for the lodges. Slowly with 
more and more trekkers visiting, numbers of 
family-run lodges mushroomed. 

Shalli Gurung from the Milan Lodge of 
Ghandruk village relates her experience of 
earlier days when there were only two or 
three lodges in her village: "in those days the 
Goras (white people) often arrived late in the 
afternoon to my house after walking all day. 
They asked for food and a place to sleep. Of 
course hot showers were more important than 
anything else - a compulsory demand. I had a 
huge iron drum in which I used to heat water 
outside my kitchen as it needed lot of fire 
wood. They were satisfied with just dal-batt 
(rice and lentil). They never complained and 
were happy with whatever we offered them. 
But today with more than seventeen lodges in 
my village, the Goras have become very 
smart. They check the rooms, beds and the 
hot shower facilities. Our menus have more 
than 15 items of Western foods. Some even 
want to make sure that firewood is not used 
for cooking and hot showers. Times have 

Jr6iues of \AJomen in ^Jou.ri6m -Development -OebaU - an LjnaUritandina 



Here in the Annapurna area women 
form the majority of the total 
population and are fully involved in the 
management of domestic work as well 
as playing an active role in the use and 
conservation of natural resources. This 
traditional and compulsory role has 
helped women to move into the world's 
most popular industry, tourism. 
The majority of the men leave the 
village to join the British or Indian 
army. Others migrate to the cities in 
search of wage labour to supplement 
their household income. The only 
permanent residents of the area are 
women, children and retired ex-army 
men. The retired men are the primary 
decision-makers with respect to village 
development and conservation issues. 
Lodge management is also one of the 
components of these issues. They hold 
monthly meetings, yet have very little 
involvement in the actual 

implementation and running of the 
lodges. The multiple role of women 
makes them the main force behind 
trekking tourism in the Annapurna 

The popularity of trekking is growing 
very quickly and so trekking has 
considerable negative impacts in an 
ecologically fragile area like the 
Annapurna. The area has been 
subjected to close scrutiny especially by 
conservation groups. Thus in 1986, the 
Annapurna Conservation Area Project 
(ACAP) - under the King Mahendra 
Trust for Nature, Conservation, a 
leading environmental organisation - 
was established in Ghandruk village in 
Annapurna. The Project opted for a 
holistic approach working with local 
people. As Annapurna is one of the 
most popular trekking destinations in 
the country, tourism management 


together with natural resource management 
was given the top priority. A sound and 
sustainable programme has been developed 
for safeguarding the unique natural features 
and rich culture, while at the same time 
maximising the benefits of tourism in the 

Like in many conservation projects with 
general impacts, women were initially not a 
direct focus of ACAP's original design. As 
usual, women's major roles in the 
conservation and management of both the 
natural resources and the household work was 
overlooked. As activities got underway, 
however, the Project staff quickly realised 
that the direct involvement of women was 
crucial to the success of the Project. Thus in 
1990, after three and a half years, ACAP 
introduced a separate Women's Development 
(WD) section as one of their main 
programmes. Since then, the WD section has 
been actively involved in integrating the local 
women in all development and conservation 

Traditionally, there were women's groups in 
this area, known as A ma Toll meaning 
'Mother's Group'. Every village had one and 
it raised funds for the village's welfare by 
dancing for guests on special occasions in the 
village and for special requests by trekkers. 
They had already developed a system for 
cleaning the village, upgrading trails, building 
temples and buying utensils with funds 
raised. In some cases the funds were used to 
provide loans to the villagers in need. The 
women pride themselves on their clean 
villages with well maintained trails. Thus it 
was easy for the ACAP's WD section to work 
with the already existing women's groups. 
The Ama Toli too accepted WD's assistance, 
hoping to become more organised and 
efficient in their programme implementation. 

Gurung's - the majority population of the 
southern Annapurna area - are not great 

entrepreneurs. Trekking tourism was a 
totally foreign occupation for the 
traditional sheep herders, who later 
adopted subsistence farming for their 
living. They did not have the culture of 
selling their farm products. Cereals 
were bartered, but the surplus 
vegetables were distributed for free to 
their neighbours. Serving tea for the 
travellers was considered a status 
symbol for the local villagers. But the 
benefits of tourism made them adapt to 
the new occupation. Buddhisuba 
Gurung of Lwang village, which falls 
outside the trekking route, was very 
impressed by her visit to Ghandruk 
village in 1992. In an address to the 
women in Lwang she said: "Like the 
women from Ghandruk we too should 
learn to make some money. They do 
not feel shy to sell their surplus 
vegetables. If we do the same here, it 
will be the talk of the village." 

One year after the inception of the WD 
section, we started with supporting the 
indigenous tourism related programs 
with the aim of creating services for the 
trekkers as well as some income for the 
local women. In January 1991, Hita 
Gurung inaugurated her carpet shop 
with a show room in the Ghandruk 
village, the first of its kind. She was 
provided with a loan from the Project. 
She started weaving traditional rugs of 
all sizes both for the villagers and the 
trekkers. She also asked the village 
women to bring their products to her 
showroom where she sold them. Today 
she has paid back the loan and made 
weaving her full-time occupation. Ama 
Carpet Shop gave rise to yet another 
carpet centre in the village, where five 
women have rented a room jointly 
where they weave as well as sell 
traditional rugs. 

Along with the monetary benefits, trekking 
tourism has created some new needs among 
the women here. Adult literacy classes are 
considered very essential, a sudden interest in 
acquiring skills in food processing, poultry 
farming and lodge management has become 
the latest demand. Recently they have been 
showing great interest in learning English as 
they feel that they can independently handle 
the business and serve the tourists better if 
they speak their language. 

Over the last few years the people of the 
Annapurna area have sought to understand 
the impacts of trekking tourism in the area 
and the local committees have been 
campaigning towards managing sound and 
sustainable tourism. Women's groups have 
developed a remarkable ability to work 
together and sharing their skills and 
resources, to take action - the cooperative 
carpet shop and regular clean-up campaigns 
are perfect examples. 

