Blame the Victims: Costa Rica Recommends Female Tourists Dress Appropriately to Avoid Sexual Assault

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

The women demand that the State redouble its efforts to prevent sexual violations and other crimes against nationals and tourists. (Courtesy)

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

In a press release, the Ministry of Communication assured that the president had asked Inamu and the ICT to immediately review this guide because it contains “totally inappropriate remarks, in any context, which must be corrected “.

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

  • Consider the cultural difference from their home country, try to dress similar to the local style 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 breach of trust are generated by the erroneous perception of this type of interaction
  • In the event of ingestion of beverages containing alcohol or any substance that may impair the use of faculties, they must ensure that they maintain personal control and control of the environment in which you are.

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

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

However, it was only in recent days, following the gang rape case against a Danish tourist in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca earlier this month, that the advice for female tourists received a response from politicians, such as Alvarado and five of the lawmakers who criticized him for the opinion, considering it “embarrassing, sexist” and a “slap in the face to those who have been victims of these acts”, in the words of independent lawmaker Paola Vega

The liberationist legislator Karine Niño also demanded that the institutions in charge “take their responsibilities as soon as possible”.

Residents have denounced the terrible treatment suffered by a Danish tourist after having denounced having been 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 sense (…) It is a region where femicide costs the lives of more of 4,500 women each year. and where women’s sexual and reproductive rights still fall short of the best international standards. With these measures, the executive power shows its total incapacity and its open will to reproduce and maintain the problem.

Meanwhile, Yorleny León, also a liberationist, posted on his social media “Is it serious??”

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Carolina Hidalgo of the ruling Partido Acciona Ciudadana (PAC) also reacted with outrage: “’Dressing like the locals’ or ‘Preferring daylight hours’ is not going to save 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, prevent and punish us”.

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

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

Photo from social networks

The victims are young

According to statistics from the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), more than 70% of victims of sexual violence 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 perpetrators are more or less known to the victims, hence the predominant age group of the victims is minors and youth”.

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Over the past decade, 5,181 violations have been recorded and almost half have occurred in San José and Limón. In 2021, the number of complaints increased in all provinces compared to 2020 (except Puntarenas) and since 2011 an average of 470 cases per year have been recorded.

In its report, La Nación says it asked the OIJ how many violations were perpetrated in groups, like the one denounced by the Danish tourist in Puerto Viejo. The OIJ replied that it had this data because “these are details which are only dealt with by the prosecution during the interview with the victims”.

Photo from social networks

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

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

“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 has started in six regions of the country to continue this year with specialized training for institutions that serve women victims of sexual violence,” he added.

For its part, the ICT said that security is a matter of central importance for a country, like Costa Rica, whose economy depends largely on tourism and recognized that “a sustainable destination must be a safe destination and it is a task for different actors in government and civil society”, reiterating that its training program and informative interviews are enough to solve this problem.

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

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