Prevention

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.

Prevention

Laws should require that property owners and managers take actions to prevent sexual harassment through policy development, training, and grievance procedures. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests that property managers can adopt the following practices to help prevent sexual harassment:

  • Develop policies against sexual harassment;
  • Develop processes for people applying for housing and for tenants to report sexual harassment;
  • Establish sanctions for employees, contractors, and other agents who sexually harass tenants or applicants;
  • Educate employees and residents about these policies.

(See: US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Policy Guidance, 2008)

CASE STUDY – Scotland

In Scotland, sexual harassment in the housing context is currently prohibited under the Sex Discrimination Act as well as other anti-harassment laws. The prohibition extends to landlords or anyone working for them, letting agents, estate agents, mortgage lenders, or any other service providers. Victims have a variety of avenues for redress. The Scottish housing rights group, Shelter, highlights the following options for victims of harassment:

  • Make a complaint to professional umbrella organizations, such as the national estate agents association, or to the employer of the harasser such as the lending company;
  • Bring a complaint under the Sex Discrimination Act;
  • Get advice from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau;
  • Make a police report;
  • Take action in court with the help of a solicitor.

Scotland’s Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) is monitored by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which can provide advice on cases and, when cases merit, help victims take them to court. The SDA also allows individuals who have been discriminated against to send the entity that took the discriminatory action an SDA questionnaire which asks for an explanation of the behavior. The response or lack of response to such a questionnaire often helps determine whether legal action is warranted. If a woman is experiencing harassment by a government employee in charge of housing, she also has the option to take a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. If a woman is being harassed by a neighbor, that activity is not covered under the Sex Discrimination Act and accordingly must be dealt with through a police report or other court action. Scottish courts can issue a non-harassment order, which will ban the harasser from continuing the harassing behavior, or an interdict, which will require a harasser to stay away from the victim, the victim’s home, and/or family. Victims may also raise claims for economic damages in court. (See: Sexual Harassment, Shelter).