Women in this area have come a long way. 
Five years ago, the use of alternative forms of 
energy for cooking was almost nonexistent. 
But today one can see back boilers, low 
wattage cookers, liquid paraffin gas and 
kerosene stoves in almost all lodges. The 
women have become aware about the present 
deforestation situation and have been 
adopting precautions. Women have 

embraced a variety of enterprises which 
directly or indirectly support tourism. At the 
household level, vegetable farming, fruit tree 
growing, poultry and rabbit raising have 
become booming enterprises and training on 
Developing Women's Entrepreneurship in 
Tourism, jointly given by the International 
Labour Organisation and ACAP, have helped 
more women to be independently involved in 
tourism businesses. 

-Tourism in Focus, Winter Issue, 1993, 

Number 10 

Jfiiuei of lA/omen in UourUm -Development -Debate - an vinderitandina 



Gender Culture and 

Tourism Development 

in Western Samoa 

Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop 

Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, argues that contrary to the predictions of the women and 
development models, Samoan women have not been marginalised in the tourism 
industry. In fact, Samoan women have shown considerable initiative and used the 
opportunities available in the tourism industry to develop their entrepreneurial skills. 

ne reason for the Samoan women's 
experience being different to that of 
women in other developing nations may 
be that Samoans continue to live 
according to the faaSamoa (the Samoan 
way). The faaSamoa is a system of 
chiefly rule in which every person is 
expected to know their place and the 
correct behaviour patterns of their 
place. Prestige is achieved by giving 
and sharing rather than accumulating 
resources and family members 'serve' 
their chief by contributing their labour 
and resources to enable the chief to 
fulfil his or her duties. As the prime 
motivating factor is to promote the 
family good, little antagonism is 
displayed towards women pursuing 
their own entrepreneurial activities as 
this is perceived to be in the 'family 
interest'. Also, most Samoan women 
have the basic skills and positive 
attitudes needed to undertake 
development enterprises as they have 
equal access with males to education 
opportunities and are used to 
participation in decision making. 
Although 'village hospitality' is still the 
responsibility of women, today the 
tasks are done by the village Women's 
Committee, a corporate group made up 

of village wives and daughters. In many 
villages the Women's Committees have 
widened their role to become the major 
implementers of successful development 
programmes and income generating activities. 

Women's roles 

Women form an estimated 80 per cent of the 
formal tourist sector workforce. Women are 
not confined to the secretarial and sales fields 
in these enterprises, but hold management 
positions. A large proportion of women are 
also engaged in the informal tourism sector 
(handicraft production, tours, family guest 
houses, informal selling). 
Women have built new and lucrative 
enterprises out of initial small-scale activity 
by skillfully identifying a market and 
responding to opportunities. The faaSamoa 
has also provided women with a loyal family 
support network which has enabled women to 
take risks as they explore new business 
directions. Women have utilised the family 
system operating norms to the advantage of 
the business itself and to the advantage of 
family members. 

Aggie's 'Home away from Home' 

Aggie's is now indisputably the most well 
known hotel in the South Pacific. To tourists 


it is a Pacific landmark, to economic- 
experts it is proof that an indigenous 
business enterprise can 'take-off and to 
the Samoan government Aggie's is a 
major source of foreign exchange. 
Determined her younger children would 
enjoy the same education as her older 
children had, Aggie Grey progressed 
from selling baskets of fruit and 
vegetables to New Zealand 
administrators' wives, to handicrafts 
then hospitality. Today the modest two 
roomed guest house Aggie began in the 
1930s is an internationally recognised 
multimillion complex, incorporating a 
154 room hotel, gift shop, tours, and an 
extensive farm developed specifically 
to meet the hotel's food needs. 
Aggie's is run like a chiefly system with 
Aggie at the head. The relationship 
between the Grey family and their staff 
has been described as 'personal rather 
than directive' with the result that 
workers feel they have a personal stake 
in the business. Aggie utilised family 
links or forged business links based on 
personal loyalty. She always purchased 
handicrafts and other goods from 
certain villages and buyers, thus 
guaranteeing these people a market. In 
return, they brought their best goods to 
stock her shop. She created work for 
those urgently in need of cash and in 
many cases gave higher prices than a 
piece of handicraft warranted. Today 
Aggie's employs over 250 people. "We 
could run the hotel with fewer, but you 
don't fire 'family'". 

Moelagi Jackson and village 

Moelagi Jackson has a chiefly title, 
Vaasili. She assumed complete charge 
of the Safua Hotel (Savaii Island) when 

her husband died in 1987. The hotel consists 
of 9 fales (Samoan houses) and is built within 
her family village. It progressed from 
hospitality to historical tours and village tours 
to see women making traditional handcrafted 
goods. Moelagi was instrumental in starting a 
Women's Advisory Committee for the district 
and gaining local and international donor 
agency interest in sponsoring education 
workshops for the women's groups. The 
development of the Safua Hotel complex, and 
its supporting services, has featured a 
deliberate educational input such as tye-dye 
workshops and business skills courses at each 
step, each centred around the demands of the 

The Women's Committee solution 

The endurance of traditional ways presents 
women with a dilemma: should they produce 
the goods needed for daily household use, 
ceremonial purposes and formal exchange, or 
should they produce the goods tourist like to 
buy? The Women's Committee members 
found that producing handicrafts for the 
tourist market was both risky and 
uneconomical. The price tourists were 
willing to pay for tapa (hand made cloth 
made from beating the bark of a mulberry tree 
and used in ceremonial exchanges) did not 
even cover labour time costs, nor did tourists 
appreciate the cultural value. 
However, by combining new technology and 
old, the women found a way of producing 
goods which were particularly Samoan and in 
high demand locally, regionally and 
internationally. Women's Committees ran 
tye-dying workshops in which they used 
natural materials to copy the designs of 
imported tye-dyed pareus (flowered cloth for 
sarongs), which had became popular through 
out Samoa. They used their tapa boards to 
print the materials, which were then made 

Jriiuei of lA/omen in Uoixrism ^Development -Debate - an Lindentandi 




into traditional dresses, modern styles, 
bags and table cloths. 
By carefully identifying and separating 
the demands of the two markets, the 
women made sure that traditional goods 
were still available for home and 
ceremonial use. It is notable that the 
goods women customarily produce are 
still the validating core of exchanges - 
these have not been replaced by 
commodity goods. Hence, women's 
goods are still highly valued in society. 
These are three examples of many 
which could have been employed to 
illustrate how Samoan women have 
used the opportunities presented in the 
tourism industry to develop their 
entrepreneurial skills. In a society 
where there are few income generating 
avenues, the tourism enterprise has 
enabled women to learn new skills and 

apply old skills to new fields. Samoan 
women have been able to capitalise on the 
opportunities the industry offers because their 
rights have been safeguarded by customary 
norms and women's efforts have not been 
confined to improving only their own welfare 
but to giving other women within their family 
and villages the opportunity to progress and 
learn new skills as well. 

