I think the variation really depends on a lot of factors.
When I walked with my girlfriend she said the harassment would drop to about 10% of walking alone.
And it also depends on race, she’s Asian, and many Latin Americans (and other people) think Asians are easy and weak. Which is stupid.
Your milage may vary and everyone’s perception of how good or bad it is is literally relative (especially relative to your original culture, so if you’re from a Latin country yourself, it might be easier to adjust).
The only way to measure it would be to compare it to another country. So let’s pick The Netherlands. Compared to the Netherlands, Colombia has really bad female safety/friendliness. Compared to the Netherlands, Colombia is extremely sexist, patriarchal, macho and male-dominated. Before you get angry, there’s boat loads of data on this too as you can see below.
On its own, Colombia is fine. Compare it to other countries, not so much. Actually it’s called the #7 worst country to travel to as a female:
It is so bad that even women rights defenders who are women have been targeted and raped. Law enforcement has not been helpful in prosecuting attackers. Women who are sexually attacked have difficulty getting adequate medical treatment due to lack of facilities and interest in appropriate care after such an attack. (Source, Human Rights Watch 2014 report.)
There is a particular problem with the bus system - the main public transportation is unsafe since the buses are dangerous due to attacks and accidents as well as being filthy. In an amusing side-note, this country is so unclear on the concept of what women appreciate that one mayor hired male strippers to celebrate International Women’s Day. Local women and children were not amused.
Here’s some data from Hofstede’s cultural index:
It’s a strongly masculine society:
At 64 Colombia is a Masculine society – highly success oriented and driven. Colombians are competitive and status-oriented, yet collectivistic rather than Individualist. This means that competition is directed towards members of other groups (or social classes), not towards those who are perceived as members of your own in-group.
Add to that very strong hierarchical properties:
At 67 Colombia scores high on the scale of the PDI, so it is a society that believes that inequalities amongst people are simply a fact of life. This inequality is accepted in all layers of society, so a union leader will have a lot of concentrated power compared to his union management team, and they in turn will have more power than other union members. A similar phenomenon will be observed among business leaders and among the highest positions in government.
What does that combine into? Well, a disdain for women and seeing them as inequal to men.
How about human rights for women? Not 100% applicable to travelers but it gets us pretty far. This is from Human Rights Watch:
Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread in Colombia, but studies show that it may be higher for displaced women and girls. The government has laws, policies, and programs to address such violence, and the particular risk to displaced women and girls. However, lack of training and poor implementation of protocols create obstacles for women and girls seeking post-violence care. These include the failure of health facilities to properly implement relevant laws and policies—with the result that women and girls may not be adequately screened for signs of GBV, may be mistreated, may face delays in accessing essential services or be arbitrarily denied medical care altogether.
Barriers to justice for GBV victims include mistreatment by authorities, evidentiary challenges, and fear of retribution. Women and girl victims of this kind of violence are at times not informed about their legal rights, including where and how to access services. Perpetrators of GBV crimes are rarely brought to justice.
Human rights defenders are routinely threatened and attacked by perpetrators who are virtually never brought to justice. On February 28, a pamphlet allegedly signed by the “Águilas Negras-Bloque Capital” paramilitary successor group threatened two United Nations agencies and numerous human rights organizations, including several women’s rights groups. Human Rights Watch documented several cases of rape of women human rights defenders in late 2011 and 2012.
I’m not a white knight. Just showing you the data. And honestly I’m a bit tired with people (especially in Latin America) denying any of these problems. The data shows there’s problems. You might not encounter them ever (esp. as a guy), but they’re still there.
I don’t have a vice against the country either, I had fun there, but Colombia is simply behind on this compared to other countries based on factual data. And that makes it harder for women to travel there than most other countries (except maybe India and the Middle East). It’s not that it’s a conscious thing of people to act in this way, it’s a cultural artifact that perpetuates through upbringing. And sometimes local cultural behavior (like sexism) goes against how the rest of the world is evolving (against sexism).
I don’t think it’s bad to express this either, by expressing it it makes people think about it and work on it. As much as it takes time to change it, there’s good will with Colombians to better the country. You saw that in the last decades how their country has relatively flourished compared to the bad times before. They want change. So let’s figure out where they need the change.