Cajamarca - Peru
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Women travelers in Peru

So many limitations are imposed on women's freedom to travel together or alone that any advice or warning seems merely to reinforce the situation. However, machismo is well ingrained in the Peruvian male mentality, particularly in the towns, and female foreigners are almost universally seen as liberated and therefore sexually available.

Having said that, in most public places and in genuine friendly contact situations women traveling on their own tend to get the "pobrecita" ("poor little thing") treatment because they are alone, without family or a man

Harassment and safety

On the whole, the situations you'll encounter are more annoying than dangerous, with frequent comments such as que guapa ("how pretty"), intrusive and prolonged stares, plus whistling and hissing in the cities. Worse still are the occasional rude comments and groping, particularly in crowded situations such as on buses or trains.

Blonde and fair-skinned women are likely to suffer much more of this behavior than darker, Latin-looking women. Mostly these are situations you'd deal with routinely at home - as Limeña women do here in the capital - but they can, understandably and rightly, seem threatening without a clear understanding of Peruvian Spanish and slang. To avoid getting caught up in something you can't control, any provocation is best ignored.

In a public situation, however, any real harassment is often best dealt with by loudly drawing attention to the miscreant. Bear in mind that sexual assault in Peru is a rare thing; it is mostly just a matter of macho bravado, and rarely anything more serious.

In the predominantly Indian, remote areas there is less of an overt problem, though this is surprisingly where physical assaults are more likely to take place. They are not common, however - you are probably safer hiking in the Andes than walking at night in most British or North American inner-cities.

Two obvious, but enduring, pieces of advice are to travel with friends (being on your own makes you most vulnerable), and if you are camping, to be quite open about it. As ever, making yourself known to locals gives a kind of acceptance and insurance, and it may even lead to the offer of a room - Peruvians, particularly those in rural areas, can be incredibly kind and hospitable. It is also sensible to check with the South American Explorers' Club, particularly in Cusco, for information on the latest trouble spots.

The feminist movement

Though a growing force, feminism is still relatively new to Peru, and essentially urban. However, there are two major feminist groups: Flora Tristan, Avenida Arenales 601, Lima, which is allied to the United Left and whose basic tenet is "first socialism, then the feminist revolution"; and the less radical Peru Mujer, though n either of these are likely to be of enormous interest to travelers.

Peru's one feminist magazine, Mujeres y Sociedad ( Women and Society), is published quarterly. For other literature and advice, try Flora Tristan, the Libreria de la Mujer bookshop in Avenida Arenales, Lima; or the Women's Center, Quilca, Lima, which is run by nuns. The Peruvian Women's Association (Association Peru Mujer) can be contacted at Leon Velarde 1275, Lima (tel 01/422-3655, 441-5187 or 471-1524).

Source: TravelNow Destination Guides

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