This is an edited abstract of a chapter by Peggy 
Fairbaim-Dunlop in Tourism: A Gender Analysis 
which is edited by Derek Hall and Vivian 
Kinnaird, to be published by John Wiley and Sons 
Ltd (Belhaven Press) in February 1994, price £35 
(provisional). For details please contact the 
publishers at 22 East Castle Street, London WIN 

—Tourism in Focus, Winter Issue, 1993, 

Number 10 


Temple Town 
Loses to Vice 

K Santosh Nair 

I he temple town of 
famous for its Shore 
Temple and sculptures 
dating back to the 
Chola period, has 
degenerated into a 
haven for prostitutes 
and drug traffickers, 
BLITZ can reveal. 
Mahabs, as the tourist- 
heavy town is known, 
has changed from the 
sleepy adjuncts to 
nearby Chennai that it 
once was, swamped as 
it now is by visitors 
who come to sample its 
vices rather than its 
ancient artifacts and 
extensive beaches. A 
highly placed source 
told BLITZ that 
'increased police 

surveillance and plenty 
of arrests have failed 
to check the rampant 
prostitution, or stop 
the roaring drug trade 
in the seaside town. 

The police started a 
clean-up campaign 
about a year back, 
raiding many of the 

small hotels, restaurants 
and shacks that dot 
Mahabs, but the results 
have been patchy. Every 
raid turns up a rich haul, 
according to a senior 
police official, but it 
hasn 't slowed up 

What it has done is 
inconvenience the owners 
of the raided establish - 
ments, who allege that the 
police have targeted them 
in order to extract 
'protection money'. One 
hotel owner, who spoke to 
BLITZ on condition of 
anonymity, claimed he 
was raided after he 
refused to dole out the 
cash demanded. Police 
officials maintain that the 
harassment stories are 
cooked up by crooked 
owners, and that they 
have been under intense 
pressure to rid Mahabs of 
prostitutes and drug 

While prostitution is 
easier to identify, and 
hence police, drugs are a 
more troublesome matter. 

Most of the drugs come from 
Chennai and among the 
peddlers are a number of 
foreigners. Drug deals are 
usually carried out during 
the off season, when fewer 
tourists, Indian or foreign, 
visit the town. This is mainly 
because visitors pack the 
town during the peak season 
-- when the Mahabalipuram 
Dance Festival and the 
Shore Temple Festival are 
held — and police presence 
is at its yearly high. 

Police officials say that they 
encounter a different kind of 
problem when they catch 
drug-dealing foreigners, 
whose cases have to be taken 
up with the respective 
consulates. "We are helpless 
in cases involving 

foreigners, " a senior police 
officer told BLITZ. "Inmost 
of the cases they are only 
asked to leave the country. " 

Commercial sex in Mahabs 

is a different kettle of fish. 

Both locals as well as 

women from Chennai ply the 

trade, but what worries the 

police is the organised 

racket in procuring girls and 
. 45 


2/oarism- -Jjevetopmtnt -DeoaU - an bfnderilandiny 


forcing them into 
prostitution. Says a 
senior police official: 
"Pimps who operate in 
this area lure, and if 
that fails, force callow 
girls into the trade. " A 
local source told 
BLITZ that prostitution 
in Mahabs is 

controlled by affluent 
business -men with 
political clout. 

"Any amount of action 
has no effect, " moans a 
police officer who 
recently arrested a 
prostitution racketeer 

only to let him off after 
political pressure was 
applied. Many owners of 
lodges and small 
restaurants claim that the 
business flourishes under 
the very nose of the 
police. They claim that 
25% of the money earned 
is given to the cops. 

"I paid the police Rs 
15,000 a month to run 
this business," says one 
peeved lodge owner who 
was arranged under the 
Prevention of Immoral 
Traffic Act but is 
presently out on bail. 

"Suddenly they come and 
raid my lodge and take 
away the girls. Is it 
Justified?" Health officials who 
have visited Mahabs for fear 
that sexually transmitted 
diseases, especially AIDS, 
may become the order of the 
day if necessary steps are 
not immediately taken. 

-BLITZ, September 20, 






And Children 

in Kovalam 

T. G. Jacob 

I he single, most propagated reason for 
declaring tourism as an industry and 
imposing it as a development model is its 
employment generation aspect. In the 
preceding chapters we have dealt with the 
nature and extent of employment generated 
in Kovalam in its almost thirty years of 
tourism history. As women and children 
form a significant percentage of the 
workforce, and as their lot is a most pathetic 
one, their situation best reflects the poverty 
of the place in contrast to the opulent tourist 
consumption patterns and culture. 

The most vivid visual in Kovalam is the 
scene of women and children squatting on 
the roads and breaking granite pieces into 
smaller ones for use in construction work. 
Stone workers, numerically speaking, are 
predominantly women and children. The 
second most important activity of the local 
people, coir spinning, is also woman 
centred. It is women who do the back 
breaking labour of processing the decayed 
husk into fibre by beating it with heavy 
sticks and then spinning the golden 
coloured yarn into coir of various 
thicknesses. In the coir sector women and 
children constitute at least ninety per cent of 
the total workforce, the same as in the stone 
sector. In the third sector, fishing, women 
work as retail sellers in the local as well as 
city markets and at home engage in the 
drying process. 

