Harassment in Housing

last updated December 2014

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women’s Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at www.endvawnow.org.

Overview and Core Elements of Sexual Harassment Laws in the Housing/ Accommodation Context

Sexual harassment can have severe negative impacts on the rights of women to live in safe, affordable housing. The right to choose housing also impacts other aspects of a woman’s life, such as her ability to get safely to and from her place of employment, the schools her children attend, as well as access to goods and services in her neighborhood.

Core Elements of Sexual Harassment Laws in the Housing/ Accommodation Context

Laws related to sexual harassment in housing should:

·         Recognize sexual harassment in housing as a form of discrimination;

·         Make it unlawful to condition access to or retention of housing or housing-related services or transactions on sexual conduct or favors; and

·         Make it unlawful for a housing provider and associated employees and agents to engage in sexual or sex-based behavior that makes the housing environment offensive or significantly less desirable.

Sexual harassment laws in this context should also follow the general principles on sexual harassment laws. The Caribbean Community Secretariat has promulgated model legislation relative to sexual harassment which includes a prohibition of sexual harassment in accommodation. Specifically, the model law states:

It is unlawful for a person to make it reasonably appear to another person that

(1)  the terms on which the first-mentioned person offers the other person accommodation;

(2)  the first-mentioned person’s acceptance of the other person’s application for accommodation;

(3)  the time of processing of the other person’s application for accommodation, or the order of precedence of the other person or any list of applicants for that accommodation;

(4)  the other person’s access or the extent of such access to any benefit connected with the accommodation;

(5)  the failure to evict the other person or to subject that other person to any other detriment in relation to the accommodation, is or are contingent on that other person’s acceptance of sexual advances or toleration of persistent sexual suggestions or innuendo from the first-mentioned person.

(See: CARICOM Model Legislation on Sexual Harassment, clause 5)

Many countries’ anti-discrimination laws also prohibit discrimination in accommodation, which include a prohibition of sexual harassment. Benin’s 2006 law prohibits sexual harassment no matter where it takes place. Ireland’s and Mauritius’ laws prohibit any form of discrimination in accommodation, among other realms. Malta’s law states that:

Persons responsible for… any establishment at which goods, services or accommodation facilities are offered to the public, shall not permit other persons who have a right to be present in, or to avail themselves of any facility, goods or service provided at that place, to suffer sexual harassment at that place. 

(See: Equality for Men and Women Act, Art. 9(2)(a))



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