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But a female traveller will also face prejudice around the world, in the form of sexism and discrimination, misogyny and objectification.She will have to deal with the resulting fears that may arise. Should she actively alter her behaviour, or her style of dress?Hell, they might even enjoy the attention that I found so problematic!Walking through the narrow streets of Cuba’s capital of Havana one day, I found myself behind a Cuban woman and slowed my pace.We were both dressed for the July humidity; denim shorts, a thin, loose, sleeveless top, hair tied back, sunglasses over our eyes, umbrella on an arm. I wanted to see what treatment she received from the occasional groups of boys and men that punctuated each corner. As we approached a group, I saw their eyes switch to her body.I saw them look her up and down, lips stretching into smiles.Well, I was either alone or with other women, for starters.Any time I walked with a man the behaviour either disappeared, or shrank to such a minimum that I didn’t register it – although when I was with a man, he sometimes noticed instead. One of the factors that often arises in sexual harassment cases is also often referenced in terms of a traveller, because there are so many cultural boundaries you might be overstepping with your dress sense. There, women of all ages are dressed in much less ‘modest’ clothing – particularly in the hotter, more humid countries – and I wasn’t about to sweat in jeans and jumpers for the sake of not getting catcalled.
The stooped figure of a man in his seventies was approaching slowly, walking stick in hand, and I began to smile even before we passed each other.Six months in India in 2012 prompted me to write a piece about travelling safely as a solo female – still the highest trafficked article I’ve ever published – which made me think a great deal about how many women are concerned for their safety when travelling alone.So after eighteen months travelling through Latin America, I thought it was necessary to address the biggest issue I faced there.So I would pull awkwardly at the edges of my shorts, rearrange my vest, and start walking more quickly.Maybe I became expectant that this behaviour would come my way, so noticed every time. I’m sure I picked up on it more often than my fellow travellers.