The Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism has called for an end to the exploitation of women by the tourist industry, and criticised a decision by the United Nations to hold World Tourism Day on the theme, "Tourism Opens Doors For Women" - writes Michele Green.
"While ECOT acknowledges instances when women do benefit from tourism, this unfortunately does not apply to the majority of women involved in the world of tourism," the coalition said in a statement in advance of the UN day on 27 September.
The Thailand-based ecumenical group said that tourism often results in the sexual exploitation of women, and this in no way "opens doors for women" as described by the United Nations.
"A tourism that is propped up by images of women and the lure of sexual pleasures is not one that liberates women," the coalition added.
It said that not only does the tourism industry sexually exploit women, but that women themselves often do not receive fair payment for the work they do for the tourist industry.
"Yes, handicrafts and other items produced by women do attract the tourist dollar. But is the price paid for these products just? Are the wages of women in these enterprises fair? Is the trivialisation of culture that occurs in various tourist destinations, when women are dressed in indigenous dress as if in a costume to attract the tourist camera, the way to open doors for women?" the coalition said.
The group said it supported the United Nations' goal to halve world poverty by 2015, and that such a step would truly open doors and create opportunities for women. Meanwhile, it believed that the United Nations World Tourism Organization should use its position "to reflect the perspective of women who are disadvantaged and discriminated by tourism".
The ecumenical coalition began work in 1982. Its members include regional conferences of churches in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific, as well as the Catholic Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]