In the tourism sector local women generally get 
work only as sweepers and laundresses in the 
small and big hotels. And for these jobs they must 
be young and tolerably good looking, especially if 
they are to get jobs in the bigger establishments. 
In some of these establishments they may be 
required to double up as emergency prostitutes. 
We often find women working as sweepers in 
government owned hotels, which are located on 
land that belonged to their families in the not so 
distant past. Some women, though few, eke out a 
miserable living from the tourism sector by 
hawking tender coconuts, fruit, trinkets, cheap 
cloth and so on to the tourists. 

The most remarkable thing in relation to children is 
the very casual attitude towards education. 
Kovalam, in general, is a place characterised by 
high illiteracy and, of course, girl children often do 
not attend school. The large majority of them start 
working at a very early age (some as early as five 
to six years), and the rest half-heartedly attend 
school for a few years. Those who pass 
matriculation, or even reach up to it, are rare 
indeed. The case of boys is not much better. The 
whole social attitude is contra education and the 
schools are abysmally poor in quality. Only a few 
of the youth find their way into college. A couple 
of years back a racket selling printed school 
leaving certificates to youth, who had never 
attended any schools for more than two or three 
years, was busted. But it took several years to 
trace this racket and bust it. Therefore, whatever 
data there is on the number of Secondary School 
Leaving Certificate holders is unreliable. 

Jfiiue6 of In/omen in 2/ouridtn ^Development -Debate - an lAnderilandina 



The Granite Sector 

Granite quarrying is a very primitive 
economic activity. Granite is available in 
plenty because the bone structure of the 
whole area is tough rock. Stone quarries 
are mainly private though there are a couple 
of big government owned ones too. The 
total number of workers in this sector comes 
to above 25,000, and almost 80-90 per cent 
are women and children. The only level of 
mechanisation that has occurred is the 
introduction of jackhammers in some of the 
quarries and the use of trucks to transport 
the big pieces of rock to the roadsides. 

The division of labour between men, 
women, and children is sharply drawn. Men 
are occupied in the blasting and 
transporting activities using power drills and 
trucks. Wielding small hammers women 
and children break the stones at piece-rates 
into smaller pieces for use in concreting. A 
number of intermediaries are involved, 
some of them are women. 

Ten years back there was a move to 
organise these workers into co-operative 
societies and a lead society was formed 
with government support. They procured 
their own trucks to transport the granite, and 
some partly successful attempts were made 
to push up the wages to a little more decent 
level. But this attempt was short lived 
because the quarry contractors were too 
powerful, and the trade union and society 
leaderships very receptive to corruption. 
The union and society no longer exist and 
the trucks and other infrastructural facilities 
procured by the society have corroded 
beyond redemption. After the collapse of 
this experiment no further attempts were 
made to better the lot of the workers. In any 
case, by this time the priority had decisively 
shifted to generating tourist facilities, and it 
was very much in the interest of the tourist 


sector to maintain the overall backwardness and 
obtain supply of this prime construction raw 
material at the cheapest rates. Organising these 
workers into a bargaining grouping obviously runs 
counter to the interests of the tourism sector. 
The women and children, ranging from seven to 
seventy years in age (most of the children 
employed are female), do not have any enclosed 
place to work but are compelled to work in public 
on the roadsides, usually under the protection of a 
single coconut leaf over their heads. The work site 
is dictated by the convenience of the truck 
movements. A relatively healthy woman, working 
from morning to evening, breaks about six to 
seven baskets of rubble, which brings in a 
maximum of Rs. 35 as wages. Children and old 
people get much less. And this is in a State where 
the average daily agricultural worker wage ranges 
between Rs. 80 to 100 a day. 

Tourists seem quite fascinated by this sight of 
women and children sitting by the roadside, in the 
fierce sun or torrential rain, wielding the hammer in 
dull monotonous movements. This seems 
especially so in the case of female tourists. They 
can often be observed practicing photographic 
rape to immortalise this vision for their friends back 
home and to congratulate themselves on how far 
advanced they are when compared to these stone 
age people. In fact, many tourists freely use this 
expression to describe the conditions of those 
living here. Some of them can get so moved by 
the pathetic sight of these women workers that 
they donate cash on the spot to any one worker 
who happens to catch their passing sympathy. So 
much for the interaction between tourists and the 
local labouring people. 

Occupational hazards are many among these 
workers. Women and children engaged in this 
work soon develop respiratory problems like 
asthma and tuberculosis. They are also troubled 
by problems with vision and eye infections. There 
being no proper medical facilities in the area many 
of them live with fatal diseases without even being 
aware of what exactly is corroding them. 

The economic condition of these workers 
(along with several others who are in no 
better position) is best illustrated in the retail 
provision shops after work is over. They 
cannot afford to buy and stock provisions for 
even a single day. Their purchase list runs 
something like: fifty paise worth tea, a rupee 
worth of cooking oil, a rupee worth of sugar 
and so forth. When they fall ill, which is 
common enough because of mal- 
nourishment, it is sheer starvation and 
indebtedness. The scope for borrowing is 
very narrow because their neighbours are 
mostly like themselves. The huts are dingy 
and dark with almost no ventilation. During 
the rainy season they are damp and wet 
too. Compared to the general working class 
living standards in Keralam these people 
are inexorably poor. This is a picture of one 
end of the social spectrum of Kovalam. The 
perversity is that the workers who build up 
the tourist infrastructure are themselves a 
tourist attraction. 

of hundreds of lives which went under the 

Coir Sector Workers 

Coir spinning is a traditional occupation of the 
people, of the area. Kovalam and surrounding 
villages are ancient palm fibre and coir production 
centres, which were linked to the main marketing 
centres and ports of Travancore by water. This 
traditional household based production has been 
in its death throes since quite some time. The 
area is one of heavy fishing and coir used to be in 
great demand internally. But now costlier 
synthetic rope that lasts longer is in vogue at the 
expense of coir and its producers. This by itself is 
due to the absolute lack of any mechanisation or 
modernisation in the entire sector. The production 
process remains as crude as ever; the only 
difference being that instead of bullock carts 
transporting the husks to the estuaries and back, 
and boats transporting the fibre and coir to market 
centres, mini trucks are used. 

