7.Lessons Learned from Gender-Based Violence Reporting

Journalists from around the globe, who met at the consultations convened by the Center for Women’s Global leadership in 2018 and 2019, discussed the key lessons learned from their experience reporting on gender-based violence. 

The journalists said that regardless of its prevalence and context, gender-based violence is preventable and should be portrayed as a violation of universally protected basic rights and freedoms.


Highlighted Lessons

  • Securing relevant and reliable data may require:
    • Seeking disaggregated data (broken down by gender, age, race, location, etc.)
    • Questioning data trends: for instance, do they reflect changes in violence rates or in reporting trends among victims?
    • Being aware of data gaps: what are official statistics not counting/measuring?
    • Reporting on women’s perceptions of risks as well as actual incidents of violence
  • Learning from expert sources: Academic experts, NGOs, advocates, and service providers can give invaluable context, story ideas, and guided access to survivors.
  • Understanding that individual stories are more compelling when linked to patterns of harassment and violence, root causes, contributing factors and other forms of discrimination and abuse in the community.
  • Contributing to the public discourse by exposing the multiple reasons why a majority of women may not report incidents of harassment or violence and exploring the lessons learned from the #MeToo movement.
  • Focusing the narrative on key issues of prevention and accountability, regardless of the immediate circumstances leading to acts of violence (in the life of a perpetrator or a victim, for example) or increases in patterns of violence (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Following up on news stories broadens the public understanding of key issues such as:
    • Implementation and impact of new laws and policies addressing gender-based violence
    • Accountability of perpetrators and government agencies
    • Long lasting impact of violence on the dignity, health, and livelihood of survivors
    • Community-based solutions
  • Featuring traditionally underreported or unreported issues, such as the disproportionate and multi-layered impact of gender-based violence on the most vulnerable: girls, migrants, Indigenous communities, LGBT people, informal sector workers, migrants, and disabled women, among others.

7.7.1.Femicide concept of femicide

The term “femicide,” although coined in the 19th century, was popularized in the ’70s by the late feminist sociologist Diana Russell. She defined it as “the killing of females by males because they are female … When the gender of the victim is irrelevant to the perpetrator, the murder qualifies as a non-femicidal crime.”1

Russell hoped that the term could become a tool to mobilize against this most extreme form of gender-based violence, but it took almost three decades for the concept to be disseminated. In 2004, she met a prominent Mexican politician and feminist scholar, Marcela Lagarde, who invited her to speak in Juarez, Mexico. Lagarde later chaired a commission on femicide in the Mexican congress. Freelance journalist and former Fulbright scholar Aaron Shulman credited Lagarde for the spread of her advocacy efforts to Guatemala where, he wrote in the Dec. 28, 2010, edition of The New Republic:2

“Activists, in dialogue with their Mexican counterparts, grew enthusiastic about using the term to combat murders in their own country, which had become a kind of Juarez writ large … Thus the idea of ‘femicide’ struck a chord. In 2008, prompted by a domestic campaign and international pressure, the Guatemalan congress passed Decree-22, the Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women.”

“The word [feminicidio] has certainly affected Guatemalan culture, becoming a part of the national lexicon and entering the speech of everyday people as well as sensationalist tabloids,” Shulman wrote. “And there has been a significant increase in reports of violence against women brought to the police. What’s more, the word has been a useful tool for people trying to roll back Guatemala’s culture of impunity, providing publicity and legitimacy to anti-femicide groups which have found it easier to send offenders to jail.”

Globally, no universal consensus has been reached on the definition of femicide/feminicide, but the term is increasingly used to include a wide variety of gender-related killings of women punishable under domestic laws. It is worth noting that not all languages having a precisely equivalent term; the scope of the concept may vary semantically and legally. At the international level, however, femicide has been recognized as the most extreme form of gender-based violence.3

The late Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodríguez, who investigated the Ciudad Juarez femicides, in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, summarized the essence of the term:

“Men are not killed for being men. Women are killed for being women, and they are victims of masculine violence because they are women. It is a hate crime against the female gender. We cannot ignore this. These are crimes of power. Yes, men are killed like flies, but they are not killed for being men.”4

Similarly, after founding the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, Myrna Dawson highlighted the misogynistic roots of femicide:

“Femicide is the misogynistic killing of women by men,” she said. “We need to label it as such to distinguish it from the killing of men – they too are most often killed by men, but for different reasons and in different situations … Until we label misogynistic killings for what they are, their underlying motivations will be obscured and our ability to respond disabled.”5

Until we label misogynistic killings for what they are, their underlying motivations will be obscured and our ability to respond disabled.

Government and intergovernmental entities, as well as academics, women’s rights advocates, and human rights law experts, have contributed different definitions of the word “femicide.” Following are several complementary definitions selected by CWGL to help journalists relay its complexity to their viewers and readers. This terminology is also directly related to issues of data collection, legal protection and remedies, accountability, and prevention.


Declaration on Femicide (2008)

Article 2, adopted by the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Organization of American States Convention of Belém do Pará.

“Femicide is the violent death of women based on gender, whether it occurs within the family, a domestic partnership, or any other interpersonal relationship; in the community, by any person, or when it is perpetrated or tolerated by the state or its agents, by action or omission.”

Understanding and addressing violence against women (2012)

World Health Organization

“Femicide is generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls.

Femicide differs from male homicide in specific ways. For example, most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.”

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77421/WHO_RHR_12.38_ eng.pdf;jsessionid=F8F7709885A617D2B500A2EB44C88FDB?sequence=1

Modalities for the establishment of a femicide or gender-related killing watch, 2016

A thematic report by Dubravka Šimonović, UN Rapporteur on violence against women. 

Femicide, or the gender-related killing of women, is the killing of women because of their sex and/or gender … It is a clear violation of women’s rights, including the right to life, freedom from torture and to a life free from violence and discrimination.”


Those definitions encompass the main manifestations of femicide, initially categorized, in 2012, by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo.6 Most categories were later adopted, among others, by the European Institute for Gender Equality7 and by the Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women.8

Although designed specifically to guide the investigation and prosecution of these crimes, the protocol can also be very helpful to journalists reporting on them: It clearly identifies the different categories and types of femicide, their gender-related motives and root causes (especially in terms of intersectional discrimination), and the marginalized women most at risk.


  • Intimate partner femicide
  • Killings of women and girls in the name of “honor”
  • Targeted killings of women and girls in the context of armed conflict
  • Dowry-related killings
  • Killings of women and girls based on gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Ethnic and indigenous identity-related killings
  • Female infanticide and feticide9
  • Deaths from harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation
  • Deaths from neglect, starvation, or ill-treatment
  • Targeted killings of women linked to human trafficking, drug dealing, small-arms proliferation, organized crime, and gang-related activities matter

Journalists face a major challenge when it comes to accessing reliable data on femicide. Visual journalist Corinne Chin best formulated the issue in an article about the murder of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico:

“Femicide is not just the killing of victims who happen to be female. It’s a systematic violation of human rights. Whether through domestic violence or sexual assault, the victims of femicide are women who were killed because they are women. Because of this standard’s high burden of proof – and because so many women never have been found – official statistics are almost certainly unreliable.”10

Dubravka Šimonović, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, outlined new processes for the establishment of a femicide observatory in her September 2016 report to the UN General Assembly. The report stressed that “one of her immediate priorities is the prevention of femicide and the use of data on violence against women as a tool to that end … She proposed that data on the number of femicides, disaggregated by the age and ethnicity of victims, and indicating the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, should be published annually.”11 The special rapporteur is still issuing an annual call for femicide-related data to encourage states to gather and publish updated statistics.12

In her 2016 report, the special rapporteur also gave several examples of data collection good practices that reporters may find useful to access statistics from their respective countries or use as comparative data.13

One such example of good practice is the Femicide Census Project, which collects data on femicide within the United Kingdom. It publishes annual statistics on the killings by men of women and girls over age 14 and, in addition to domestic violence cases, it includes a variety of sexually motivated attacks. The census, published in February 2020, reports on femicides in 2018.14

When the Femicide Census was launched in February 2015, Time magazine published an article headlined, “Someone is Finally Starting to Count Femicides.”15 National Correspondent Charlotte Alter took that opportunity to note that. "The U.S. does not track ‘femicide’ specifically, because we tend to call these murders ‘female homicides.’ And while there is a lot of research on fatal domestic violence, the data is not usually presented in the broader context of women being killed by men … Even if the U.S. is not quite on board with the phrasing yet, ‘femicide’ advocates say that the word is a useful way to think about these kinds of murders. Femicide includes any kind of murder where the victim’s gender is a factor in her death.”

That Time article illustrates the importance of linking terminology and data collection. A noteworthy attempt at documenting gender-related killings of women at the global level is the Global Study on Homicide published annually by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In its 2019 report,16 the agency addresses the challenges of obtaining and compiling such data:

“The availability of data on intimate partner/family related homicide means that such killings of females are analysed in greater depth than other forms of ‘femicide’ and that the analysis focuses on how women and girls are affected by certain norms, harmful traditional practices and stereotypical gender roles. Although other forms of gender-related killing of women and girls are described, such as female infanticide and the killing of indigenous or aboriginal women, given severe limitations in terms of data availability, only literature-based evidence is provided.”

Examples of good journalistic practices

“The women killed on one day around the world”

As part of its annual “100 Women” feature, the BBC News website released, on Nov. 25, 2018, a very effective investigation of the global prevalence of femicide.17 The BBC chose the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to report on its initiative. It had spent the previous month monitoring media reports of gender-related killings of women from a single day (chosen randomly), Oct. 1. Its reporters identified 47. This became an opportunity to combine personal stories behind the numbers with an examination of global trends based on UN statistics.

The next day, BBC Monitoring published a follow-up piece, “Violence against women: The stories behind the statistics,”18 detailing the research methods: “Despite our experience in media observation, this was not something that we – or, we believe anyone – had done before. It was not only about ensuring editorially robust data-gathering; it was about surfacing as many of the individual stories as we could find.” The piece ended with a key question: “It makes you wonder: What does it take to make a woman’s killing important enough to be reported?”

Illustrating another example of good practice, the reporting was immediately followed by helpful information and advice to women at risk of violence or abuse.

