Women’s Equity and Justice in Tourism


The present day post modern, neo liberal world is still embedded with social inequity and discrimination.

The situations  of women in the larger world and within the systems of State, community and family control, coerces her to exist without self-expression, thereby forcing her to live within the dominating and unconstitutional framework of patriarchy. Women’s socio-political and economic status and overall economic empowerment is influenced by her status and role in the family and community, her reproduction responsibilities and her access and ownership over economic resources. Stereotyping their roles continues in the private and public institutions. Gender relations are also often determined by the sexual division of labour.

When women Thrive, all of Society Benefits- Kofi Anan.

This phrase doesn’t hold water in situations where the essential element to have the ‘Right to be Human’ is constantly unacknowledged and remains crushed by the dual face of the State which on the one hand through the Constitutional provisions ensures women’s social, economic, and political empowerment, but on the other hand does not make a consorted effort to implement them. This is evident in every aspect of the development paradigm, at every level and all sectors including tourism.

A large number of unpaid work is carried out by women in family run tourism establishments. Since tourism is seasonal in nature and women are employed at the lower rungs of the labour market, their services are not required during the lean seasons. This leads to insecurity in employment. Most work of women in this sector therefore remains unorganised. A large section of unorganised women labor force are part of the value chains of the tourism industry where they are either contractual workers or indirectly linked. Given this set of realities women are more vulnerable to loose their access, control and ownership over livelihood if the related issues remain unaddressed. A more nuanced analysis of these factors and their interplay are required, along with careful planning and policy making to strengthen the tourism sector.

There have been observations on the incompatibilities in the understandings of women’s empowerment through tourism by the tourism practitioners and the tourism policy makers on the one hand  and the way the programmes and activities are planned and implemented at ground on the other hand. One such example can be the Community Based Tourism(CBT) initiatives of the Department of Tourism funded by the Asian Development Bank in  various clusters of Himachal Pradesh. We find that such initiatives do not have holistic envisioning of women’s participation, and ownership in the development and execution of certain tourism development processes.. Though there are tokenistic initiatives for involving women in such tourism processes through skill building into some archaic handwork and handloom , it doesn’t go beyond that of connecting such women to the market for their economic empowerment. This also includes other trainings to local women on bird watching, cooking, cultural activities and boating which will eventually not help them have any earnings  as there are no structural  plans to engage them in such work with respect to tourism.

Though it looks into women Self help Groups being members to the Panchayat Tourism Development Committees created through the CBT project, still their involvement does not translate into any kind of participation in planning processes and  decision making with respect to the community based tourism initiatives.This establishes the tokenistic co-option of women into various decentralised processes for tourism development and institution building  that they claim.

At the National level there is none or little effort to build understandings on issues of women’s partcipation in tourism and governance of tourism. This has been neglected in th the Draft National Tourism Policy, 2015 to make use of the existing schemes and policies and institutional mechanisms for women’s empowerment to ensure women’s growth in tourism. Even though the National Tourism Policy 2015 has not been passed, it is pushing the Centre to implement different tourism schemes in the states as mentioned in the draft policy. There has been no intended efforts to integrate gender budgeting with the planning processes.

There is a lack of inter-ministerial convergence with regard to tourism development. Thus resulting in keeping women out of the tourism development spectrum.

Given the current situation, some state policies on women, which intends to embark upon some essential structures and mechanisms which emphasises on the interconnected issues of women’s empowerment and exploitation, is a ray of hope.

One such initiative is the Draft Karnataka Women’s Empowerment State Policy 2016, which follows the framework of the Draft National Policy for Empowerment of Women and outlines the government’s vision and commitment to all women who are either residing or visiting Karnataka.

It intends to create an effective gender responsive judicial, legal and administrative framework to enable gender mainstreaming in all policies. It prioritises and states the need to address the issues of women’s low participation due to lack of access to opportunities, markets and skills in the service sector- information communication, biotechnology, retail banking and finance, hospitality and tourism.It gives priority to women in industry like hotels and restaurants, catering, petrol pumps, transport services, and entertainment. It calls for acknowledging the important economic contribution of women in tourism and creating income generating opportunities for women by integrating women’s entrepreneurship through various schemes and plans of MWCD.

The draft policy also directs the need to make reference to the Code of Conduct for Safe and Honourable Tourism developed by the MOT has been felt as it stresses on protection of women from any form of crime and exploitation and aid the prevention of trafficking and sex tourism and calls for enforcing of all kinds of secure and safe mechanisms for protection of women.

This policy seeks to be pro people by encouraging public consultations at the divisional level in four divisions of Karnataka – Bengaluru, Bellari, Belgaum and Mysore. Here, some ground realities of the women were shared in the context of tourism wherein the role of women is nowhere clear in the tourism interventions and activities. In the discussions held in Hampi- Bellari it was stated by people that there are no plans and programmes of the government which integrate women’s participation into tourism activities. The issues of women’s limited roles in tourism for it being seasonal in nature also plays here. There are no schemes for economic empowerment of women which converges with  the schemes and programmes for involving and benefitting  them through tourism’.

Clearly, this practice of inequity and non- inclusiveness of women into various ‘developmental projects and programmes’ of the government  are visible across sectors with tourism being one of them. It is critical to look at women’s growth in a hoslistic way which stands in convergence with the good intentions of other ministries and state departments working towards the social, economic and political empowerment of women apart from the Ministry of Tourism.

Equations is a research, campaign and advocacy organisation. We study the social,cultural, economic and environmental  impacts of tourism on local communities. We believe that tourism should be non- exploitative, equitable and sustainable.The question that has been central to our work and directs much of it is ‘Who really benefits from Tourism?


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