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Female safety in Portugal vs. Spain

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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Every time a woman posts about harrassment or other sexual incident in Portugal, some forum member typically observes that this sort of thing seems to happen more in Portugal than Spain. That has never sat well with me, just because I don’t think there is any real evidence that this is the case.

Now, with a few days of quarantine as I am locked indoors with covid, I decided to spend some time going through forum posts to see what I could see. This is NOT scientific, not conclusive, but I hope it dispels the notion that we hear about more incidents in Portugal than in Spain.

I scrolled through several pages of threads and noted all the threads that reported about an incident. I stopped after I found the first 25. Of those, 19 are reports in Spain, and 6 are in Portugal. I excluded all discussions about Denise. There are lots more people walking in Spain than in Portugal, sure, and so this tally isn’t at all surprising. But I do hope it will convince people that Portugal is not radically different than Spain in terms of female personal safety.

Wherever it happens, it is terrible and it is something we need to report. But, based on what I have seen, I think that women walking in Portugal are not at greater personal risk than those who walk in Spain. As I have noted in other places, my count is Spain 7 - Portugal 0. I continue to walk alone, but I try to remain alert, walking with the confidence that, statistically, I am much safer on the Camino than in my home town.
 
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Hola - thanks peregrina2000. As a male this is something I do not expect to experience. But I can understand and appreciate how it can affect our female pilgrims. All I can suggest is have 112 programed into your phone and report these incidents as often as they occur. Cheers
 

pa’delante

Planning Portuguese Coast June 2022
Past OR future Camino
Portuguese coastal June 2022
Guarda civil is 062- you’ll have to figure out how to give them the coordinates of where you are and they will be there shortly. Safe travels.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I downloaded the AlertCops app today (I have yet to receive the confirmation text code🤦‍♀️): but that's only for Spain. Does anyone know if there's an equivalent for Portugal?
I don't know whether to continue discussion about practical aspects such as phone numbers and apps here or in a different thread. No doubt moderators will move comments if they think it appropriate.

AlertCops works only in Spain and there is no similar app for Portugal afaik.

When you install AlertCops and activate it you will receive the confirmation text code immediately after you have entered your phone number in international format. You need to pick the appropriate international country code for your own phone number from the menu; there may be problems when your provider does not accept a text from Spain. It worked for me right now and I am not in Spain.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Guarda civil is 062 - you’ll have to figure out how to give them the coordinates of where you are and they will be there shortly.

There is some excellent information that has been tagged onto this forum's webpages. Perhaps some readers have not noticed the info note that I see now and then. It looks like this:

Info on 112 and AlertCops.jpg

You don't have to note down any other phone number for police or emergency services in Spain (or Portugal), only 112, and you don't have to figure out how to give them the coordinates of where you are because the operator who answers your call will guide you through the process of finding this information on your smartphone in case you don't know it anyway, see More on this here.
 
Last edited:

Sineadmk

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May 2013
Every time a woman posts about some kind of harrassment or other sexual incident in Portugal, some forum member typically observes that this sort of thing seems to happen more in Portugal than Spain. That has never sat well with me, just because I don’t think there is any real evidence that this is the case.

Now, with a few days of quarantine as I am locked indoors with covid, I decided to spend some time going through forum posts to see what I could see. This is NOT scientific, not conclusive, but I hope it dispels the notion that we hear about more incidents in Portugal than in Spain.

I scrolled through several pages of threads and noted all the threads that reported about an incident. I stopped after I found the first 25. Of those, 19 are reports in Spain, and 6 are in Portugal. I excluded all discussions about Denise. There are lots more people walking in Spain than in Portugal, sure, and so this tally isn’t at all surprising. But I do hope it will convince people that Portugal is not radically different than Spain in terms of female personal safety.