What does it take to make a woman’s killing important enough to be reported?
“#OneByOne: The murdered women in Pernambuco” (Brazil)

Launched in April 2018 by journalists working for the Jornal do Commercio de Comunicação media network, this documentation project (#UmaPorUma)18 told the stories of all women murdered in 2018 in the state of Pernambuco. The initiative, which involved 26 women journalists, led to the publication of a remarkable eight-page special edition on Feb. 3, 2019.

Aside from providing detailed statistics and analyses, the issue featured examples of best practices:

  • Following-up: “The topic of femicide has always been in our daily lives. The feeling that each of us had is that we did daily coverage, but we did not follow up,” Julliana de Melo, one of the participating journalists, said.20
  • Selecting pictures, illustrations and infographics that allow a non-sensationalizing portrayal of victims and fully respect their dignity.
“Voces Perdidas” (Lost Voices) in Mexico

In 2016, Mexican journalist and activist Frida Guerrera started documenting, investigating, and tallying every case of femicide in Mexico. First in a blog and in a Vice Mexico weekly column, and more recently on her remarkable website, vocesperdidas.mx, she tells the stories behind the statistics. At the same time, she exposes the impunity that fuels the normalization of gender-based violence, even in its most extreme forms. Guerrera pointed out on her website that out of the more than 3,000 cases of women murdered in Mexico in 2019, only 726 had been investigated as femicides.

“Not One Less”: An obituary for victims of femicide in Argentina

A comparable attempt to tell the stories behind the numbers was pursued by the largest newspaper in Argentina, Clarín. On June 3, 2020, it published a special obituary section featuring more than 300 women murdered in that country in the year prior to May 1, 2020.21 The date was chosen to mark the fifth anniversary of the protest movement Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) against the increasing number of femicides in Argentina and the region. The concept originated in Uruguay in 2019 when, as part of UN Women AD campaign “Gender obituaries”, the names of femicide victims were published in the daily funerals section of every newspaper.

The Clarín Group special section included the names of transgender victims of femicide, and showed the increased number of murders since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“Murder at Home” (Kenya)

“Murder at Home” is a Newsplex project exploring the impact of gender-based violence on Kenyan communities. Newsplex, the data journalism desk of the Nairobi-based Daily Nation, uses data analysis to inform public debate. Newsplex infographics and analysis, on Nov. 30, 2019, marked the Global 16 Days Campaign by highlighting the specific impact of gender-related killings.22

We also recommend to the media that it adopt codes of ethics to deal with cases of violence against women, especially femicides, promoting respect for the dignity and integrity of victims and avoiding the dissemination of morbid details and sexist or degrading stereotypes of women.

Earlier that year, scholar and trauma researcher Dr. Kathomi Gatwiri co-founded Counting Dead Women – Kenya, a Facebook page recording every woman’s murder reported in the Kenyan media. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor she said: “This data is important because numbers don’t lie … These are numbers – and faces and stories – that you cannot argue with.”23 Conversely, her statistics are regularly used by the media to report on both the root causes and impact of femicides.

Such examples of journalistic good practices are consistent with the key recommendation made by the Committee of Experts on violence of the OAS Inter-American Commission of Women in their 2008 Declaration on Femicide:

“We also recommend to the media that it adopt codes of ethics to deal with cases of violence against women, especially femicides, promoting respect for the dignity and integrity of victims and avoiding the dissemination of morbid details and sexist or degrading stereotypes of women. The media should play a role in the ethical education of the citizenry, promote gender equity and equality and contribute to the eradication of violence against women.”24 from analyses of femicide media coverage

During the past decade, several scholars from the Americas working in the field of gender-based violence and criminal justice have made significant contributions to the analysis of the media coverage of femicide.

Lane Kirkland Gillespie (Boise State University, USA) and Tara Richards (University of Nebraska, USA) conducted a study25 based on a sample of 299 known cases of femicide (defined in this case as “the killing of a woman by a male intimate partner”). Those cases were mentioned in a total of 995 newspaper articles in the state of North Carolina (USA). This 2011 study “Exploring News Coverage of Femicide: Does Reporting the News Add Insult to Injury?” analyzed victim blaming, sources of information, and the use (or not) of an intimate partner violence (IPV) framework. The latter is especially important in terms of reporting best practices. The researchers sought an answer to the following question: “Did the articles portray the event as isolated or within the context of IPV as a social issue?” The study findings were summarized as follows:

“Articles that were framed as IPV [13.6%] were contextually different from those that were not. First, these articles included the perspective of domestic violence advocates, statistics on the prevalence of intimate partner abuse, and resources for victims and their families. Second, articles framed as IPV frequently placed blame for the femicide on inadequate response by the criminal justice system or faulty criminal justice practices.”

A 2013 Canadian study authored by Myrna Dawson (as Director of Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability) and Jordan Fairbairn,26 and based on the analysis of intimate partner homicide in three Toronto newspapers, revealed some similar findings:

“Results suggest that, in more recent years [1998-2002], news coverage is more likely to report a previous history of intimate partner violence and less likely to employ news that excuses or justifies the perpetrator’s actions. However, coverage continues to employ victim-blaming news frames and to portray intimate partner homicide as an individual event, in part, through the absence of the voices of violence against women organizations, researchers, and service providers as legitimate authorities.”

Chilean legal scholar Patsili Toledo and Chilean journalist and academic Claudia Lagos, referring to the work of Gillespie and Richards, published another study on “The Media and Gender-Based Murders of Women.”27 Theirs was commissioned by the Heinrich Boll Foundation and examines cases from Europe and Latin America.

According to Toledo and Lagos, the media frames, including the police and victim-blaming frames, “maintain a critical disconnection between femicides, presented as isolated, individual cases, and domestic violence as a broader social problem.”

The following case studies, from journalists based in Mexico and Honduras respectively, illustrate some of the issues raised by those researchers.

A. What’s love got to do with it? When femicide is framed as a crime of passion

Handbook Contributor Alice Driver is a Mexico City-based independent journalist and the author of  'More or Less Dead.'



“Cupid’s to Blame,” read the headline in ¡Pásala!, a Mexico City newspaper. The article included a graphic photo of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, who had been stabbed, skinned and disemboweled by her boyfriend. He had immediately confessed to everything. Escamilla was murdered on Feb. 8, 2020, in Mexico City. ¡Pásala!, one of the first newspapers to publish the story, framed it as a crime of passion and in addition to showing the mutilated body of the femicide victim with the story, a picture of her remains was also published on its front page, alongside a photo of a woman in a bikini. ¡Pásala! is far from the only media outlet to have framed femicide as a crime of passion and the proliferation of graphic photos of femicide victims in the Mexican media has been an issue for the past two decades. Feminists have long argued that publishing graphic photos of victims, especially without the permission of their families, re-victimizes the women.

In Escamilla’s case, police who arrived at the scene made the decision to film the perpetrator, Erick Francisco, 46. He was shirtless and covered in blood. They allowed him to explain that he had killed his girlfriend because she had threatened to kill him first. And then the police leaked the video to the press, which allowed the perpetrator of the crime to control the discourse surrounding the femicide victim.

In researching my book, More or Less Dead,28 which is about femicide in Mexico, I discovered that in many cases, misogyny of the police and other officials involved in investigating the crimes – ranging from comments speculating that the victim was a prostitute to telling journalists that femicide was a crime of passion – played a central role in how the violence was later covered in the media. Police also leaked photos of Escamilla’s mutilated remains to the media. The images sent shockwaves through the country and led to massive public protests about the levels of violence against women and the way victims of feminicide are re-victimized by the media.

To change the way femicide is represented in the media in Mexico and around the globe requires a discussion, such as the one that appeared in bajopalabra.com, about the ethics of how femicide victims are represented in print and photography. The prevailing coverage tends to focus on the physical violence and on describing it as gruesomely as possible, while showing shocking, graphic photos. That kind of coverage reads like trauma porn and, although some argue that people need to be shocked in order to pay attention, the problem is that no level of violence against women – not even what Escamilla experienced – is shocking enough. The issue at the heart of how femicide is covered in the media is that violence against women sells, particularly when it is represented in a sensational way. As journalists, we need to think about how we can represent the lives of victims with respect and to question police or other officials who frame such violence in misogynistic terms. Nobody, especially not perpetrators of femicide, should be provided with a media platform to justify violence against women.

In response to the publication of photos of Escamilla’s body, feminist groups around Mexico encouraged citizens to upload pictures of beautiful landscapes to social media with the hashtag #JusticeForIngrid in Spanish. They did it to counter the fact that one of the top searches on social media and on Google related to Escamilla was for photos of “Ingrid Escamilla body skinned.” Their efforts ensured that such searches would be overwhelmed by the photos that feminists and other citizens had posted.

Feminists, via coordinated protests around Mexico, have forced the media to recognize the prevalence of sexist, victim-blaming discourse around femicide. In a period of a few weeks, feminists had called for the creation of Ingrid’s Law, which was later proposed by Ernestina Godoy, the attorney general for justice in Mexico City. The law, if passed, would sanction public servants who leak images from open police investigations.

At a protest against femicide organized in Mexico City on Feb. 14, 2020, feminists chanted “our bodies are not a show” and held protest signs that read, in Spanish, “We demand responsible journalism that doesn’t revictimize us.” The protests forced the media to listen to and interview women and thus begin to discuss the ethics of how femicide victims have been represented. In the long run, it is women – many of them having been victims of violence – who will put their bodies in the streets and fearlessly voice their concerns to change the way femicide victims are represented in the media.

B. Media violence against Honduran women

Wendy Funes is an independent investigative journalist based in Honduras. This case study was adapted from an article published by “Reporteros de Investigación” in February 2018.29


A study of the messaging that two daily newspapers in Tegucigalpa conveyed in 2016 reports about crimes against women’s lives finds that they constructed a narrative that justified their deaths by reinforcing gender roles, labeling, stigmatizing and revictimizing the primary victims/survivors, as well as the secondary victims (family members/community). The newspapers’ coverage demonstrated media violence. It was built on a similar construct of gender in both newspapers, which represented the events without proper investigation, basing the news on anonymous sources that, in most instances, transmitted messages from a faceless official voice.

Another principle from which the media violence sprang was the very similar structure in both newspapers, with active voice for the aggressors and the police, and passive voice for the women, their family members, and survivors. Because of the use of this language, the aggressors seemed to be active, while the victims were always stereotyped as passive.