Many tourism planners believe, if only such 
sights of abject deprivation were not there, 
more tourists would be flocking to Keralam. 
Such poverty is considered an affront to the 
higher sensibilities of the whites, and things 
would work out much better in the tourism 
sector if these people could be moved away 
from the place. A version of this approach 
was put into practice by the Marcos regime 
in the Philippines when huge walls were 
erected in Manila to hide the squalid ghettos 
from the eyes of foreigners travelling from 
the airport to the five-star hotels. Many of 
the tourism planners would actually prefer to • 
displace all these people from the area 
itself, and thus have an exclusive tourist 
zone. Of course, this is only an infantile 
dream; but it was just such an infantile 
dream that one Mr. Sanjay Gandhi tried to 
implement at Turkman Gate in Delhi during 
the period of internal emergency at the cost 

The employment pattern is similar to that in the 
quarry sector. The division of labour between the 
sexes is clearly defined. Men are the transporters 
and women carry production for the market. 
Coconut husks are collected from the coconut 
gardens by middlemen and then immersed in 
saline water for retting. When retting is complete 
after a certain number of days they are transported 
to the huts of coir workers, heaped into small 
mounds and sprinkled with common salt and sand, 
Water is continuously sprinkled over the heap. 
Women workers, using heavy sticks, beat the 
husks to extract the fibre. The husks are finely 
beaten to the point where the golden coloured 
fibre separates from the pith. This fibre is spun 
using what is called a ratt, a crude mechanical 
appliance of two rotating wooden wheels on 
movable stands. The loose fibre is spun into coir, 
first in thin threads, then into thicker ropes, 
according to purpose. The extraction of fibre and 
consequent spinning is done entirely by women 

Jf66ue5 of lA/onw.n in .Joiiristn ^Development ^Debate - an LjncUritanding 



and girl children. When the next load of 
retted husks are delivered the fibre or coir is 
collected and payment is made on piece- 
rate basis. Coir is generally locally used. If 
bought in the form of fibre it is taken to 
centres like Alappuzha where mills 
producing coir-based products like coirised 
mattresses and carpets are located. 

Coir is exported to other States as well as 
abroad, and centres like Alappuzha and 
Kollam are the main caterers to such 
markets. When compared to these centres, 
where the production process is 
mechanised to a considerable level and 
living wages prevail, Kovalam and 
neighbouring areas are pathetically 
backward. The production process stands 
where it was a hundred years ago and 
women workers are the worst victims of this 
chronic backwardness. Again, this 
backwardness prevails because tourism is 
the priority here. Private capital flows into 
tourism and the State focuses on Kovalam 
purely as a touristic commodity. This tells 
very harshly on productive sectors of the 
economy, and coir became one of the first 

There is a marked decrease in the number 
of coconut trees. The de-emphasis of 
agriculture and crowding of the land with 
buildings for tourism has taken a heavy toll. 
This directly affects the coir sector. Open 
unemployment in this sector has become 
institutionalised. There is almost a fifty per 
cent reduction in the number of man-days 
worked. Coupled with below subsistence 
level returns the situation is doubly cruel. 

Fish Workers 

In the fishing sector, the third biggest 
traditional economic activity of the region, 
women work mainly as fish hawkers going 
to the nearby markets with basket loads on 

their heads, or they hawk the fish from door to 
door. On Kovalam beach they buy in bulk from the 
fishermen in on the spot auctions and make a 
margin from selling retail. This is more lucrative 
when compared to the quarry and coir sectors, but 
is strictly dependent on the availability of fish. For 
example, during the peak of the monsoons there is 
very little catch, and these women sellers simply 
vanish from the scene. A corollary aspect of the 
fishing scene is that when there is a bumper catch 
fish goes very cheap and these women buy up 
bigger quantities than usual and dry the fish in the 
sun for stocking and selling when there is no or 
very' little catch. 

In general, the monsoons are periods of extreme 
privation for the fisherfolk. The men cannot go to 
the sea, and very often it becomes the sole 
responsibility of the women to avoid total 
starvation, forcing them to seek work in other 
sectors like granite breaking. Any accumulation 
that was possible during the fishing season is 
automatically wiped out in no time with the result 
that no significant permanent improvement in 
economic status, however marginal, ever 
happens. And, educationally, this is the most 
backward section of people; so there is no point in 
expecting any improvement in quality of life from 
that quarter. 

In Vizhinjam, falling within the tourism circle of 
Kovalam, the situation is not exactly the same. 
This is the heavy fishing area from where more 
than 3000 boats go out into the sea. 
Mechanisation is limited to outboard engines fitted 
to traditional craft, but the catch is quite large. 
There are big export oriented dealers here, though 
not as many as in Kollam or Kochi. But not all 
varieties of fish are exported; the exportable items 
are the high cost ones, and they go from here to 
Kochi port. Other fish, as well as a portion of the 
exportable fish, feeds the city as well as the 
interior districts. Here also a good many women 
are sellers and dryers, but their overall conditions 
of living are the same as that of the fisherwomen 
of Kovalam. Educationally and healthcare wise, 


they are in a worse position than the women 
in Kovalam proper, if that is at all possible. 
At least ninety per cent of the total number 
of women of the area belong to the three 
categories enumerated above. Though they 
belong to occupational^ different 
communities they merge into one another 
according to the pressure of circumstances. 
Even then, as sociological entities, they 
remain quite separate. 
To generalise, the most outstanding and 
visible feature marking the conditions of 
women and children of Kovalam and its 
immediate environs is the stark level of 
poverty manifested in material conditions, 
educational levels and health standards. 
The standard of living is not typical of Kerala 
on a macro-level. In fact, the whole place 
ought to be declared as an especially 
backward area, and worthwhile projects 
chalked out and implemented. To state that 
tourism is going to ameliorate their position 
even a few degrees is an outright lie 
because the present position is one after 
thirty years of unbridled and fantastic growth 
of tourism in the area. Their situation has 
only become worse with each passing year. 
Tourism is propagated as development 
oriented; however, in the case of the people 
of Kovalam, as can be seen from the 
conditions strangulating the women and 
children, it is the reverse. 
There is a minority, about five per cent of 
the population, that is urbanised, educated 

