Preventing gender based violence in university: from knowledge to action towards change : Regional Report

Despite its being governed by legal norms, among others, and by specific social, political and economic functions, the public space is « logically » influenced by implicit codes, behaviors and representations associated with the private sphere, especially when it comes to women and girls.

The continuity and/or interconnection between these two spatial categories raise the issue of the Gender construction and distribution of the public space and of each specific location within, and the prevailing power dynamics, especially with regard to GBV in general, and sexual harassment in particular.

A public space without safety for women and girls, whoever they are, could only jeopardize the realization of their rights, and might sometimes-paradoxical though it may seem-lead to their exclusion from this space in the name of their protection, as if they were themselves the problem.

On the other hand, this threatening situation to which women are exposed daily, whether on their way to/from school, university or work, might in the end push them to consider their only solution would be to give up their right to use the public space, a sort of early retirement in both the figurative and literal senses.

It would, however, be logical to think that a space like the university is, by its very nature and by definition, a place of serenity, safety, and even protection against any form of aggression This in view of its primary mission, which consists in producing and transmitting knowledge with actors who convey or receive this knowledge and all the values associated with this mission.

This belief in the symbolic value of the university continues to endure; it is even universal.

But if we refer to certain studies and experiences, we may ask: is this really the case, including in the countries and universities covered by the present study? Is the reality lived in universities similar to what women experience in the street or at home, or is it different? Does GBV , precisely in universities, take on more discreet, less aggressive, and more « politically correct » forms and dimensions? Isn’t the university, in the end, a social microcosm, and like any other public place, not « neutral » in the sense that it is not immune to GBV ? Doesn’t the university perpetuate and reproduce social relations and the inequalities suffered by women, by preserving societal norms and regenerating hierarchies based on Gender discrimination?

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