Victims and their families, revictimized, also suffered symbolic violence from the media exposure of the bodies through graphic language, as evidence that a man exercised power over their bodies and "ended their lives."

My preliminary study analyzed 12 news articles of crimes against women’s lives within the context of violence against women. It was conducted through a critical analysis of the narratives. The articles from news reports were selected randomly for the study as a proposed first approach to the analysis of discourse in media criminology.

The lack of objectivity in the articles is a result of basing most of the information on anonymous official sources, without contrast, without a survivor's voice, people who witnessed the events, secondary victims (family), or professionals on matters of security, criminology, sociology, anthropology, or psychiatry. This latter group could help understand the reality of criminal phenomena as part of a social totality with different explanations and diverse solutions.

The newspapers focused their attention on the police-penal optics and limited death to criminal violence, without exploring social and structural violence promoted by the culture of war and death as a "means for peace." This in turn reinforces the symbolic violence and expressive violence that, according to feminist anthropologist Rita Laura Segato, serve to send a message of control and power from the victimizer, while in the coverage there is a kind of normalization or banalization of the violence.

The news was constructed with poor language, word redundancy, excessive use of pronouns in sentences, passive voice, ambiguous paragraphs, and imprecise data. "It would have been jealousy." The use of the verb "to be" in the conditional represents a sense of anteriority or refers to hypothetical actions. It serves to mitigate the reporter's responsibility in the newsroom. In this context, the conditional mode suggests a lack of commitment to reliability and validity, that is, it implies doubt as to the information.

"She was a graceful woman who liked to show her figure on Facebook; she liked to post photos to her Facebook page modeling her body, receiving hundreds of 'likes' every time she posted an image of her figure," quotes one purported news report, without specifying a source and without exploring the personality of the victim to explain the reason for that journalistic conclusion.

The newspapers' message was based on describing the motivation for each act; that is, media attention was focused on the criminal signature, rather than on the modus operandi, which might help solve the crime. Anonymous police officers offered their narratives at the scene, revictimizing the women without first investigating the possibility that the scenes of women’s violent deaths may have been altered, given complaints about police corruption.

In the analysis, the photographs communicated: doubts about the behavior of the victim; commiseration; doubts about sexual freedom and the victims’ showing off of their bodies in social media; anguish of family members; police as the only responsible authority; loneliness in tragedy; death as a mechanism of distraction and spectacle to satisfy the curiosity of the groups of inquisitive people who hang around the scene of a crime and, at the same time, the help and solidarity that ensue from the incident.

The news in both newspapers obscures the entire set of aggressors' behaviors and focuses only on the criminal behavior directed against the life of the female victims. It leaves out of the scene the subjugated people who obey and keep the victims helpless. While a man who was driving "was forced to,” it is said of the woman that "she was removed." The use of that verb objectifies her, and she ceases to be an animate subject, becoming an inanimate one. The representation is based on the defects of the aggressors, without specifying the emotions or virtues of each character.“That’s not how it was. You need to get this right.”

A woman whose sister was murdered in an incident of domestic violence was quoted as saying: “After having read certain reports, I imagined my sister shouting: ‘No, no, that’s not how it was. You need to get this right.’”

That quotation is included in a 2018 publication of the London-based feminist organization Level Up: Dignity for dead women: Media guidelines for reporting domestic violence deaths.30 Level Up’s advocacy work to end sexism in the United Kingdom led it to create these guidelines to “set a bar for journalistic standards on fatal domestic abuse stories and help put an end to families of victims having their grief and trauma compounded by irresponsible reporting.” Its initial guidelines, after input from UK journalists (including from the BB C and the Huffpost), were adopted by the UK’s two main press regulators: The Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) and Impress. The guidelines can be accessed through the “External resources for journalists” section of the IPSO website.

Every article on fatal domestic abuse is an opportunity to help prevent future deaths.

In its introduction, Level Up asks journalists: “Before you write about fatal domestic abuse, understand that:

  • “When someone has been killed by their partner or ex-partner, this is usually the endpoint to a sustained period of coercive control – not an isolated incident. Including the broader context is a matter of accuracy.
  • “Research shows that narratives of ‘romantic love’ in domestic abuse deaths can lead to lighter sentencing in court.
  • “Insensitive reporting has lasting traumatic impacts on victims’ families. Cultural and religious insensitivity detracts focus from the woman’s life that has been lost.
  • “Every article on fatal domestic abuse is an opportunity to help prevent future deaths.”

Vox senior reporter Anna North recommends those guidelines in an excellent analysis of victim-blaming patterns in the media coverage of some types of femicide. Her Nov. 21, 2019, article features the case of Grace Millane, a British woman who was fatally strangled in New Zealand. Her “accidental’ death was attributed by the perpetrator and his defense lawyers to her “sexual fetishes”, which were also the focus of the media coverage of his trial. North concluded: “As the prosecutor pointed out, ‘you can’t consent to your own murder.’ “

You can’t consent to your own murder.

“It is reasonable for media outlets to cover the defense’s strategy”, North added in her Vox article, “but the way they cover it matters … Many media outlets were leading with the defense’s argument without giving equal prominence to the prosecution. While the attention to the [victim’s] sexual past may reflect a cultural tendency toward victim-blaming, it is also a strategy by media outlets to drive clicks by focusing on sex.”31 global and domestic data resources

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Since her 2015 call for all states to establish a femicide watch and publish disaggregated data on femicide, the UN Special Rapporteur has issued annual calls for states’ submissions and provided links to the reports from each responding country.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/CallForFemi- nicide2019.aspx

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

The first UNODC “Global Study on Homicide” was published in 2011. At the time of writing, the most recent study was dated July 2019. Booklet 5 of the report covers “Gender-related killings of women and girls” (68 pages):

The appended table provides useful information about which offenses are counted as “femicide” in the 18 countries (all in Latin America) that include a legal definition of such offenses in their respective criminal codes.


Fem[in]icide Watch

This global platform, launched in 2017, is a joint project of the United Nations Studies Association (UNSA) Global Network and UNSA Vienna


Academic Council of the United Nations System (May 2017)

“Establishing a Femicide Watch in Every Country” (Femicide publication, Volume VII, May 2017)

https://acuns.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Femicide-Volume-VII-Estab- lishing-a-Femicide-Watch-in-Every-Country.pdf

Small Arms Survey Research Notes

“A Gendered Analysis of Violent Deaths” (November 2016)

http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/H-Research_Notes/SAS- Research-Note-63.pdf

Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability

Its website features a comprehensive review of all the different types of femicide, as well as a library which includes global and regional resources.


It starts With us

“Honors the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans, and two-spirits” and provides information about Canadian community databases documenting their murders.


Violence Policy Center (USA)

“When Men Murder Women” (September 2020)


Women Count USA

A femicide accountability project (includes a database)


Observatorio de feminicidios (Argentina)

The Argentine Ministry of Security established the Observatory in 2016.

http://www.dpn.gob.ar/documentos/Observatorio_Femicidios_-_Femicide_ Report_2017_-_SSEC_OFDPN.pdf

Observatorio Feminicidios Colombia


National Citizen Observatory on Memicide (Mexico)

Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (OCNF). This is the largest femicide watch/observatory in Latin America.


European Observatory on Femicide (EOF)

EOF is a network of country research groups in Europe and Israel.


Trans Murder Monitoring

This is a global monitoring project (started in 2009) of Berlin-based Transgender Europe.


Féminicides par compagnons ou ex (France)

This volunteer collective has been documenting since 2016 murders by current or ex-partners reported in the French press or through social media. A major 2019 Agence France Presse investigation was based on their data.


Endnotes on chapter VII.I.

