09/27/2007, 00.00
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Holy See: intolerable sex tourism reduces women to slaves

In a letter written on behalf of the Pope, Cardinal Bertone writes that contacts between various cultures should aim at promoting rights, especially those of women, even in a sector like tourism in which they are more often than not relegated to performing secondary roles.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Sex tourism is intolerable and one of the most striking examples of exploitation and discrimination of women whose status should instead be promoted everywhere. This, in a nutshell, is what cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone wrote in a letter on women and tourism addressed to the secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation, Francesco Frangialli, on World Tourism Day, which is today, whose main theme this year is Tourism Opens Doors for Women.

The cardinal writes that although women represent worldwide 46 per cent of the workforce in tourism, they are penalised by “a vertical segregation” which denies them access to managerial positions. The cause of this negative situation is rooted in deep-seated biases that allow stereotypes to survive and keep women in traditionally inferior gender-based jobs.

Openness to different lifestyles and cultures that mass travel favours can lead to positive developments as long as governments, international organisations, companies and trade unions create structures and invest economic resources that protect, develop and keep alive moral, cultural and social respect for women as well as improve their place within this sector.

Whatever his or her religion, social class and country of origin, every tourist has a duty to do this. No one can feel above it.

For this reason women must enjoy equal rights in the workplace. They must enjoy religious freedom, their needs as mothers must be respected, and they are entitled to equal pay for equal work.

Girls and women have a right to education and professional training through legislation that bans the exploitation and shameful commodification of women’s bodies.

We must speak out against the intolerable scandal of sex tourism which humiliates women and reduces them for all intents and purposes to slaves.

For its part, the Church in its “articulated and multi-polar vision is always ready to work for a humane tourist sector because of the opportunities it offers people for growth, development and improvement.”

When tourism is ethically and anthropologically well-intended it effectively can, in terms of their potential and their relational nature, help women as women experience the value of life and of the spirit, and rethink work and its profits.  

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