Wherever it happens, it is terrible and it is something we need to report. But, based on what I have seen, I think that women walking in Portugal are not at greater personal risk than those who walk in Spain. As I have noted in other places, my count is Spain 7 - Portugal 0. I continue to walk alone, but I try to remain alert, walking with the confidence that, statistically, I am much safer on the Camino than in my home town.
Wow... good work @peregrina2000 . It can happen anywhere really (1st time it happened to me walking but I wouldn't wish to count the times over my lifetime from the age of 8 & the first incident!)Wishing you a speedy recovery & out of isolation soon
Every time a woman posts about some kind of harrassment or other sexual incident in Portugal, some forum member typically observes that this sort of thing seems to happen more in Portugal than Spain. That has never sat well with me, just because I don’t think there is any real evidence that this is the case.

Now, with a few days of quarantine as I am locked indoors with covid, I decided to spend some time going through forum posts to see what I could see. This is NOT scientific, not conclusive, but I hope it dispels the notion that we hear about more incidents in Portugal than in Spain.

I scrolled through several pages of threads and noted all the threads that reported about an incident. I stopped after I found the first 25. Of those, 19 are reports in Spain, and 6 are in Portugal. I excluded all discussions about Denise. There are lots more people walking in Spain than in Portugal, sure, and so this tally isn’t at all surprising. But I do hope it will convince people that Portugal is not radically different than Spain in terms of female personal safety.

Wherever it happens, it is terrible and it is something we need to report. But, based on what I have seen, I think that women walking in Portugal are not at greater personal risk than those who walk in Spain. As I have noted in other places, my count is Spain 7 - Portugal 0. I continue to walk alone, but I try to remain alert, walking with the confidence that, statistically, I am much safer on the Camino than in my home town.
Wow .. good work @Pere
 
There's an app called What Three Words that gives your precise location very quickly and easily. I don't know if the Iberian police are using it but a number of other countries emergency services are.

Countries aren't moral agents mskin choices, so it's not an insult to them to say that there's a high or higher prevalence of criminal indecency. It's a function of their anthropology. Some countries I've visited are high prevalence (Italy, Portugal), others median (Spain), others very low (Saudi Arabia). My own country has a relatively low level because it's an honour culture in which only a rare individual could escape the taboo of internalised and externally imposed shame. This is not self-praise; like some other (but not all) honour cultures we have a very high level of violence generally. Saudi is not an honour culture but it is zero-tolerant of indecency, commits huge resources to detecting it, and punished it savagely.

The country is not to blame, but anthropology is a determinant and facts are facts. The individuals are very much to blame everywhere.

Pilgrims would be much reassured if they knew the resources both the Guardia Civil and the GNR devote to Camino security. This includes scanning passport info, visual patrols, and undercover officers both male and female.

The Camino is safer than anywhere I've ever been, but even one such incident, however "minor", is completely unacceptable.
 

Teej41

Member
Past OR future Camino
April/May 2018
Every time a woman posts about harrassment or other sexual incident in Portugal, some forum member typically observes that this sort of thing seems to happen more in Portugal than Spain. That has never sat well with me, just because I don’t think there is any real evidence that this is the case.

Now, with a few days of quarantine as I am locked indoors with covid, I decided to spend some time going through forum posts to see what I could see. This is NOT scientific, not conclusive, but I hope it dispels the notion that we hear about more incidents in Portugal than in Spain.

I scrolled through several pages of threads and noted all the threads that reported about an incident. I stopped after I found the first 25. Of those, 19 are reports in Spain, and 6 are in Portugal. I excluded all discussions about Denise. There are lots more people walking in Spain than in Portugal, sure, and so this tally isn’t at all surprising. But I do hope it will convince people that Portugal is not radically different than Spain in terms of female personal safety.

Wherever it happens, it is terrible and it is something we need to report. But, based on what I have seen, I think that women walking in Portugal are not at greater personal risk than those who walk in Spain. As I have noted in other places, my count is Spain 7 - Portugal 0. I continue to walk alone, but I try to remain alert, walking with the confidence that, statistically, I am much safer on the Camino than in my home town.
I'd like to confirm that undercover members of the Spanish police are present on the Camino. We had a very pleasant and helpful young man with us in the latter stages of the trek out to Finistera. We would have no idea that he was a 'policeman' until he told us so. I can only hope that this fact will give assurance to some of the pilgrims out there.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Some countries I've visited are high prevalence (Italy, Portugal), others median (Spain), others very low (Saudi Arabia).