and economically better off. This section can be 
called the middle class in terms of economic 
status, and a good section from among them are 
in one or the other way dependent on tourism. To 
this section belong the restaurant and other shop 
owners, taxi and autorickshaw owners, petty 
officials and so on. There are a few big sharks, 
but they are only a micro percentage. The 
situation of women in these families is not 
characteristic of the place, and their children go to 
the more expensive schools, though most of the 
adults are educationally poor. It is a striking 
feature of Kovalam that, although the lowest and 
middle classes are often close relatives, there is 
utmost contempt for the working masses. 
Community-wise almost ninety-nine per cent of the 
people belong to what are classified as backward 
communities and scheduled castes; however, 
economic differences have to a large extent 
broken the teeth of any real solidarity. The new 
class structure that has evolved as a result of the 
growth of tourism is a highly distorted one. The 
class structure has developed in such a way as to 
marginalise the overwhelming majority of the 
people. In other words, the superimposed and 
inorganic nature of this development is shocking, 
and the status of the majority of the women and 
children of the area is the most acute expression 
of this absurdity. 

- Tales of Tourism from Kovalam, Pg. 92- 
99,Odyssey, Thiruvanathapuram 1998 

J/iiuei of lA/omen in uotxrinn Jjeuetopmeni -Debate - an UntUrdandiny 



Legitimising Prostitution 

Meena Men on 

It is not often that a 
sports stadium is host to 
a conference of women 
in prostitution. But for 
the second time in two 
years, Salt Lake stadium 
in Calcutta was the 
venue of the second 
phase of the conference 
of sex workers in March. 
In a large conference 
hall, prostitutes from 
various parts of the 
country gathered to 
discuss problems that 
affected them. 
Essentially a follow-up 
to the first conference, 
which drew, outraged 
protests from various 
quarters, including 

women's organisations, 
this meeting sought to 
clarify and discuss their 
demands and devise a 
plan of action. Among 
the resolutions endorsed 
at the conclusion of the 
conference was that sex 
work should be treated 
like any other 

occupation, decriminal- 
ization of sex work, 
setting up self regulatory 
boards and recognition 
of human rights and 
civil liberties of women 
in prostitution. 
It was also resolved to 
ensure that the rights of 


their children are protected, 
that these women get equal 
opportunities and 

representation in decision- 
making. It was decided to 
constitute a national 
network of sex workers 
with representations from 
all over the country. The 
Durbar Mahila Samanwaya 
Committee (DMSC), a 
collective of women in 
prostitution, formed in 
1995, is spearheading the 
campaign for sex worker's 
rights, legalisation of 
prostitution, setting up of 
self regulatory boards 
controlled by women in 
prostitution, and scrapping 
of the Immoral Traffic 
(prevention) Act. 
Ms. Sadhana Mukherjee, 
secretary of the Committee, 
said, "Women are in the 
control of the landlords, 
they have no rent bills, no 
ration cards, and the police 
is very hostile to us. We 
cannot vote in our names. 
We get bullied for money 
from the local goondas, 
pimps and we are 
threatened, beaten and 
knifed," she said. "If we 
have a self regulatory 
board, we can find out who 
the women entering the 
profession are. So far the 
act only harasses us and 
stops us from soliciting on 

the street. Who will look at us if 
we are at home? Legalisation 
will give us dignity and our 
voice will be heard," said Ms 
Mukherjee. The Committee has 
a membership of 30,000 women 
and 32 branches in West Bengal. 

Ms. Mukherjee feels legalisation 
will decrease the entry of minor 
girls into prostitution. Unless 
the prostitutes have a self- 
regulatory board which 
authorises them to issue licences, 
the influx of minors cannot be 
controlled. In the last six 
months, women in two red light 
areas of Calcutta have been able 
to stop the entry of minors, she 
added. The board will comprise 
women in prostitution, NGOs 
and other individuals. 
Ms. Mala Singh convenor of 
Committee, said, " We want to 
be recognised as women and 
have the same rights as any other 
citizen. We want trade union 
status, have holidays and the 
right to refuse clients." 

Dr Samarjit Jana, director of the 
STD/ HIV Intervention 

Programme, Calcutta, said 
existing laws and the social 
systems only enhanced the 
exploitation of women. 

"Prostitution is considered 
inhuman and not accepted as 
work. People feel legalisation of 
prostitution as a profession 
would endanger the core of the 

society and encourage 
more sex outside the 
family and more women 
into the trade." 
Besides, the culture of 
"gharwali" or "madam" 
controlled brothels was 
on the decline in 
Calcutta which made it 
simpler for the women 
to organise and make 
their own demands. A 
sex worker, he said, 
should get the rights of 
any seller of goods and 
the rights any worker is 
entitled to. It was ironic 
that women are not 
allowed to sell sex but 
are sold into the trade 
and the state wants to 
perpetuate this process, 
he added. 

Meena Seshu of 

SANGRAM, a Sangli 
based organisation, 

favours decriminalizat - 
ion of prostitution, that 
is scrapping the laws 
controlling prostitution 
and trafficking, rather 
than legalisation. Today 
the Immoral Traffic 
(Prevention) Act comes 
under the Cr PC, and the 
implementation of this 
law is in the control of 
the police. The police 
and the law enforcement 
machinery are the main 
problems for sex 
workers, she said. By 
releasing laws from the 
criminal code, the 

women could get some 
amount of relief from 
Police harassment. 
However, there can be a 
law for trafficking, but 
prostitution should be 
removed from the purview 
of trafficking, she felt. If 
prostitution was legalised, 
then there could be 
attendant problems of 
licensing, zoning and even 
taxes which could create 
more problems and be 
oppressive to women, Ms 
Seshu explained. Sex 

workers needed a safe 
working environment and 
this assumed importance in 
the context of HIV/AIDS 
prevention programmes. 
Women who are constantly 
being criminalised cannot 
be empowered and cannot 
negotiate with their partners 
for the use of condoms, she 