  1. Russell, D. (2011). The origin and importance of the term femicide. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from author’s website: https://www.dianarussell.com/origin_of_femicide.html
  2. Shulman A. (2010, December 28). The Rise of Femicide. The New Republic. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://newrepublic.com/article/80556/femicide-guatemala-decree-22
  3. United Nations, General Assembly, Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (Section IV, Thematic focus: Modalities for the establishment of femicide or gender-related killings watch, par. 25), A/71/398 (23 September, 2016). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://undocs.org/en/A/71/398
  4. Quoted in: Driver, A. (2012, April 12). The femicide debate. Women’s Media Center. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.womensmediacenter.com/news-features/the-feminicide-debate
  5. Dawson, M. (2018, April 27). Why misogynistic killings need a public label. Policy Options. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2018/misogynistic-killings-need-public-label/
  6. United Nations, Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women ( Section III: Gender-related killings of women), A/HRC/20/16 (23 May 2012). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://undocs.org/A/HRC/20/16
  7. https://eige.europa.eu/thesaurus/terms/1128
  8. UN Women (2014). Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women (par. 44–45). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020 from https://lac.unwomen.org/en/digiteca/publicaciones/2014/10/modelo-de-protocolo
  9. These sex-selective practices resulting in death are sometimes classified under the term “gen- dercide,” which the European Parliament defines as the “systematic, deliberate and gender-based mass killing of people belonging to a particular sex, with lethal consequences” in an October 2013 Resolution: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/ sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7- TA-2013-0400+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN 
    See also: McRobie, H. (2008, July 30). Recogniz- ing ‘gendercide’. The Guardian. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2008/jul/30/gender. warcrimes
  10. Chin, C. & Schultz, E. (2020, March 8). Disappearing Daughters. The Seattle Times. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://projects.seattletimes.com/2020/femicide-juarez-mexico-border/
  11. United Nations, General Assembly, Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (Section IV: Thematic focus: modalities for the establishment of femicide or gender-related killings watch, par. 29), A/71/398 (23 September, 2016). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://undocs.org/en/A/71/398
  12. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/FemicideWatchCall2020.aspx
  13. United Nations, General Assembly, Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (Section IV.C: Good practices on femicides and data collection), A/71/398 (23 September, 2016). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://undocs.org/en/A/71/398
  14. Femicide Census (2020). Annual report on UK femicides 2018. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://femicidescensus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Femicide-Census-Report-on-2018-Femicides-.pdf
  15. Alter, C. (2015, February 28). Someone is finally starting to count ‘femicides’. Time magazine. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://time.com/3670126/femicides-turkey-women-murders/
  16. UNODC (2019). Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls (p.7). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/gsh/Booklet_5.pdf
  17. BBC News (2018, 25 November). The Women killed on one day around the world. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2019 from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46292919
  18. Skippage, R. ( 2018, November 26). Violence against women: The story behind the statistics. BBC News. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46307051
  19. http://produtos.ne10.uol.com.br/umaporuma/e-da-conta-de-todos-nos.php
  20. De Assis, C. (2018, May 16). Brazilian journalists launch project #OneByOne to tell the stories of murdered women in Pernambuco. Journalism in the Americas Blog, Knight Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://latamjournalismreview.org/articles/brazilian-journalists-launch-project-onebyone-to-tell-the-stories-of-murdered-women-in-pernambuco/
  21. Clarín (2020, June 3). En el aniversario de Ni Una Menos, la Iniciativa Spotlight y Clarín publican los obituarios de las víctimas de femicidios del último año en Argentina. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.clarin.com/sociedad/aniversario-iniciativa-spotlight-clarin-publican-obituarios-victimas-femicidios-ultimo-ano-argentina_0_z_J-ijWuU.html
  22. Newsplex Team (2019, November 30). “Gender-based violence can break a woman.” Nation Newsplex. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.nation.co.ke/kenya/newsplex/gender-based-violence-can-break-a-woman-227928
  23. Brown, R.L. (2020, January 8). ‘Numbers don’t lie’: The team ‘Counting Dead Women’ in Kenya. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on September 30, 2020 from https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2020/0108/Numbers-don-t-lie-The-team-Counting-Dead-Women-in-Kenya
  24. Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI). Declaration on Femicide (2008, August 15). https://www.oas.org/en/mesecvi/docs/DeclaracionFemicidio-EN.pdf
  25. Richards, T.N., Gillespie L., & Smith, M.D. (2011, June 23). Exploring news coverage of femicide: Does reporting the news add insult to injury? Feminist Criminology, 6(3) 178-202. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  26. Fairbairn J., Dawson M. (2013). Canadian news coverage of intimate partner homicide: Analyzing changes over time. Feminist Criminology (Volume 8, Issue 3, pp. 147-176). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1557085113480824
  27. Toledo, P. & Lagos, C. (2014). The media and gender-based murders of women: Notes on the cases in Europe and Latin America. Commissioned and published by the Heinrich Boll Foundation. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://eu.boell.org/en/2014/07/24/media-and-gender-based-murders-women-notes-cases-europe-and-latin-america
  28. Driver, A.(2015). More or less dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the ethics of representation in Mexico. Tucson, USA: The University of Arizona Press.
  29. https://www.reporterosdeinvestigacion.com/2018/02/07/violencia-mediatica-en-los-delitos-contra-la-vida-de-mujeres-hondurenas/
  30. Starling, J. (2018). Dignity for dead women: Media guidelines for reporting domestic violence deaths. Level Up (UK). Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020 from https://www.welevelup.org/media-guidelines
  31. North, A. (2019, November 21). “She was fatally strangled. The media is making it about her sex life. Vox. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://www.vox.com/2019/11/21/20976064/grace-millane-death-new-zealand

7.7.2.Domestic Violence

In English, several terms are used interchangeably: domestic violence or abuse, family violence, and intimate partner violence. Domestic violence is the term chosen in this handbook to reflect the lack of cross-cultural consensus on what defines a family structure. As early as 1996, the first UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, recognized that “discussions on family violence have failed to include the broad range of women’s experiences with violence perpetrated against them by their intimates when that violence falls outside the narrow confines of the traditional family.”1 She defined domestic violence as “violence that occurs within the private sphere, generally between individuals who are related through intimacy, blood or law.”2

In a report to the UN General Assembly,3 the Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, clarified in 2019 that “domestic violence includes a wide range of abusive conduct, from culpable neglect and abusive or coercive or excessively controlling behavior that aims to isolate, humiliate, intimidate or subordinate a person, to various forms of physical violence, sexual abuse and even murder. In terms of the intentionality, purposefulness and severity of the inflicted pain and suffering, domestic violence often falls nothing short of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” As such, it is considered a human rights violation that can lead, in its most extreme form, to femicide (see previous section).

Domestic violence often falls nothing short of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

As opposed to intimate partner violence, which refers to forms of abuse and controlling behaviors within an intimate relationship, domestic violence can also encompass abuse against a child or elder, and abuse by any member of a household, including domestic workers. Since the adoption of the Istanbul Convention4 in 2011, it can also include economic violence as a form of coercive control that deprives victims of their autonomy and dignity.

Domestic abuse is sometimes the preferred terminology to avoid limiting this form of violence to its physical manifestations.

“Using the term domestic abuse has spurred a discussion in Australia on the parts of abuse that go unnoticed, such as coercive control and systematic campaigns of domination and degradation” said Australian investigative journalist Jess Hill, who won the 2020 Stella Prize for her book on the topic.5, causes, and risk factors

Selected statistics

The Progress of the World’s Women 2019–2020 report by UN Women6 includes a comprehensive source of statistics in its chapter titled “When home is where the harm is.” In particular, it provides new global and regional data on the “proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15–49 subjected to physical or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months”. The world average is 18%, the highest proportion being 35% in Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand). According to UN Women,7 this global average represents 243 million women and girls.

The World’s Women 2020 Trends and Statistics report8, published at five-year intervals, features the latest available data for 112 countries during the period from 2005 to 2018. It was compiled by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The countries with the highest proportion of violence were Afghanistan (46%), Equatorial Guinea (40%), and Vanuatu (33%). Other key findings are:

  • 58% of countries have recorded a decrease in intimate partner violence since 2005
  • Younger women (15–29 years) are at increased risk of experiencing IPV
  • One in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in her life

Meanwhile, a 2013 WHO study9 estimates that “the global lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence among ever-partnered women aged 15–49 is 27%,” with the highest rate (51%) in Melanesia.


The global lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence among ever-partnered women [aged 15–69] is 30%.

In the United States, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (CDC 2018),10 “1 in 4 women experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported an IPV-related impact during their lifetime.”

Cautionary tales

Those sets of statistics illustrate the need to exercise caution when interpreting data. In this regard, the above reports are important for journalists as they spell out some of the variables and challenges affecting this type of data collection. Regional averages, in particular, can obfuscate significant differences among countries and encourage assumptions.

The World’s Women 2020 report acknowledges, for instance, that “some issues with comparability persist owing to the absence of agreed international definitions in historical data, as well as inconsistent age ranges used in different surveys.”

Similarly, an article in the Medical Journal of Australia11 stressed that available data can vary significantly based on definitions used and the source of public data, such as police, hospitals, courts, community surveys, and clinical studies, among others.

In addition to seeking reliable sources of data, journalists conducting research may also want to explore some of the underlying causes and other factors that contribute to specific incidents or patterns of domestic violence that they are reporting on. It is especially important that these factors be part of an explanatory process, and not perceived as justifications. The multiple causes and predictors of such violence are also key to addressing measures needed to reduce its prevalence.



Root causes
  • Gender inequality, derived assumptions of relative value and worth, and sexist stereotypes
  • Normalization of spousal roles and “rights” that endanger the autonomy and safety of women
  • Normalization of domestic violence, especially when specific forms of violence are condoned, such as wife beating and marital rape
  • Men’s sense of entitlement to a position of power and coercive control within the family
  • Impunity (perpetrators not condemned or punished, perception that women are legitimate targets of violence, and victim-blaming)
  • Perception of domestic violence as a “private matter”
  • Objectification of women, especially through portrayals of women in entertainment and news media, as well as advertising
Conducive contexts
  • Previous/ongoing exposure to violence in the home
  • Economic insecurity and deprivation
  • Discriminatory access to education, employment, land and property rights
  • Inadequate social policies and laws
  • Lack of access to DV resources and remedies, including barriers to reporting
  • Guardianship laws imposing, for example, travel limitations
  • Lockdowns and curfews, such as those resulting from epidemic/pandemic restrictions
  • Natural disasters
Contributing factors
  • Age
  • Substance abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Poor health, including mental health issues
  • Child abuse
  • Threats of separation or divorce
  • Disabilities
  • Unemployment of men that results in their inability to provide for the family


It is further worth noting that many country-level statistics do not reflect the increased vulnerability of marginalized communities, and therefore can hide the roots, interaction and impact of multiple risk factors. This was especially well demonstrated in a 2020 report on Native Hawaiians at risk of IPV during COVID-19.12 It states:

“It is inappropriate to infer that the higher incidence of intimate partner violence experienced by Native Hawaiians is attributable to intrinsic characteristics and/or cultural values and practices. Similar to other native peoples, the higher rates of violence cannot be divorced from oppressive external conditions such as colonization, denial of self-determination, racialized system and structures, and economic stress.”

Addressing the prevalence of domestic violence against indigenous women, the World’s Women 2020 report advocated for their inclusion in surveys on violence against women. As an example, it cites a finding from Australia based on 2016 disaggregated data:

“Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalized from family violence and almost 11 times more likely to be killed as a result of violent assault,” the report said.13 domestic violence coverage: Three media professionals’ perspectives

A. “Why journalists need to do better in reporting on domestic violence”14

Hannah Storm, is the CEO and Director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network (EJN). The following is excerpted from a commentary she published on the EJN website on June 12, 2020.

“[Journalists] must ensure they do not reinforce damaging stereotypes, nor perpetuate narratives that blame the person who was abused, and they must give context to the situation, and offer those at risk and facing the reality of domestic violence, the resources they need to be able to access help and support safely. “And yet, we so often see headlines that shift the blame of abuse away from the perpetrator. We see labels and language used to describe the act which deflects from the fact it is a form of abuse and a crime. How often do we see news media using terms such as ‘thwarted husband,’ ‘cheating wife,’ ‘crime of passion,’ or euphemistic references to sex that imply consent rather than rape or sexual assault? How often do we see references to what the woman was wearing, or if she had been drinking, or something else that implies she was somehow to blame for what happened to her? The answer is far too often. Journalists need to recognize that they have a responsibility in their reporting of domestic violence.

“… Many women live in shame, fear, and silence for a long time. As journalists, it is not up to us to question why a survivor might have taken so long to break her silence. It is up to us to see this as a valid response to violent abuse. By extension, journalists must understand the need to minimize harm for survivors and for others who have found themselves impacted by the legacy of domestic abuse.

