Room sharing: Women tour guides rebuff minister

MalaysiaKini 18.06.2011 1:05PM

Regina Lee

The alleged sexual assault on a female tour guide saga continues with Malaysian Women Tourist Guides Association (MWTGA) slamming the tourism minister for insinuating that the fault lies with the women.

Saying that they are 'disappointed', association president Erina Loo claimed that the ministry's inquiry into the May 16 incident did not consider the situation that the female tour guide was put into before sharing a room with the bus driver.

She said this in a statement issued late last night.

"MWTGA is very disappointed that the ministry's inquiry failed to take note that in the first place the female tourist guide was put in a position where she was expected to share a hotel room with the male bus driver.

"It is appalling and highly irresponsible that the media has been speculating on the findings of the ministry's inquiry and publishing false and inaccurate claims such as that the complainant was a seductress and that tourist guides share rooms with bus drivers to earn extra money," Loo said.

In the Malacca incident, a bus driver in his 50's had shared a hotel room with the 29-year-old tour guide while on assignment. It was alleged that he asked her for sex and tried to force himself on her but stopped when she put up a struggle.

On Thursday Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen (left) told the Dewan Rakyat that the female tourist guide confessed under interrogation that she had voluntarily handed over her room keys to the male tour bus driver when separate rooms were already provided for, and by that, she had breached Tourism Ministry regulations.

Too scared to report sexual abuse

The association maintained that it remains an industry norm where women tourist guides are unable to opt for a room for themselves.

"Women in the tourism industry have had no choice but to accept this culture of room sharing as a norm to protect their job security even at the risk of their personal safety while tour operators and travel agents continue to condone room sharing to save on costs of renting another room," said Loo.

She also blasted the inquiry process where the tourism ministry did not allow the complainant a "support" person to be present when called give her statement and a lawyer was only let in as an observer after prolonged negotiations.

It was also alleged that a ministry representative scolded the complainant who reminded her that she was not supposed to share the hotel room in the first place.

"It is unacceptable that the onus is put on the female tourist guide rather than the travel agency when it is stipulated under the law, that the onus is upon the officer or staff member of the travel agency to ensure room sharing between different genders including tourist guides and bus drivers during the course of a tour does not occur.

"We reiterate that the spirit of the amended regulation was for tour operators and travel agents to provide separate rooms for tourist guides in an effort to end the practice of room-sharing between genders in the tourism industry," she said.

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