Women in prostitution are 
now demanding recognition 
more than anything else. 
The Centre for Feminist 
Legal Research (CFLR), 
New Delhi, has been asked 
to conduct an investigation 
and research into the 
feasibility of the self- 
regulatory boards, and what 
it implies from the women's 
point of view, she added. 
The debate on whether 
legalisation of prostitution 
is necessary or not is an old 
one. The NGOs working 
with women in prostitution 

and the sex workers themselves 
are divided on this issue. 
Another crucial issue is whether 
sex work should be treated as 
work and governed by labour 

According to some activists, 
there is no need to make 
prostitution legal as once the 
laws controlling it are scrapped; 
prostitution automatically 

becomes a legal activity. But 
some of the women are 
demanding licensing which 
means the government or an 
authority constituted for the 
purpose, will license prostitutes. 
Is this desirable? Jackie Pollock 
from the Thai group "Empower", 
feels legalisation could give the 
state too much control and fears 
it could be repressive. In 
countries where it is legalised, 
women's interests are not 
protected. It is better to 
decriminalise prostitution as a 
first step and fight for basic 
rights, she felt. 

Indrani Sinha, of Sanlaap, an 
NGO which works with women 
and children in the red light 
areas of Calcutta, said that she 
was not against prostitution per- 
se or women organising 
themselves to fight for their 
rights. But on the question of 
legalisation, she was firm that it 
could lead to an increase in 
trafficking and empower the 
pimps and other vested interest 
groups. While she supported the 
idea of self regulatory boards, 
she said," I cannot support- the 


Jr a uei of lA/omen in Jouriim -Development mlyebale -an (AncUritandi 


legalisation of anything 
that is rooted in 
oppression and violence. 
Sex work cannot be 
termed as work. In 
other countries where 
there is less stigma 
attached to prostitution, 
women can float in and 
out of the trade but in 
India once you are in the 
profession it is a lasting 
taint. I can't understand 
how licensing can help 
women in prostitution." 

She feels the demand for 
legalisation was 

unrealistic and first the 
women must secure 
basic rights and better 
working conditions. 

The prostitute's 

collectives have been 
saying that they could 
control the entry of 
minors into the 

profession. Ms Sinha 
questioned this and said 
already, there were fake 
affidavits produced on 
behalf of the girls stating 
their ages which 
indicated they were not 
minors and also that 
they were entering 
prostitution willingly. 
How can the self- 
regulatory board or the 
government counter this, 
she asked. 

Prostitutes collectives 
which have been formed 
in some parts of the 
country in the last few 
years, have been 


working for recognition of 
sex work as work and 
decriminalization of 

prostitution. Women have 
been articulating their 
demands for stopping 
police harassment, better 
working conditions and 
control over their bodies. 
While the concept of such 
collectives is in its infancy 
in India, women who are its 
members are learning how 
to negotiate with society 
and earn a dignified place 
for themselves. Shabana 
from Nippani is part of 
VAMP or Veshya AIDS 
Muqabla Parishad which is 
a collective of women in 
prostitution. She said, 
"Now we women work on 
our own, we solve our 
problems instead of running 
to someone. Our collective 
gives us an identity and we 
are gaining in confidence." 

In the metros, the red-light 
areas are demarcated and 
NGOs can focus on one 
specific area but in places 
like Tirupati the women are 
scattered and solicit on 
street corners. R. Meera, a 
social worker from 
Women's Initiatives 

(WINS), started an 
outreach programme for 
HIV prevention among 
women in prostitution three 
years ago. The women in 
prostitution gradually came 
together and became 
confident of conducting 
outreach programmes. 

At first they could not believe 
they could come together and 
form a collective which was 
done in 1996. The Chittoor 
Mahila AIDS Control Sangham 
(CMACS) was registered as a 
collective of sex workers with 
the aim of promoting health and 
welfare of women. This 

organisation has given 

tremendous confidence and 
strength to the women. In some 
cases, the need for collectives 
has stemmed from 

dissatisfaction with the NGOs 
working with women in 
prostitution. It was felt that the 
NGOs were representing their 
own interests and not those of 
the women they were working 
for. She was deserted by her 
husband when she was 16 and 
later sold into a Bombay brothel. 

"We do not need NGOs to speak 
on our behalf, they are big 
problems. We are doing real 
social work, interacting with the 
community, spreading awareness 
about AIDS, distributing 
condoms, conducting health 
programmes and releasing 
women from custody. I believe 
sex work is legitimate work. If 
we can sell flowers or vegetables 
we can sell sex. If prostitution is 
made legal then we will not be 
harassed by the police and the 
pimps - and we don't need NGOs 
or middlemen." On an 
international level as well, 
groups have been campaigning 
for decriminalising prostitution. 
Lin Chew of GAATW (Global 
Alliance Against Trafficking of 
Women), Bangkok, said- the 

first demand of the 
organisation was to 
decriminalise prostitu- 
tion. If it was legalised, 
then there is the question 
of state interference. "I 
feel it should be outside 
the realm of state interf- 
erence. Once access to 
basic rights is given to 
the women, there will be 
less and less state 
interference," she added. 
"The most important 
thing was for the women 
to decide what is best for 
them. There cannot be 
one model for all areas. 
The issue of whether sex 
work could be termed as 
work was still to be 
clarified. Since it was a 
private negotiation, it 
was difficult to legislate 
and there cannot be one 
uniform set of rules," 
she explained. 

At the conference, 
groups of women in 
prostitution debated the 
question of self- 
regulatory boards, 
legalisation, decriminal- 
ization and the question 
of sex work as work. 
Police participation in 
self-regulatory boards 
was hotly debated with 
many women feeling 
that the police were 
corrupt and equally 
responsible for exploit- 
ing and abusing women. 
Usha C ha van from 

Baina in Goa said there was 
strong opposition to the 
small red light area in the 
port town of Vasco and 
there was a virtual curfew 
declared in the area and the 
police discouraged men 
from going there. "There 
are moves to evict us from 
the area and rehabilitate us 
but we have little idea what 
will be done with us 
eventually," she added. 