“Ethical journalism needs to be rooted in accountability, humanity, and accuracy. We have a responsibility to be accountable to our audiences and to ourselves, and where others within our industry fall foul of these principles we need to call them out … The media has a responsibility to recognize the impact its reporting has. The media has a responsibility to be better at covering issues that continually undermine women, that reinforce misogyny, that give rise to gendered violence.”

B.“How do we improve our reporting?”

Handbook contributor Margaret Simons is an Australian independent journalist and writer.

On the morning of 19 February 2020, Hannah Clarke, 31, and her three children were on their way to school when the children’s father leapt into the passenger seat of their car, doused them all with kerosene and set them alight, before taking his own life. The children died on the spot. Clarke died in hospital.

It was an awful example of the most common kind of gender-based violence in Australia – intimate partner violence, or what some call domestic violence. And while the media reports were full of grief and outrage, some well-worn tropes were trotted out.

Had the perpetrator been “pushed too far,” some media reports asked. Or, at the other extreme, the murderer was described as a “senseless monster.”

“We blame the monster, rather than the man … and the society that allowed these murders to unfold” gender violence researcher Annie Blatchford said. “All at the expense of the broader and blatantly obvious problem of domestic violence which sees on average, one Australian woman murdered every week.”15

Australian journalism on intimate partner violence, like much across the Western world, has persistent faults. First, there isn’t enough reporting. Homicides make the headlines but most of the violence, including coercive control and psychological abuse, is still regarded as a private matter, taking place out of sight of both law enforcement and media.

When particularly violent cases draw a lot of media attention, there is victim blaming, sensationalizing and attempts, as with the Clarke case, to rationalize it as the work of “monsters.”

How do we improve the reporting?

I have led a research project aimed at answering that question. We studied media reports, and interviewed editors, producers and reporters at outlets where the reporting had improved.

It won’t come as a surprise to working journalists that we found sources are the biggest single influence on reporting.

First, there is the police force – always an important source. It was when police in the state of Victoria began collecting statistics in a new way, separating out the recording of domestic violence cases, that the extent of the problem became visible to local reporters and editors.

Another, less traditional but increasingly important source was social media. When an outlet reported on intimate partner violence, it got a big response from readers and viewers, many offering stories from personal experience. Newsrooms took social media response as a sign that their audiences were ready to hear more – and that this was an issue of direct relevance to them.

Finally, there was the role of individual newsroom leaders and journalists. In all the cases we studied where reporting had improved, there were one or two newsroom leaders – editors, producers and senior reporters – who had driven and led that change.

Sometimes they had personal experience of the problem. More often, they were confronted by a particularly awful incident, and made the key shift from seeing this not as exceptional and unusual, but as a high-water mark of a pervasive social problem.

To sum up, we found the main drivers of improved reporting on intimate violence were:
  • Availablity and attitude of sources
  • Influence of social media responses to media outputs, and how this was understood within newsrooms
  • Influence of individual journalists and newsroom managers
  • Individual incidents of family violence, and how these came to be perceived within newsrooms as evidence of a widespread social problem.

We found that guidelines or “how to” sheets aimed at journalists had limited effectiveness unless they were part of a broader effort, including training.

On the other hand, we had success with using social media to foster a peer-to-peer conversation among journalists on the challenges of intimate partner violence reporting. Better reporting resulted, using a wider variety of sources.

Meanwhile, our research helped spur efforts by the Australian federal advocacy body Our Watch16 to fund media training for victims and survivors of domestic violence, so they can be supported in becoming a new kind of “expert” source.

It would be wrong to suggest that the problem is fixed. As the reporting of the Clarke case shows, the nature of intimate partner violence is still widely misunderstood and misrepresented by the Australian media.

On the other hand, there was also a great deal of responsible and socially aware reporting of this awful case – reporting I don’t think would have occurred just a few years before.
It is too soon to say with confidence that media practice is improving – but at least we have some insights on how to get there.

C. “Giving a voice to survivors”

Handbook contributor Eunice Kilonzo is an award-winning journalist and content generation manager who formerly worked for the Daily Nation (Kenya).

Reporting on gender-based violence is not the easiest. It is tough. It is disheartening. Listening to the survivors — male or female — is a stark reminder of how closely and commonly such violence exists behind closed doors.

One such case was that of Jackline Mwende, whose hands were chopped off by her husband because of a childless marriage. I learned about her story, by chance, one Sunday afternoon in 2016 while on an otherwise uneventful shift. My colleague had just visited her in a hospital and posted a brief and some of her photos on a work WhatsApp group. It was barely 150 words, but I remember reading it repeatedly. I was shocked. The attack not only left her without hands, but her swollen face had stitches crisscrossing her hairline, eyes, and neck. Later, we discovered that she had lost some teeth and hearing in one ear as a result of the attack.

Her story was more than a brief, I thought. She was alive. Could we hear her story, from her own voice? With the guidance of our colleague, I set out — alongside a driver and the then-photo editor — on the over 100 kms (60 miles) journey to meet Mwende. We tracked her down at her father’s compound, about an hour and a half from Nairobi.

Of all my stories, this was the hardest interview to do. How do I ask questions with tact -- in a way that doesn’t reactivate her pain and grief, and cause additional trauma? No one trains you about how to do this kind of reporting. You learn on the job – a tough and dicey place to be.

We got the story; I filed it and went back home.

I woke up the next morning to calls and texts from my peers, asking for Mwende’s contact information. I got emails from organizations, government officials, philanthropists all asking how they could help. The article was picked up by other media houses, political leaders were talking about it; it was a hot topic of national discussion. I was glad that we were having the discussion, not just of the violence but other underlying issues, such as infertility, human rights and the role of our legal system. Gradually, it brought to the fore the different gender perspectives and understanding of GBV in Kenya. Some readers and callers sympathized with Mwende, but were quick to ask: “But what exactly did she do to her husband?” There were deeply-rooted beliefs of male supremacy (and the inverse, powerlessness of women) held by both genders in varying degrees.

The seesaw nature of opinions, not just in the country but among my colleagues in the newsroom, showcases how tough and misunderstood GBV was. Some pushed to tell the story while failing to call it gender-based violence, while others, like myself, opted for a semblance of a survivor-centered approach, where Mwende was at the center of the reporting process. 

It was a tough balance, especially in the follow-up articles on Mwende. They included how she got support to go to South Korea to get prosthetics, a new house and seed funding to start a business. I always asked myself, how is this in her best interest while doing no harm, nor exposing her to stigma?

That story paved the way for me to truly understand my role as a journalist: the duty to inform; respect for privacy and confidentiality; ensuring that the reporting is sensitive as it is factually right; thoroughly informing the source of the consequences of appearing in the media; being objective in the reporting and, therefore, not judging, discriminating, and apportioning blame on the survivor.

I am also sensitive to the dilemmas of writing some of these important stories: How soon is too soon to interview a survivor? How do I keep my biases in check? How about my language, diction, and am I using the correct terminology? But more importantly, how do I write in a way that does not shift the focus away from the survivor?

The link to Eunice Kilonzo's story in the Nation (2016) is: https://nation.africa/kenya/news/bat- tered-woman-says-why-she-remained- in-abusive-marriage-1223988

 pandemic and the surge in domestic violence cases

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2020, BBC World Service was one of the first major media organizations to sound the alarm about the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of women.17 Increasing instances of domestic violence were identified as one of the five main areas of concern. The others included: school closures, risks faced by frontline care workers and migrant domestic helpers, and longer-term economic impact.

Reports of domestic violence initially surfaced on Chinese social media.

“The coronavirus pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges, as victims were stranded inside their homes with no help from the outside world available,” the SupChina news platform reported. “Meanwhile, for survivors seeking protective orders from courts, counseling and legal services have been largely inaccessible.”18

The Guardian’s early global coverage of the impact of pandemic restrictions is a good example of the importance of the role of journalists in alerting their audience to the scope and severity of the domestic violence crisis:

“Lockdowns around the world bring rise in domestic violence” – March 28, 2020


“Calamitous: Domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown” – April 28, 2020


Contemporaneous coverage by the New York Times highlighted the need to report on the worsening forms of domestic violence, which led to an increased use of the term “intimate terrorism,” referring to the trauma of coercive and controlling aggression:

“A new COVID-19 crisis: Domestic abuse rises worldwide” – April 6, 2020



Media outlets also played an important role in highlighting trends in global responses (including relief measures) to what some started naming as the “other” pandemic: gender-based violence. Al Jazeera, on April 25, 2020, published an especially insightful piece by Bonita Meyersfeld, editor of the South African Journal on Human Rights. She wrote:

“Before the global lockdown, most governments did little to combat gender-based violence. … The global lockdown has seen a type of intervention in domestic violence cases that is most unusual. For the first time, a handful of states are creating, funding and implementing some very clever steps to help women locked in abusive homes. … The conflation of physical violence, mental manipulation and threats of harm, form a barrier to liberation that can be as restrictive as prison walls. … One must ask why it took a pandemic to focus leaders’ minds on another pandemic (gender-based violence) and the gritty details of interventions that will actually work for victims. I speculate that one of the reasons is that suddenly there is a universal understanding of what it means to be locked down at home. We are, in other words, closer to understanding the terror of enforced insulation than ever before.”19

Suddenly there is a universal understanding of what it means to be locked down at home. We are, in other words, closer to understanding the terror of enforced insulation than ever before.

Two days later, by contrast, The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region, focused on the gaps in India’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic:

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s eager and abrupt lockdown policy came down with many gender blind spots – putting the country’s most vulnerable at a disproportionately greater risk than others. Women remained largely absent from the government’s COVID-19 policy in spite of the uptick in intimate partner violence and the knowledge that in India, a woman is subjected to an act of domestic violence every 4.4 minutes.”20

Journalists referring to the surge in domestic violence during the pandemic may want to pay particular attention to some of its underreported aspects:

  • Increase in domestic burdens and responsibilities, such as care giving and home schooling, which reinforce inequitable divisions of labor
  • Exacerbation of pre-existing challenges, such as access to food and water, and to domestic violenc services
  • Lack of female participation in decision-making related to the management of the crisis
  • Impact of prolonged periods of isolation and abuse on women’s mental health
  • Disappearance of informal sector jobs affecting the survival of a majority of women workers such as street/market vendors and domestic workers
  • Intensification of the violence and severity of its associated risks, as described, among other media, in a study from Zimbabwe covered by Radio France International21
  • Connections with previous crises, such as natural disasters, that illustrate ongoing patterns and inadequacies, especially in terms of governments’ responses and reporting standards on domestic violence laws and policies

References to relevant domestic laws and policies can greatly enhance the quality and impact of media reporting on domestic violence. The following examples from Cyprus, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and the United States feature best practices that contextualize media coverage of domestic violence and bring up a wide range of key issues, from contributing factors to remedies, and from prevention to prosecution.

