The latest version of a travel brochure released by the Canadian government has sparked some controversy among those who have no interest in lying about their marital status. The "greater obstacles" faced by women travelling alone, especially in relation to cultural and religious beliefs, could require donning a wedding band, whether it's real or fake.
"Her Own Way: A Women's Safe Travel Guide" was first published by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in 2000, and outlines female-specific tips for travelling. Its advice includes coping with sexual harassment and ways to find safe accommodation, "one of a woman traveller's primary goals."
But as OpenFile Toronto reported earlier this week, the 2011 version -- the third reprinting of the brochure -- includes information about travelling that can also mean changing your relationship. "Wear a (fake) wedding ring," it reads. "Also carry a photo of your husband (or an imaginary one), which you can show to persistent suitors. Being seen as married will lower your profile and stave off uninvited advances."
"The suggested strategy to 'wear a (fake) wedding ring' was first included in the most recent edition of the guide, following extensive consultations with dozens of experienced women travellers, missions abroad, consular case management officers and travel experts," explained Foreigns Affairs spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve told the Huffington Post Canada in an email. He went on to say that the advice was situation-specific, rather than country-specific.
But the segment has come across as judgemental, and even dishonest, to some.
"It's an approach that some Canadians believe is deceitful, paternalistic and preachy, while others think the lie is a good safety technique for women," wrote OpenFile reporter Carol Thomson.
While the Canadian government isn't the first to suggest such a practice -- travel forums like HostelBooker.com and TravBuddy.com are filled with similar such advice -- Ottawa appears to be the first authoritative body to publish these findings.
An equivalent document in Australia, "Travelling Women," carries similar tips about being careful after dark and even bears a warning about starting overseas relationships (as does the Canadian brochure). Nothing is mentioned about relationship status.