Saturday 4 February 2023

Blame the victims: Costa Rica recommends female tourists dress appropriate to avoid sexual assault

Women's Institute and Tourism Board Inamu promise an 'immediate review' of the guide that recommends female tourists dress similar to the local style to avoid attracting attention, avoid walking alone at night, and careful with messages that are "very friendly or trusting attitude"

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QCOSTARICA – On Monday, Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado called the ‘Totally out of place’ the Women’s Instituto and Tourism Board publicatin “Guía de Buenas Prácticas de Seguridad en las Operaciones Turísticas” (Guide to Good Security Practices in Tourism Operations).

The women ask that the State make greater efforts to prevent sexual violations and other crimes against both nationals and tourists. (Courtesy)

The guide created by the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres (Inamu) and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) suggests foreigners who travel alone to dress appropriately, not walk alone at night and “stay in control” when drinking alcohol.

In a statement, the Ministry of Communication assured that the president requested the Inamu and the ICT to immediately review that guide because it contains “statements that are totally out of place, in any context, that must be corrected.”

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The publication clearly places the blame on victims of harassment and sexual abuse while in the country, guiding tourists to:

  • Consider the cultural difference with respect to their country of origin, try to dress in a similar style to the local one to avoid attracting attention
  • Avoid walking alone at night, preferring daytime hours
  • Be careful with the messages that a very friendly or trusting attitude can generate. Many situations of risk or abuse of trust are generated through the erroneous perception of this type of interaction
  • If ingesting beverages with alcoholic content, or any substance that can alter the use of faculties, they must ensure that they maintain personal control and control of the environment where you are.

Following Alvarado’s statements, on Monday, both the Inamu and the ICT assured that they proposed to the Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Turística (Consetur) – National Tourist Security Commission an “immediate review” of the guide, indicating that the document was published in June 2021 and that “it emerged within the framework of the launch of the Red Sofía program.”

The United Talamanca collective demonstrated in Puerto Viejo, where a young Danish woman was sexually assaulted by several men, on January 6, 2022. (Courtesy)

However, it wasn’t until the last several days, following the case of the gang rape against a Danish tourist in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca earlier this month, that the advice for female tourists got a response from the politicians, such as Alvarado and five legislators who reproached the advice, considering it “embarrassing, sexist” and as a “slap in the face of those who have been victims of these acts,” in the words of the independent legislator Paola Vega

Liberationist legislator Karine Niño also demanded that the institutions in charge “assume responsibility as soon as possible.”

Residents denounced the terrible treatment that a Danish tourist received after denouncing that she was gang-raped on a beach on the Caribbean coast. (Courtesy)

The president of the Legislative Assembly, Silvia Hernández, said: “Our region is the one that gave the world the word ‘macho’ in its gender meaning (…) It is a region where femicide claims the lives of more than 4,500 women each year and where the sexual and reproductive rights of women are still far from the best international standards. With these measures, the Executive Power shows its total incapacity and its open willingness to replicate and maintain the problem.”

Meanwhile, Yorleny León, also a liberationist, published on her social networks “Is this serious??”

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Carolina Hidalgo, of the ruling party, the Partido Acciona Ciudadana (PAC), also reacted with indignation: “‘Dress similar to the locals’ or ‘prefer daytime hours’ is not going to prevent us from being raped; because they rape us with any type of clothing, at any time of the day, in any place, alone or accompanied. They rape us because of a false idea of ​​power and possession over our bodies. The State must assume its responsibility. It must protect us, preventing and sanctioning”.

Likewise, the presidential candidates Linneth Saborío, of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) and José María Figueres, of Partilo Liberacion Nacional (PLN), criticized the recommendations of the State agencies.

The claims filled the social networks and the pages of feminist groups such as Brujas Feministas CR, Feminist CR, Feminista Tica and other civil society groups.

Photo from social networks

Victims are young

According to statistics from the JOrganismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), more than 70% of the victims of sexual violations in Costa Rica are young. The majority are minors, but another good part are women between the ages of 18 and 29, and in almost all cases “the offenders are known to a greater or lesser extent by the victims, hence the predominant age range of the victims is minors and youth”.

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In the last decade, 5,181 violations have been registered and practically half have occurred in San José and Limón. In 2021, the number of complaints increased in all provinces compared to 2020 (with the exception of Puntarenas) and since 2011, an average of 470 cases per year have been registered.

In its report, La Nación said it asked the OIJ how many of the violations were perpetrated in a group, such as the one denounced by the Danish tourist in Puerto Viejo. The OIJ responded that is does have this data because “these are details that are only handled by the Prosecutor’s Office when the interview is carried out with the victims”.

Photo from social networks

La Nacion report also added that when the INAMU was asked if it considers Costa Rica is a safe country for foreigners who want to travel alone, it avoided answering the specific query.

“In several cantons of the country there are local inter-institutional networks that develop diverse actions to prevent and attend to the different forms of violence against women,” was the limited answer.

“Even last year alone, a total of 74 officials from various institutions were trained to detect and channel situations of sexual violence. In addition, a process of focus groups began in six regions of the country to continue this year with specialized training for institutions that serve women who are survivors of sexual violence,” it added.

For its part, the ICT stated that security is an issue of central importance for a country, like Costa Rica, whose economy depends largely on tourism and recognized that “a sustainable destination has to be a safe destination and this is a task that falls to different actors government and civil society,” reiterating that it training program and informative talks are sufficient to address this problem.

“We deeply regret and categorically reject any aggression against women, who deserve to live free and safe. (…) The way in which Costa Rica is projected to the world through the Essential Costa Rica country brand is comprehensive: tourism, investments and exports, hand in hand with the Costa Rican culture and idiosyncrasy”, the ICT added to its public statement.




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