What is the source of this ranking?

Pilgrims would be much reassured if they knew the resources both the Guardia Civil and the GNR devote to Camino security.

And just a quick heads up — if you have read the thread posted by @Sineadmk, you will know that thet GNR is NOT the proper reporting agency for these incidents when they occur in Portugal. Go to the local PSP office.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Every time a woman posts about harrassment or other sexual incident in Portugal, some forum member typically observes that this sort of thing seems to happen more in Portugal than Spain. That has never sat well with me, just because I don’t think there is any real evidence that this is the case.

Now, with a few days of quarantine as I am locked indoors with covid, I decided to spend some time going through forum posts to see what I could see. This is NOT scientific, not conclusive, but I hope it dispels the notion that we hear about more incidents in Portugal than in Spain.

I scrolled through several pages of threads and noted all the threads that reported about an incident. I stopped after I found the first 25. Of those, 19 are reports in Spain, and 6 are in Portugal. I excluded all discussions about Denise. There are lots more people walking in Spain than in Portugal, sure, and so this tally isn’t at all surprising. But I do hope it will convince people that Portugal is not radically different than Spain in terms of female personal safety.

Wherever it happens, it is terrible and it is something we need to report. But, based on what I have seen, I think that women walking in Portugal are not at greater personal risk than those who walk in Spain. As I have noted in other places, my count is Spain 7 - Portugal 0. I continue to walk alone, but I try to remain alert, walking with the confidence that, statistically, I am much safer on the Camino than in my home town.
I was one of those guilty parties that has posted there seems to be more problems in Portugal than Spain. It is a silly thing to do based on absolutely no knowledge than the random things I have seen in threads regarding harrassment. I can safely say I have probably never read every comment on these threads since they usually garner alot if interest and input. I for one apologize and want to thank you for opening my eyes. From now on I think I will just post what I think is indisputable advice to all. That being have the information and phone numbers to know who to call in an emergency. In Spain download the ALertCops app. Everyone should have this app on their phone. Finally I would say that if someone feels uncomfortable seek out other pilgrims to walk with, if you are starting to feel uneasy, wait for other pilgrims to come and walk with them if it is possible to do so. Pilgrimage s a wonderful place to be but we cannot lose ourselves in the fantasy that each person is as caring and giving as the pilgrims we would like to think we are as well as each citizen of the country we are walking in is as nice as the vast majority of the local people we meet on our caminos. Once again I apologize.
 
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2022
I was one of those guilty parties that has posted there seems to be more problems in Portugal than Spain. It is a silly thing to do based on absolutely no knowledge than the random things I have seen in threads regarding harrassment. I can safely say I have probably never read every comment on these threads since they usually garner alot if interest and input. I for one apologize and want to thank you for opening my eyes. From now on I think I will just post what I think is indisputable advice to all. That being have the information and phone numbers to know who to call in an emergency. In Spain download the ALertCops app. Everyone should have this app on their phone. Finally I would say that if someone feels uncomfortable seek out other pilgrims to walk with, if you are starting to feel uneasy, wait for other pilgrims to come and walk with them if it is possible to do so. Pilgrimage s a wonderful place to be but we cannot lose ourselves in the fantasy that each person is as caring and giving as the pilgrims we would like to think we are as well as each citizen of the country we are walking in is as nice as the vast majority of the local people we meet on our caminos. Once again I apologize.
I'm not saying you needed to apologize, but it's rare, noble, and brave of you to do so if you feel you were wrong and want to say so. You've set a good example for all of us, because we all have something to apologize for, really.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Thanks for the research. And I think generally speaking we are safe on these caminos.

Every country on this planet has badly behaved individuals. Some countries may not have the resources to combat sexual harassment but even those that have both the will and the resources to do so, have limits to being able to address it.