A. “Real progress in North over domestic violence”

Cyprus Mail, Jan. 20, 2020


The article discusses a significant rise in victims’ reports of domestic violence since 2018, which “signals an important boost in confidence that justice will be served,” not an increase in violence. This trend was attributed to 2014 amendments to the legal code that criminalized gender-based violence and resulted in the police adding a specialized gender equality unit and a violence intervention unit.

That Mail article by Lizzy Ioannidou reflects many of the best practices to enhance domestic violence coverage by including multiple perspectives:

  • Impact of government actions or inactions
  • Analysis of statistics and trends
  • Implementation of new laws and policies, including both positive results and remaining obstacles. (In this case, high rents and low wages were preventing women from fleeing their abusers.)
  • The cycle of violence
  • Obstacles to filing complaints
  • Availability of services, such as shelters
  • Human rights perspective, such as referring to a recent UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee report
  • Perspectives of local experts, such as advocates and service providers
B. “Decriminalisation of domestic violence in Russia leads to fall in reported cases”

The Guardian, Aug. 16, 2018


This follow-up article on a reverse trend examined the impact of the law amended 16 months prior that decriminalized certain forms of domestic violence. (Russian law does not treat domestic violence as a stand-alone criminal offense.)22

C. “French women demand action amid high domestic violence rate”

Associated Press, Nov. 22, 2019


The article reports on the French government’s announcement of “measures that are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence, prioritizing police training, and formally recognizing psychological violence as a form of domestic violence.” Reporter Claire Parker also wrote that “European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers.”

D. “Domestic abuse bill condemned for ignoring ‘gendered nature’ of violence amid austerity cuts”

The Independent, July 16, 2019


Maya Oppenheim, Women’s Correspondent of the UK Independent, reports on a domestic abuse bill, which “has been roundly condemned by campaigners for not recognizing the ‘gendered nature’ of domestic violence.”

“Women are more likely to have sustained physical or emotional abuse, or violence which results in serious injury or death,” a Women’s Aid representative told Oppenheim. “Violence against women is rooted in gender inequality. It is essential that this is explicitly recognized in the domestic abuse bill. To solve any complex social problem, we have to start by defining it, and we know that a gender-neutral definition does not work for this highly gendered issue.”

E. “In Bali, a woman’s feet were cut off: #MeToo time for Indonesia?”

South China Morning Post, Nov. 25, 2018


Published on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this article addresses the issue of “a deep-rooted culture of victim blaming” in Indonesia resulting in the dismissal of domestic violence claims. Significant increases in such violence are also attributed to the fact that “the bill for the elimination of domestic violence has been stuck in Indonesia’s national legislature for 14 years. This bill to promote human rights, achieve gender equality, protect survivors of violence and punish offenders has clearly not been a top priority for the government.”

F. “Public comment ends for proposed changes that eliminate gender-based asylum”

The Fuller Project, July 15, 2020


Investigative journalist Erica Hellerstein reported for the Fuller Project, a global nonprofit newsroom dedicated to reporting on women, that the coronavirus pandemic had diverted Americans’ attention from regulations that would eliminate the possibility of obtaining political asylum on grounds of domestic violence. They seem to specifically target the increasingly high number of women fleeing gender-based persecution from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

G. “In Puerto Rico, an epidemic of domestic violence hides in plain sight”

Gen (Medium publication), June 29, 2020


In this article, journalist Andrea González-Ramírez investigates the response of the Puerto Rican governmental entities following hurricane Maria (September 2017) and subsequent disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic:

“The cascading crises have given new urgency to the longstanding problems in how the police and courts respond to domestic violence, along with the underfunding of victim services. And they have highlighted how the government’s misguided response continues to leave the island’s women vulnerable.” guidelines to report on domestic violence

United Kingdom
Media Guidelines on Violence Against Women

Published by the Scottish charity Zero Tolerance (2019 edition)


Media guidelines for reporting domestic violence deaths

Online publication of the feminist organization Level Up (2018)


Reporting on Domestic Violence: Guidelines for Journalists

Published by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (2018)


How to report on violence against women and their children

Published in 2019 by Our Watch, an independent NGO established by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments

https://media.ourwatch.org.au/resource/how-to-report-on-violence- against-women-and-their-children-2019-national-edition

Domestic and Family Violence: A Media Guide

Published by the Queensland Government (reform program to end domestic and family violence)

https://www.csyw.qld.gov.au/resources/campaign/end-violence/domes- tic-family-violence-media-guide.pdf

“Survivors of violence: The dos and don’ts of reporting their stories”

by Loni Cooper (2016).

Available through the “Uncovered” website, a project of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne.


Advisory Guideline on Family and Domestic Violence Reporting

Australian Press Council (2016)

https://www.presscouncil.org.au/uploads/52321/ufiles/Guidelines/Adviso- ry_Guideline_on_Family_and_Domestic_Violence_Reporting.pdf

New Zealand
Reporting Domestic/Family Violence: Guidelines for Journalists

Developed by Stephanie Edmond and Sheryl Hann for New Zealand “It’s Not OK” campaign.


United States
Online guide for journalists covering domestic violence

Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2015)


Endnotes on chapter VII.II.

  1. United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (Section III, “Domestic Violence as a violation of human rights,” par. 24), E/CN.4/1996/53 (5 February 1996). Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://undocs.org/E/CN.4/1996/53
  2. Ibid. par. 23
  3. United Nations, General Assembly, Relevance of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to the context of domestic violence: interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture (Section I, “Domestic violence as a human rights issue”, par. 2), A/74/148 (12 July 2019). Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from
  4. Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and domestic violence (known as the Istanbul Convention, 2011), Article 3 (Definitions), section b. https://www.coe.int/fr/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/rms/090000168008482e
  5. Doychinova, T. (2020, June 30). The health crisis at home: Reporting on domestic abuse. Retrieved on Sept. 30, 2020, from https://ijnet.org/en/story/health-crisis-home-reporting-domestic-abuse
  6. UN Women (2019). Progress of the World’s Women 2019–2020 (Chapter 6, Fig. 6.2, p. 180). Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from: UN Women (2020, April 6). The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women and girls and COVID-19. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2019/Progress-of-the-worlds-women-2019-2020-en.pdf 
  7. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics (2020, October 10). The World’s Women 2020 trends and statistics. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from
  8. World Health Organization (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/85239/9789241564625_eng.pdf;jsessionid=7943CBF3DEB4624204E7603B52BA31EC?sequence=1
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/datasources/nisvs/2015NISVSdatabrief.html
  10. Hegarty, K., Hindmarsh E., & Gilles M. (Online publication 2020, October 25). Domestic violence in Australia. The Medical Journal of Australia. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from
  11. Native Hawaiian COVID-19 Research Hui (2020, October 20). Native Hawaiians at risk of IPV during COVID-19.
    Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://sites.google.com/ksbe.edu/nh-covid19/intimate-partner-violence?authuser=0
  12. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics (2020, October 10). The World’s Women 2020 trends and statistics (“Vulnerable groups” section). Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://worlds-women-2020-data-undesa.hub.arcgis.com/
  13. Hannah Storm (2020, June 12). Why journalists need to do better in reporting on domestic violence. Ethical Journalism Network. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from
  14. Blatchford, A. (2020, February 20). Rowan Baxter murdered his family and it is the act of a man and his domestic violence, not a senseless monster. ABC News. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020 from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-21/rowan-baxter-hannah-clarke-monster-myth-in-domestic-violence/11986976
  15. Our Watch is an independent Australian nonprofit organization established by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments: www.ourwatch.org.au
  16. Owen, L. (2020, March 8). Coronavirus: Five ways virus upheaval is hitting women in Asia. BBC News. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51705199
  17. Feng, J. (2020, March 24). COVID-19 Fuels Domestic Violence in China. SupChina. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from https://supchina.com/2020/03/24/covid-19-fuels-domestic-violence-in-china/
  18. Meyersfeld, B. (2020, April 25). Domestic violence is the ‘other’ pandemic we must fight. Al Jazeera. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/opin- ions/2020/4/25/domestic-violence-is-the- other-pandemic-we-must-fight
  19. Kamdar, B. (2020, April 27). India’s COVID-19 Gender Blind Spot. The Diplomat. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/indias-covid-19-gender-blind-spot/
  20. Radio France International (2020, September 29). Study shows Zimbabwe lockdown triggered sharp rise in violence against women. Retrieved on Oct. 26, 2020, from https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20200929-study-shows-zimbabwe-lockdown-triggered-sharp-rise-in-violence-against-women
  21. For background information see Human Rights Watch report: I Could Kill You and No One Would Stop Me (2018)

7.7.3.Gender-based violence in the world of work

Harassment and violence in the world of work are a global phenomenon that disproportionately impacts women.  In addition to infringing upon the “inalienable right to work,” they constitute a form of discrimination and a human rights violation. While precluding workers’ enjoyment of the right to live free from violence, they affect their health, safety, and dignity. In sectors dominated by women workers, this negative impact is often compounded by lower standards and discriminatory practices.

Documenting the prevalence and trends of such global violence has been so far immensely challenging and statistics are often unavailable.  National statistics use different sets of definitions and classifications and do not necessarily provide disaggregated data that would shed light on the specific ways in which women are affected. In addition, multiple barriers prevent them from reporting the abuses they face.  

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, adopted its standard-setting Violence and Harassment Convention in June 2019.1 Article 1 clarifies that “the term ‘gender-based violence and harassment’ means violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately, and includes sexual harassment.” The Convention recognizes the right of every worker to a world free from violence and harassment.

