There are examples of cases where tour groups in Iceland have refused to be guided by a woman. The Icelandic Centre for Gender Equality was contacted by a woman last week who reported having been ousted and subsequently replaced by a male guide; the tour group did not want to be guided or driven by a female guide. A similar case occurred at the beginning of the summer. Bergljót Þrastardóttir, a specialist at the Centre for Gender Equality, told RÚV that the woman who reported the case had told her that it was not a unique incident.
“She speaks about it as if this has been going on for a while and is very dissatisfied, because it is happening not only to her but also to other women in the industry,” Bergljót remarked. In addition to having caused the woman to suffer a loss of income, Bergljót says that the incident is a clear breach of the law. “This is a violation of article 18 of the Equal Opportunities Act, which states that employers ought to systematically work towards equalizing the status of the genders within companies as well as do their part to ensure that jobs are not classified as particularly male or female professions.”
People whose rights are violated in this way need to press charges themselves. Many find it difficult. “The party in question has to go through a complaint process. These women haven’t wanted to do so, of course thinking about their job security, but we definitely have to make sure that this is alright, that no laws are being broken. That has to be ensured,” said Bergljót. She continued by encouraging people to report all such incidents.
Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, chairperson of the Icelandic Tourist Board, stated that the board does not monitor whether equal opportunity legislation is followed as part of its licensing process. That is not their legal role.
“License granting from the tourist board is limited to granting licenses to tour operators and travel agencies and these licenses are essentially based on consumer protection. However, I think it is important to mention that in Iceland there is a quality control system within the tourism industry called Vakinn. Within it, there are provisions regarding social responsibility and it is of course assumed that companies operate on the basis of laws and regulations,” Ólöf Ýrr said. The Tourist Board has not seen formal complaints of this nature before.
Information regarding the specific travel agency or tour group involved in this incident are not available at this time.