Imagine you are walking down a city street. It is windy and raining. Amidst the bustle you see a young woman. She sits under a railway bridge, hardly protected from the rain and holds a woolen hat containing a small number of coins. You can see that she trembles from the cold. Or imagine seeing an old woman walking in the street at dusk, clutching her bag with one hand and a walking stick with the other. A group of male youths walk behind her without overtaking, drunk and in the mood for mischief. It doesn't need an academic to say what vulnerability is. We can all see it, much more often than we care to.
This paper was prepared as part of GenBenefit, a research project funded by the European Community's Sixth Framework Programme, but reflects only the authors’ views. We are grateful to the members of the GenBenefit Group and Armin Schmidt for comments on an earlier draft.