Spain is a Tier 1 country and Portugal is a Tier 2 country on the US State Department’s 2021 TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report. The relevance to this thread being that the report status gives an indication to the country’s capacity to address and deal with specific forms of violence against women and children. Overall, Spain may do a better job than Portugal, but Portugal is trying. I invite people to check out their own country’s status, recognizing that even in Tier 1 countries, violence against women and children is still at appalling levels.

 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I was one of those guilty parties that has posted there seems to be more problems in Portugal than Spain. It is a silly thing to do based on absolutely no knowledge than the random things I have seen in threads regarding harrassment.
Actually what prompted me to go looking at the threads was when another moderator said the same thing. It’s not a case of blaming or apologies. And I am not making any claims about relative frequencies, just noting that the forum posts don’t support the impression. There may be statistical evidence out there, but since neither country treats these incidents as criminal infractions, I think it’s going to be impossible to get real data.

For me, the only important takeaway is that women walking alone in either country should not let their guard down, should understand that there is a risk of this kind of behavior, and then make their decisions about walking based on their comfort levels.
 
Past OR future Camino
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Guarda civil is 062- you’ll have to figure out how to give them the coordinates of where you are and they will be there shortly. Safe travels.
For your international location, easy : have "What Three Words" app programed into your phone it will provide a unique three word answer that is within 5 metres of your location. Cheers
 

Walton

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
Safety and security is something that is important regardless whether you are in your home country or walking in Spain or Portugal or wherever.

I have suggested in the past that you could check with your local police as to whether there are nearby self defence classes. Many classes are designed specifically by women, for women.

Many martial art schools have children's classes but you'd be best to make sure it is recommended and above board.

These classes won't make you a self defence expert but they will teach you a lot about situational awareness, body posture confidence and escape fast techniques.

If there are no courses nearby, you could check out martial arts classes. Most martial art schools such as karate, wing chun kung fu etc, will allow you to observe a lesson to see if that art is for you.

I chose Wing Chun Kung Fu because of my advanced age (60) when beginning because it is a more gentle art physically than say Karate or Judo etc.

The only thing to be aware of is that martial arts take many years of lessons and practice to become proficient whereas specific self defence courses teach the very basics in a short time.

Something to think about.

Best

Graham
 

WestKirsty

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CNorte/Prim 2016
CSal 2017
CF 2021/22
CVasco 2022
I noted that a few posts in this thread mention finding a way to know your exact location. I learned recently that you can do this very easily with Google Maps. Just hold your finger on the blue dot that shows where you are and after a few seconds the coordinates appear at the top. I was quite pleased when someone showed me this little trick!
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I noted that a few posts in this thread mention finding a way to know your exact location. I learned recently that you can do this very easily with Google Maps. Just hold your finger on the blue dot that shows where you are and after a few seconds the coordinates appear at the top. I was quite pleased when someone showed me this little trick!

WhatsApp has that feature and it’s easy to share. If you click on the little + sign to the left of the box where you type your message, you can “share your live location” and it will be transmitted to the number you are communicating with. Emergency services in Spain (112) use that method.
 
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There's an app called What Three Words that gives your precise location very quickly and easily. I don't know if the Iberian police are using it but a number of other countries emergency services are.

For your international location, easy : have "What Three Words" app programed into your phone it will provide a unique three word answer that is within 5 metres of your location.
The best results come when you set the app to report the location's three words in the local language.
 
Last edited:

hunsta

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Portuguese May 2023
Can I ask? And I only ask as Id like to know. Has there been a marked increase in incidents over say the last few years. I was on my first Camino in early May 2015 when a certain tragedy occurred. However at the time, any form of assault was considered rare-ish at best. To my knowledge.
So as to my question. Has there been a greater increase of late? And if so, is it because of more assaults being reported?
I would hate to think that anybodies camino be lessened by such actions by an individual.
 
Anything that puts pilgrims at risk is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. Judicial attitudes to harassment and indecency are changing in Spain and Portugal but have not yet reached the degree of seriousness with which these crimes are regarded in other countries. Organisations in Portugal and Spain are fighting to change this and it may be possible for Camino organisations to link up with these and help to advocate, raise awareness and lobby government.

