Dear girls of the world: don’t let sexual harassment or cat calling stop you from doing anything

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Dear girls of the world,

I have been traveling to over 50 countries, most of them alone. During the way, I have been a victim of cat-calling more times than I am able to keep count of.

You, as a solo female traveler will unfortunately experience to be cat-called by men as well, if you decide to travel the world. You will hear words be shouted after you like “Mamacita! or Sexy!”. You will hear whistling when you walk on the sidewalk, from men passing by. You will experience getting repulsive compliments, and have men staring at you.

in-moroccoDuring my travels, I have experienced all of this. Furthermore, in India one man broke into my hotel room, and tried to force me to kiss him. In Cuba, I had a man trying to prevent me from getting out of an apartment by holding me by force in one arm while closing the door again with the other. This I think was an attempt of rape, but luckily I got away. When visiting a tourist attraction in Jaipur, I heard a bunch of young guys that spoke loudly about me, where one of them said while pointing at me with one hand and holding his penis with the other: “Now, I’m horny!” I have had countless of unknown young men asking me if they could take a picture together with me, and then holding around me in the picture.

I have seen that some of these images have been abused in social media, saying I was their girlfriend. This took place in African and Asian countries. In the Middle East, I have been repeatedly tried bought by camels of men that wanted to marry me.

Ask any solo female traveler, and she will have similar stories like this to tell you. Nevertheless, most do not share them and keep them to themselves as they feel it is shameful and taboo. This we need to get a stop on! However, there are several articles out there, on how to avoid being a victim of sexual harassment on travels. They advise you to dress conservative, follow the norms and rules of the country you are in, not smoke or drink alcohol or go out alone at night. That being said, my experience is that harassment is an issue that is impossible to avoid. Even if you follow these rules. And do you know what, I think that we as women have the right to dress and do whatever we want, whiteout expecting to be harassed sexually!

By sharing this I do not want to scare you, though it might seem so. I want to create awareness, as few do so on this topic by sharing their personal stories. The truth is that this will happen to you if you decide to travel solo. But do not let that stop you to stay at home. I believe if you do so, that is the opposite of feminism; simply because you do not do what you want because of your gender. And that is why you should not sexual harassment this stop you from travel!

Love,

Hanne

who dreams about going everywhere

Hanne is a Norwegian twenty-something travel junkie that has been to over 50 countries. She usually travels sustainable, staying longer time at each place. Hanne has worked in development projects in countries like Nigeria, India, USA, and lastly in Bolivia where she was the director of a foundation helping street kids. Due to her background with a masters in social studies, she loves to study people and cultures, and thereafter write about it in her blog Places People Stories. Follow her blog to get deep into discussion and problematics surrounding travel that you probably will experience while travelling the world.

Comments

  • April 30, 2017

    I really love this series! It’s horrific that women have to deal with this in the first place. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, your own neighborhood or somewhere half way across the planet if you’re a woman walking by yourself chances are that you will get cat called. I totally agree that women shouldn’t make stories they hear from abroad scare them from traveling, it could happen anywhere. Also, the examples Hanne gives from her own experiences are terrible!

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  • April 30, 2017

    Great inspiritonal post and very from the heart. Great to see you are trying to get the message out. I hate the way people (men I should say) in certain regions treat woman, it sickens me. However, do not let this stop your traveling the world. Be strong and stay safe.

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  • May 1, 2017

    Oh my goodness that experience in Cuba sounds very scary! I think it is important to be precocious in general but I am sure every female traveler already is. Thank you for sharing these experiences with us

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  • May 1, 2017

    It is sad that as a woman we even have to deal with situations like this. It is even sadder that many woman will not travel alone for fear of these situations. Stay smart, stay strong and travel on ladies! <3

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  • May 1, 2017

    Thanks for raising awareness! I agree that we should all continute to travel regardless and it shouldn’t scare us from traveling. It’s so horrible that so many people are victims of sexual harassment and abuse–I hope that these situations will lessen as more awareness is raised!

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  • May 2, 2017

    Well done for posting this! My now wife and I travelled to India in 2009 and while the majority of our time and the locals were amazing, one particular bus ride sticks out in my memory. We were on a day long bus ride and a local guy in the seat in front of us stared incessantly at my then girlfriend. He didn’t say anything but literally for an hour or more he would keep looking at her. In the end, despite numerous verbal protests I had to lean over the seat and do the same to him by staring at him with my face 30-40cm from him. I’m not at all an aggressive person but his behaviour really disgusted me. It’s so wrong (to put in mildly) that in some parts of the world men think that they have the absolute right to objectify women. Unfortunately I think too often other men (whether locals or travellers) just sit as bystanders and let it happen instead making it known that it’s not on. Good on you Hanne for sharing!

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P.S. I'm On My Way is a blog by Trisha Velarmino. She didn't
quit her job to travel the world. She made a job out of traveling and you can do it, too.