The International Labor Organization also adopted its Violence and Harassment Recommendation.2 Although not legally binding, it provides critical guidance and stipulates that governments “should adopt appropriate measures for sectors or occupations and work arrangements in which exposure to violence and harassment may be more likely, such as night work, work in isolation, health, hospitality, social services, emergency services, domestic work, transport, education or entertainment.” (par. 9)

The Recommendation also spells out the particular vulnerability of women migrant workers and workers in the informal economy, as well as the types of support, services, and remedies that should be made available to victims of gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work. (par.17)

The International Labor Organization Convention states that protection and prevention measures should extend to contexts and situations beyond the workplace (as in the physical space provided by an employer), such as work-related transportation, communications, and accommodation (Article 3). Those measures should also apply to all workers “irrespective of their contractual status,” such as apprentices, trainees, and volunteers. (Article 2)

Finally, an essential contribution of this convention is the recognition that “domestic violence can affect employment, productivity and health and safety, and that governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations and labour market institutions can help to recognize, respond to and address the impacts of domestic violence.” (Preamble) of gender-based violence in the world of work

Many forms of harassment and violence encountered in the world of work are often overlooked and unreported. However, since 2016, first in advance of the drafting of the International Labor Organization Convention and later in support of ratification and implementation efforts, several international human rights and workers rights organizations have identified and documented an increasing variety of abuses.  They offer key resources for journalists seeking background information and data at the global level, as well as case studies or news updates that can help identify story ideas and experts.

The International Trade Union Confederation, which played a key role in representing workers during the International Labor Organization Convention process, proposed the following classification of the multiple forms of gender-based violence faced at the workplace or in transit:3

  • “Physical abuse, including assault, battery, attempted murder and murder
  • “Sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault
  • “Sexual harassment
  • “Verbal and sexist abuse
  • “Bullying
  • “Coercion
  • “Psychological abuse, intimidation and threats of violence
  • “Economic and financial abuse
  • “Stalking”

Global Labor Justice published a series of reports to the International Labor Organization on gender-based violence in global garment supply chains, based on interviews with women garment workers. The 2018 reports4 identified over 20 different forms of violence organized in five different categories:

  • Acts that inflict physical harm
  • Acts that inflict mental harm
  • Acts that inflict sexual harm or suffering (from harassment to rape)
  • Coercion, threats, and retaliation
  • Deprivations of liberty

Since then, Global Labor Justice has joined forces with the International Labor Rights Forum to defend the rights of the estimated 150 million workers in global supply chains and also bring “a gender lens on global worker issues [that] has been largely absent from employer and government responses” to the COVID-19 pandemic.5

The international NGO Human Rights Watch’s advocacy for global standards to end violence and harassment in the workplace has greatly contributed to the documentation of a wide range of abuses affecting primarily women and gender-nonconforming workers, and resulting in psychological, sexual and economic harm.  Since 2018, the organization’s research has focused in part on garment workers and domestic workers.6

Human Rights Watch has also been reporting on different forms of sexual harassment occurring across the globe: harassment resulting from a hostile working environment, and “quid pro quo” harassment. The latter takes place when a job decision or benefit is linked to the rejection of, or submission to, an unwelcome or offensive form of sexual conduct. sectors

Although all workers are potentially at risk, there are some sectors in which exposure to violence and harassment is more pervasive. Many forms of abuse in the world of work are unrecognized, unreported or underreported, both by their victims and the media. Therefore it is important for journalists to be aware of the main situations and sectors, compounding multiple underlying forms of discrimination, that put women workers especially at risk.

A. Informal work

The International Labor Organization estimates that 740 million women, across 119 countries, are engaged in informal employment. According to the organization, in many parts of the world women represent a majority of the informal economy workforce. This is the case in more than 90% of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 89% in Southern Asia and nearly 75% in Latin America.7 

740 million women, across 119 countries, are engaged in informal employment

On the occupational safety and health page of its website,8 the International Labor Organization highlights the risks of informal work, which often involves the most dangerous jobs and conditions across all sectors. “Typically, informal sector units are small-scale, engaging mainly non-waged and unorganised workers in precarious work processes and labour arrangements, largely unregulated and unregistered, falling outside of state regulations and control,” the International Labor Organization says. “High exposure to risks combined with low coverage of social protection place most informal economy workers in a very vulnerable situation.” 

Those who work in public spaces are often harassed or attacked by members of the public (including customers), other workers, or law enforcement representatives.  In most of those situations, the lack of accountability increases their vulnerability.

Such conditions of work significantly increase the risks of workers becoming targets of gender-based violence and not having the ability to pursue any kind of remedy or relief.  Further, the impact of COVID-19 and its economic fallout have been particularly devastating for informal women workers.



Domestic workers: An estimated 67 million people are employed as domestic workers globally of which 80% are women. One in 25 women employed worldwide is a domestic worker.9 The wide range of services they provide include cleaning, washing, cooking, shopping and providing care for children and the elderly. Many of these workers are migrants and belong to disadvantaged communities. As they live in their place of work, constraints on mobility and isolation from their families often make them easy prey for violence and abuse, and limit their ability to seek protection.

An estimated 67 million people are employed as domestic workers globally of which 80 % are women.

Home-based workers: They are typically either self-employed or subcontracted by third parties.  Their work can range from assembling microelectronics to finishing garments for large multinational companies. Many are vulnerable to violence in the home, which may worsen when they do not earn their usual income. They also face harassment and violence in their communities through evictions by landlords and demands for sexual favors from intermediaries.

Street vendors: They routinely face harassment, verbal and physical abuses and beatings from state authorities, as well as evictions, and violent arrests, which may be related to their immigration status.  These women have faced demands for transactional sex for access to trading space, licenses, permits, and goods.

Agricultural workers: Women comprise 50% to 70% of the informal workforce in commercial agriculture10 (including plantations, tea gardens, horticulture, dairy farming, and fish farming).  Migrant agricultural workers are especially at risk of violence and exploitation, such as forced and unpaid labor.  Lack of access to sanitation facilities disproportionately affects women and results in a higher risk of gender-based violence.

Waste pickers: 80% of the estimated 15 million waste pickers worldwide11 work in the informal economy and often belong to marginalized communities. They are subjected to social stigma, and experience physical assault, including from local authorities.  Women may encounter demands for transactional sex for access to waste and recycling processes. They also face additional challenges and risks in the context of the COVID19 pandemic.12

Transport workers: The informal sector of transport industries includes many occupations where women are especially at risk of abuse and exploitation:  pushing carts and pedicabs, selling gas at road sides, working as vendors and cleaners in bus and train stations, and as porters and guides, among others.13

Sex workers: Sex work is not only unrecognized as legitimate work by most governments, but criminalized, which makes sex workers extremely vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, including from enforcement agents who often arbitrarily detain, harass, and abuse them.  The deeply institutionalized stigma against sex workers encourages even more violence from law enforcement agents.  Police may raid their homes or workplaces, and sexually assault or rape them.  Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports of increased violence.  In Kenya, for instance, “a surge in physical attacks and killings of sex workers has sent a chill through the community.  This spike in violence has been attributed not only to clients, but also to the police and other community members who blame them for spreading the coronavirus.”14

Adapted from CWGL “Global 16 Days Campaign Advocacy Guide” (2020)15


B. Garment workers

Global Labor Justice research showed that “concentrated in short term, low-skill, and low-wage positions, [the women garment workers] are at daily risk of gender-based violence and harassment at work … They may be targets of violence on the basis of their gender, or because they are perceived as less likely or able to resist.”16 These abuses may occur in the actual workplace, during commuting, and while staying in employer-provided housing.

Global Labor Justice 2018 reports thoroughly documented the risk factors and practices that led to multiple forms of gender-based violence in 113 Asian factories then supplying to Gap, H&M, and Walmart. In its coverage of the reports,17 The Guardian quoted the following response from H&M: “We welcome any initiative strengthening the human rights of women at work.  We will go through every section of the report and follow up on factory level with our local teams based in each production country.”

An important role of the media, in this case, is to address accountability issues and conduct follow-up reporting to inform the public about the due diligence efforts of those global companies.

C. Service and hospitality workers

Union organizations across the globe, among others, have drawn attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the service and hospitality industries (especially hotels, restaurants, casinos, and bars).  Some of the main risk factors they have identified are:

  • Working hours and precarious conditions
  • “Sexualized environment [that] can encourage customers to treat employees as sex objects rather than workers. General hospitality is frequently misjudged and perceived as invitation of sexual advances.”18
  • Tip-based service industry: “Working for tips enables and facilitates gender-based violence, as customers feel entitled to attention and approval for their money, and managers often feel more empowered to comment and advise on physical appearance.”19
  • Significant obstacles to reporting abuses faced especially by young women, part-time employees, and immigrant women
  • Absence of investigations and corrective measures, as well as enforcement of written policies.
D. Migrant workers

Migration and displacement, whether caused by poverty, conflict, or natural disasters, has led many women into precarious work.  Women workers lacking documentation or in irregular situations can be more attractive to employers who are able to recruit them on less favorable terms. 

Migrant domestic workers (over 73% of which are women20), care workers, and farmworkers are among the groups most often cited as workers doubly marginalized by their occupation and migrant status and, consequently, more exposed to harassment and abuse.

The UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls examined trends in “Women’s human rights in the changing world of work.”21  Addressing demographic changes, the 2020 report notes that women increasingly migrate for work.  When they do, domestic and care workers not only face gender bias but also discrimination based on their legal status, class, caste, race and ethnicity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many migrant domestic workers forced to go back home have been further stigmatized or abused upon their return. GBV in the world of work

[journalists] can alert their readers or viewers to the abuses. They may help to change the climate of public opinion, even policy, so that life becomes better for workers

The International Labour Organization stressed, in a 2020 media toolkit,22 that “[journalists] can alert their readers or viewers to the abuses. They may help to change the climate of public opinion, even policy, so that life becomes better for workers.” They can also increase public awareness of the usually underreported dimensions of the global prevalence and impact of GBV in the world of work.  These include:

  • The range of root causes, such as the imbalance of power between employers and vulnerable workers, gender stereotypes, rampant and intersecting forms of discrimination, economic vulnerability, and a culture of impunity
  • Women and girls who are especially vulnerable to harassment and violence at work:
    • Underage workers, such as victims of child labor and schoolgirls
    • Undocumented workers
    • Racial/ethnic minorities and Indigenous women
    • Transgender and gender-nonconforming workers
  • Significant obstacles to reporting abuses
  • Tolerance of misconduct and failures to investigate
  • Lack of protections at the employer or government level (according to the World Bank, approximately one third of the world countries do not have laws prohibiting sexual harassment in employment.23)
  • Impact of domestic violence



A noteworthy contribution of the International Labor Organization Violence and Harassment Convention is the recognition, in its preamble, that “domestic violence can affect employment, productivity and health and safety” and that governments, as well as employers, can provide support and protection to its victims.

