Tourists are more likely to be raped in Italy than India.


Phat Cat
Super Mod
Feb 23, 2009
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Headlines like those about the Ecuador bus crash last year, in which five British girls were killed, make anxious reading for the parents of the 250,000 young people who take a time out to travel every year

For thousands of school leavers a gap year is almost a rite of passage, an adventure before they knuckle down to the serious business of studying for a degree, while for others it is an opportunity to do voluntary work in far-flung places.

But for every carefree 18-year-old gapper there is an anxious parent waiting back at home.

Gap organisations have reported a rise in calls from parents concerned for the welfare of their children, many of whom are leaving home for the first time.

Peter Slowe, the founder of gap organisation Projects Abroad, chaired the first Gap Year Safety Conference in London this week. Held in response to growing concerns about the risks faced by gappers, it follows a series of high-profile gap-year tragedies.

But it is important not to exaggerate the risks involved, said Dr Slowe. “Our watchword is ‘reality’,” he told the conference. “There is a certain amount of over-hype about safety and the risks of gap year travel. The truth is that you’re more likely to be mugged in Madrid than in Madagascar, and you’re more likely to be raped in Italy than in India.

Meanwhile, Ian French, who founded the charity GapAid after the death of his daughter Georgia in a bus crash in Peru in 2007, said that the responsibility for providing guidance on gap year safety lay with schools – but that they were failing in their duty.

“Schools have a huge role to play in preparing for gap years but they just don’t get involved,” he said. “I think it’s very uncomfortable for them. But there is an enormous responsibility on the education sector and the government – they should put this on the national curriculum.”

Mr French, whose daughter was the third girl from her school to die while on a gap year in recent years, added that the government needed to raise awareness of safety in such a way that it did not "turn off" prospective gappers.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which advises travellers through the "Know Before You Go" campaign, said it was looking into the possibility of producing a schools pack on gap year safety which could be incorporated into the curriculum.

While the extra safety-conscious parent might want to use a personal protection service to keep tabs on their child (one company offers a 24/7 satellite tracking service), most of the speakers at the conference urged a common sense approach to gap year travel.

The advice was largely the same – go with a reputable organisation, travel in a group, take out a comprehensive insurance policy, look after your health and never let your guard down.

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