Shyamla Nataraj, 

programme director of the 
South India AIDS Action 
Programme, disagrees with 
the demand for scrapping 
the laws relating to 
prostitution. She said the 
Immoral Traffic 

(prevention) Act was 
essentially meant for the 
women. "The act can be 
used for the their benefit as 
well and we have proved 
this in certain cases in 
Tamil Nadu, so the 
scrapping of the act is not 
really what we should be 
demanding. According to a 
study on prostitution in 
Tamil Nadu, 70 per cent of 
the girls had some school 
background. They were not 
forced into prostitution or 
trafficked, many chose to 
leave their homes at the 
first opportunity. But they 
have no idea what they 
have to put up with." 
"In the first two or three 
years of her new life, she is 
invisible, the network keeps 

her safe and there is very little 
outside contact. This is the 
period when she wants to leave 
but no one can help her. She is 
not the woman we distribute 
condoms to. By the time she is 
in the profession for a few years, 
she is conditioned and does not 
want to get out. Child 

prostitution is too well 
camouflaged and well 

entrenched with the mafia," she 
said. Ms Nataraj feels such 
conferences cannot be the 
decisive fora but a beginning for 
a discussion on these issues. 
Certainly one can make demands 
but it cannot be endorsed as a 
representative mandate of all the 
women in prostitution, she 

There is a clear polarisation over 
the demand to treat sex work as 
work, legalisation of 

prostitution, scrapping of the 
laws governing prostitution but 
there seems to be support for 
self-regulatory boards which are 
controlled by the women 
themselves. However, there are 
no two opinions on the need for 
women in prostitution to 
collectivise and articulate their 
demands and fight for them. 
What the women are demanding 
are so basic - better working 
conditions, humane treatment, 
equal opportunities for their 
children, care when they are old 
and infirm- things that are taken 
for granted under our democratic 

Jfau&i of \AJomen in .Jouriim -Development -Debate - an l/fnderttandina 



What the women are 
also demanding is 
acceptance as citizens 
with no stigma attached 
to them. Prostitutes are 
still perceived as "bad 
women" or gangsters 
molls and few perceive 
them as ordinary women 
with ordinary aspirations 

Common perceptions 
about women in 
prostitution need to be 
altered first if the 
women are to live a 
dignified existence. The 
question is not whether 
to legalise or decrimin- 
alise prostitution but 
whether the women will 
be allowed to live a 
secure life without 
harassment of any sort 
and not be treated as 
criminals. That is the 
bottom line. If the trade 
is legalised, the women 
could be subjected to all 
sorts of external or state 
control. Already in 
Maharashtra there were 
moves to introduce a 
law to subject women in 
prostitution to compuls- 

ory medical cheek- ups and 
to brand those women 
suffering from sexually 
transmitted diseases with 
indelible ink. Licensing 
could give the government 
more powers which could 
dictate such retrograde 
actions. On the other hand, 
the demand for self- 
regulatory boards is a 
viable one since the boards 
would be in control as in 
any other professional 
regulatory body. The 

question of whether sex 
work is work is a complex 
one. Women in prostitution 
argue that if factory work, 
construction labour and 
other forms of employment 
which are equally 

exploitative can be termed 
as work, sex work also had 
a legitimate claim. The 
theme of the first 
conference of sex workers 
last November was "Sex 
work is real work, we 
demand workers rights." 

A law reform proposal 
presented by the Centre for 
Feminist Legal Research 
(CFLR) at the conference 

said, "We believe that social 
marginalisation of women in sex 
work which has occurred over 
decades cannot be redressed by 
merely decriminalising 

prostitution and leaving the rest 
to take its own course. Statutory 
recognition of the fact that 
women in sex work have the 
same rights as other citizens is 
essential." CFLR recommended 
giving statutory recognition to 
some specific rights which 
included a provision for women 
working in brothels to be entitled 
to all the benefits available under 
the existing industrial laws and 
to the facilities and protections 
available to workers under the 
existing labour laws, the right to 
safe working conditions, the 
right to form collectives, trade 
unions, associations and have 
them recognised under the law, 
apart from basic rights to 
education, privacy and 

movement as well as redress 
mechanisms for their grievances. 

-The Hindu, 14.06.1998 


New Law Against 

Sex Tourists 



international meet on tourism industry 
here has suggested framing of a new 
international law prescribing tougher 
punishment to deal with the growing 
menace of sex tourists. The attention of 
tour operators, travel agents, airlines and 
hotel industry from 129 countries meeting 
for the prestigious "World tourism market" 
was drawn to the menace by British home 
secretary Jack Straw who called for urgent 
steps to decisively protect children from 
being sexually abused by tourists specially 
from the Western countries. 

The sex tourism intruded into the three-day 
tourism buyers and sellers world meet, 
when the British home department circul- 
ated among more than 5,000 delegates 
assembled from world-wide leaflets 
containing information about new British 
laws to prosecute sex tourists. Similar 
leaflets were also distributed by some other 
European Union states. The world tourism 
market then put the issue up front, 
organising a number of round-table 
seminars on sex tourism and decided on 
suggesting that a new international law be 
framed to deal with the menace. 

According to information circulated among 
the delegates, Britain has listed over 5,000 
to 6,000 known pedophile tourists and 
some other European nations including 
Belgium, France, Germany, and Holland 
over 15,000 known child sex offenders. 

India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, 
Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and some Arab 
countries have been pointed out as "most 
favoured destinations of sex tourists" in the 
leaflets. The Scotland Yard recently 
launched special workshops in Colombo to 
train specialist police teams from Sri Lanka 
and India, Pakistan and Nepal on how to 
unearth and then deal with child sex 

The brochures specially mentions Goa, 
Kochi, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and 
parts of Tamil Nadu as well as whole of 
island nation of Sri Lanka where "sex 
tourism was rampant." 

The leaflets detail laws in Britain as well in 
the whole of European Union which make 
it a criminal offence for any holiday makers 
from these countries to commit child 
abuses abroad or to organise "child sex 

These clearly bring out 
the offenders be caught 
Far East, but would 
prosecution in their own 
has asked the assembled 
pass on any information 
saying that a worldwide 
built about them. 

that not only can 
at destinations in 
be liable for 
countries also. It 
travel operators to 
about sex tourists 
dossier was being 

-Times of India - Mumbai-22.1 1.1997 

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