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Understanding violence and harassment in housing: comparing litterature with feminist struggles

Authors: Marie-Eve Desroches*, Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Topics: Gender, Women, Social Geography
Keywords: sexual harassment, housing, gender-based violence, feminism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Home should be a place of trust and respite from violence in the public sphere (e.g. street and workplace harassment). However, it is not a safe place for all since the majority of violence takes place in private homes and by known persons such as intimate partners, family members, friends, but also landlords, superintendent, building managers, co-roomers and neighbours. Although this violence affects many women around the world, especially in cities experiencing a housing crisis, this issue remains poorly documented compared to other forms of sexual harassment and violence. This paper compares the existing literature on sexual harassment in housing with the work of a community organization in Montreal. Since 2013, the Centre d'éducation et d'action des femmes Montréal has met with more than 200 survivors who have experienced inappropriate comments, sexual advances, threats, exhibitionism, voyeurism, touching and assault in their homes. These activists see this violence as a sexual assault. Their actions, based on a popular education approach, aim to ensure that actors in the housing sector take a public stand against this violence so that the unequal power relationships that allow violence may change. In contrast, the majority of the literature defines the issue as an expression of gender-based discrimination that can lead to sexual violence. This vision leads to legal remedies to make formal complaints about discrimination and harassment. These distinct visions show that this issue should be more thoroughly studied to understand better the scope of the problem and the different courses of action to undertaken.

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