Study looks at tourist sexual harassment in Southern Mediterranean region

A number of tourists visiting European countries in the Mediterranean region face some form of sexual harassment according to a report conducted by the Palma de Mallorca-based European Institute of Studies on Prevention.

The cross-sectional airport-based study was based on interviews conducted with 6,502 British and German male and female tourists, aged 16 to 35, who responded to questions prior to their departure at airports in Crete, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain in 2009.

Instances of sexual harassment were reported by 8.6 percent of respondents, while 1.5 percent said they had been raped during their holiday. Women reported higher levels of sexual harassment than heterosexual men, but roughly the same percentage levels as homosexual and bisexual men.

A rise in sexual harassment cases was reported in the Spanish resort city of Palma de Mallorca as well as on the island of Crete. The incidents mainly involved young British women and British homosexual men, who under the influence of alcohol or cocaine, visited bars where patrons get drunk and there are opportunities for sex.

The institute noted that the issue of sexual harassment during the holiday season does not attract the necessary attention and called upon local and European authorities to implement programs for public awareness and prevention, among other measures.

"Despite the known increase in substance use and risky sexual behaviors among young people during holiday periods, issues of sexual harassment and having sex against one’s will have not received adequate attention,” noted the institute, which called on "the tourist industry and tourist authorities to develop environnments where sexual aggression is not tolerated."