The way in which the police can be contacted in an emergency might also be improved. It would be useful to have an app which provided a button on a mobile phone's home-screen which when pushed would send an alert to the nearest police control room showing the location of the sender; and police patrols might be increased and their movements optimised to reduce response times. Faster response times have almost eliminated bank robberies and have been very successful in reducing car theft and street violence. Nothing deters offenders more than the knowledge that the police are about to arrive quickly, before they can escape.

This revolting crime is, like all crime, present in all countries and while it can be reduced, it can never be completely eliminated. But I agree with posters who say that the Camino is safer by far than most other places, and certainly far safer than the city I come from.

Another danger we need to deal with is fear of crime. In London years ago the police struggled to persuade older people that the streets were safe, and that they shouldn't be afraid to leave their homes. Many didn't listen and lived lonely lives. The Camino is not just a holiday. Many pilgrims need to do a Camino for personal of spiritual reasons. For them it's an essential journey. Others find that the Camino changes their lives. It's because of this need, and this power, that hospitaleros/as freely offer their time freely to serve pilgrims. You won't find them in Brighton or Palm Beach.

So if even one pilgrim were deterred from making this essential journey by fear, the criminal has won and we who love the Camino have lost, and the spiritual opportunity is lost, the promise wasted, the damage done irreparably.

It's up to all of us to do all we can to stop this from happening.
 

Pathfinder075

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
I have only personally had one disturbing incident that affected me and a situation with a peregrina that didn't feel right and I probably overreacted, but it was in the area outside Astorga. I am not female for the record.

My personal incident, was a menacing guy stood in the trees in between Sarria and Portomarin on my first camino, years back. I think he was connected to the deaf beggars/scammers, like a pimp, as they were about 200m up the path, but within visual distance. I removed the tips from my poles and shortened them to a more useful length and prepared for the worse, as he started following me. He stopped when he got to the two beggars and nothing else occurred, but I made him quite aware that I had prepped my poles for battle and was keeping an eye on him as I walked.

The incident with the peregrina was just outside Astorga, I watched two people that didn't look like pilgrims following a German girl, just outside Astorga. So I shadowed them for a couple of miles and eventually struck up conversation with her and walked her to her albergue in El Ganso. I did inform her about the two guys that were following her, but she said she knew they were and had been since Astorga. The overreaction is probably because of the location and the Denise killing was still pretty recent at that point, plus she went down to that village off the main path with the cobbled streets. Anyway I just made sure she made it to her albergue (and had a good chat with her at the same time).

Apart from that I only untip my poles when I come across semi dangerous looking dogs. A few of those were found on the stages of the VdlP from Ourense (on the Canedo variant).

99% of the time I have never had issue.

If you are considering Martial Arts, Krav Maga is pretty good and it's all practical experience and knowledge based on real situations and how to deal with them.
 
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The way in which the police can be contacted in an emergency might also be improved. It would be useful to have an app which provided a button on a mobile phone's home-screen which when pushed would send an alert to the nearest police control room showing the location of the sender;
This is pretty much the AlertCops app.
police patrols might be increased and their movements optimised to reduce response times.
The police do patrol the camino and, I believe, even disguised as pilgrims.
 

Pathfinder075

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
The police do patrol the camino and, I believe, even disguised as pilgrims.
I walked with a police officer between Bandeira and Ponte Ulla, on the second year I walked. She wasn't patrolling the trail (AFAIK), just walking for leisure. Was attached to the force in Valencia. She had just done the Invierno.

As for Frances, I think I only spotted over police units on the camino twice. Once outside Santiago near the TV place (near Monte de Gozo) and just before Rabanal. It might be different now, with better proliferation. But in 2016/17 there were not that many (but possibly more undercover). From pictures and videos I've seen a late, they seem to be more overt now and stationed all over the place, which is definitely better. Hopefully with the app or via 112 it will get a reasonably quick response, if you need them.
 

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