Preventing employers’ discrimination or retaliation against women workers who experience domestic violence has become even more of a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of the victims have been confined at home.

The increase of technology-facilitated forms of abuse also needs to be exposed as a means for perpetrators of domestic violence to disrupt their victims’ capacity to work and pursue their threats and harassment remotely. coverage of workplace harassment and violence: Impact of the #MeToo movement and lessons learned

The #MeToo movement was started in 2006 by American activist Tarana Burke as a peer community initiative to support survivors of sexual violence. The hashtag, however, only went viral 11 years later, in October 2017. It has spread to many parts of the world, in parallel with other movements, such as “Ni una menos” in Latin America.  It has been hailed as a global movement and a transformative moment. 

 “What is so significant about the moment [is that] it is no longer just about individuals, it is about society,” a group of UN human rights experts said in a joint statement. “It is not about so-called morals and honour, it is about women’s rights as human rights.” “The all powerful are no longer the untouchable.”24

The all powerful are no longer the untouchable

Against the backdrop of increased public awareness and advocacy efforts, the UN General Assembly adopted in December 2018 a landmark resolution recognizing that “sexual harassment is a form of violence and a violation and abuse of human rights.”25

When the International Labor Organization Violence and Harassment Convention was adopted the following year, the Reuters headline read: “U.N. labour body adopts #MeToo pact against violence at work.”26 Commenting on the discussions that led to the treaty, International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Rider told Reuters: “The momentum and the significance of this process has been accentuated by the #MeToo movement.”

The online international news service Women’s eNews chose the headline “Two years after #MeToo: New treaty anchors workplace protections.” The article states that the new treaty was “fueled by the outpouring of experiences that women articulated in the wake of #MeToo.”27  Inter Press Service, meanwhile, called it “#MeToo movement’s powerful new tool.”28 

This media framing underscores how the movement has impacted press coverage of sexual harassment and violence in the world of work. 

The Columbia Journalism Review reported on how frequently the hashtag appears in news articles published globally between October 1, 2017, and April 1, 2019, or used on Twitter during the same period. The article also mentions some “breakthrough moments”, as well as a list of hashtags used around the world:https://www.cjr.org/special_report/reach-of-metoo.php

The Washington D.C.-based Women’s Media Center published in 2018 a 15-month study of the coverage of sexual harassment and assaults in 14 U.S. leading newspapers.29  It showed that, following the first major articles exposing such abuses in the entertainment industry, the percentage of sexual assault stories mentioning the movement increased by an average of 50%.

Reflecting on the findings and lessons learned from the study, WMC President Julie Burton stated: “We focus on media coverage because of its profound impact in telling society who has power and what matters. The #MeToo movement has shined a much-needed light on survivors and the stories that need to be told.”30

The #MeToo movement has shined a much-needed light on survivors and the stories that need to be told

WMC concluded its story with the following recommendations for journalists:31

  • “Use precise and empowering language and distinguish words like ‘harassment’ from ‘assault’ based on clinical definitions and formal charges, rather than selecting one arbitrarily.
  • “Create a specific journalist beat or section area for sexual assault and harassment of women, and train journalists on how to cover and investigate these kinds of stories sensitively.
  • “Think carefully about which cases your media outlet is choosing to cover, and which it is ignoring. How can the media give a broader voice to those who do not yet have it?
  • “Understand the impact that media coverage makes on societal perceptions of issues like sexual assault and wield this power with thought and care.
  • “Build inclusive newsrooms.”

In the #MeToo context, the call for sensitive and ethical reporting is more relevant than ever, given, among others, the level of scrutiny that victims’ prior behavior or perceived character traits often undergo in the media.


In the following essay, Handbook Contributor Lucia Graves summarizes some of the lessons she learned since she was granted an interview by one of Donald Trump’s accusers in July 2016. Graves is a columnist and feature writer for Guardian US.




When #MeToo stories go public, we often demand perfect victims but they seldom exist — and it is a standard used to favor the accused both in news coverage and in courtrooms. When I was first reporting on Jill Harth's sexual assault claim against Donald Trump for The Guardian in July 2016,32 Trump's team presented friendly correspondence between Harth and Trump that occurred in the years following the alleged attack as evidence to counter her claim. The emails showed Harth requesting to be hired as a personal makeup artist to the presidential candidate and requesting privileged access to Trump at a rally. The suggestion was that Harth could not possibly have been assaulted by a man she had sought out for social and professional advantage down the road, and his campaign's response helped bury the story for months. And yet it's well documented that trauma victims often go on to have nuanced and sometimes friendly relationships with past abusers. Harth's explanation for her overtures to Trump — that as a businesswoman, she felt she could not afford not to solicit his help — are in line with what we know about how the abused sometimes try to leverage deeply flawed systems of power to their advantage, seeking help or favors from influential figures who have wronged them.

Such behavior has become more widely recognized. Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted in 2020 on rape and sexual assault charges, despite remaining in touch and even on friendly terms with women who would go on to accuse him. During the trial, plaintiff Jessica Mann's narrative was complicated by the fact that she'd continued to have consensual sex with Weinstein even after she was raped by the producer, and had accepted his invitations to high-profile events; the jury ultimately found in her favor. 

It is important that journalists parse questions of character carefully and report on those that are relevant, rather than headlining and leading stories with ones that are not.

The standard is worth revisiting in view of the character of Tara Reade33 having become a topic of national debate following her accusations against Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. Some aspects of an accuser's character are relevant in considering the veracity of their claims — for instance, whether they lied about their credentials under oath, as prosecutors are now investigating whether Reade did.34 But other things are not, such as whether she ever spoke positively about her time working for then Senator Joe Biden, or the fact that she was once admonished to "dress more modestly.” 

Looking ahead, it is important that journalists parse questions of character carefully and report on those that are relevant, rather than headlining and leading stories with ones that are not. And, when alleged victims can be shown to have stayed in touch with their abusers, that information should be contextualized. Whether they continue to have a romantic relationship with a person even after an assault, as Mann did with Weinstein, or seek a powerful figure out for professional or personal advancement, as Harth did with Trump, survivors may act or react very differently. Weinstein's conviction, despite the complicating behavior of his accusers, suggests progress in our understanding of these issues. But there's still much work left to do.

The media focus on celebrity cases has often distracted from the coverage of sexual harassment and assault within powerful institutions where abusers are protected by anonymity and structural lack of accountability.  An example of this is how the United Nations has been able, in many cases, to protect itself against media scrutiny, as illustrated by a December 2020 opinion piece on Devex, a media platform for the global development community.




Excerpts from an opinion piece by Claudia Ahumada and Malayah Harper35

“Who do we remember from the #MeToo story of the decade – Rowena Chiu or Harvey Weinstein? Most people will recognize the name Harvey Weinstein as that of a serial predator of women.  Yet do we remember the women who speak up? As #MeToo swept the globe, some of the most appalling stories of abuse emerged from the United Nations.  These abuses thrive in the U.N. due to its unique structure that prevents accountability and transparency.

In matters of workplace sexual harassment, the U.N. investigates and reports to itself.  By being both party and judge of the proceedings, establishing both the rules and their application, and failing to have the expertise to support survivors throughout the process.  . . .

“Investigations into abuse are often called by U.N. entities to ‘calm’ media storms that erupt after stories emerge. . . . These investigations take years to complete and U.N. officials know – what many survivors do not – that they are under no obligation to release their findings.

In fact, precedence indicates that they do not.  Not to the women who spoke out, not their governing board, to no one.  Also unsaid is that while the findings remain private, the names of the staff members who provided testimony are visible to the agency.  The asymmetry of power is undeniable.”

Finally, at a global level, it is worth noting that in several countries women journalists themselves have played a key role in igniting or contributing to the visibility of the movement by courageously coming forward to talk about their own experience of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace:

Bangladesh: “#metoo: Daily Star senior staff apologizes as newspaper probes sexual assault” (Dhaka Tribune, November 2018):  https://www.dhakatribune.com/media/2018/11/23/metoo-daily-star-senior-staff-apologizes-as-newspaper-probes-sexual-assault

Benin: “MeToo in Benin: ‘Fed-up’ journalists decry harassment in the media” (AFP, May 2020): https://news.yahoo.com/metoo-benin-fed-journalists-decry-harassment-media-150930612.html

Colombia: “Latin America’s Me Too movement takes aim at abuse of power, machista culture” (October 2020).  The article mentions the two women journalists who “touched off a media firestorm when they leveled sexual harassment and abuse allegations last month against prominent author and journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos.” https://www.efe.com/efe/english/world/latin-america-s-me-too-movement-takes-aim-at-abuse-of-power-machista-culture/50000262-4357699

Georgia: “#MeToo is reaching Georgia” (BBC, October 2018). The video clip features a TV presenter who was the first woman in the Eurasian country to sue her boss for alleged sexual harassment: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-45837071

Uganda: “#MeToo campaign in Uganda” (International Association of Women in Radio and Television, 2018): https://www.iawrt.org/news/metoo-campaign-uganda


Case study:  An example of #MeToo reporting best practices from New Zealand

Starting in 2018, the national news media organization Stuff (New Zealand) featured an ongoing #MeToo investigation on workplace sexual harassment and assault.36 Readers were asked to share their personal experiences, primarily through emails, social media, and hotline phone messages. These were then analyzed to set up a triage system that would allow the journalists team to connect survivors assessed to be most at risk with support services.  Team leader Alison Mau said in a Stuff interview:

“We will be able to help people that come to us to find legal help, if they need it, to lay a police complaint, if they want to, and to access counseling. There is a level of care specifically in place for this project.  Even if people don’t want to talk on the record, at least we will be able to point them in the right direction.”37

An analysis of the collected testimonies identified four major themes:

  • Women blaming themselves for what happened to them
  • Challenges to report it
  • Revictimization resulting from the complaint process
  • Long-term impact of sexual harassment and assault


In 2019, Stuff published a piece headlined “One year on, what has changed?”38 “Our work has had an impact,” it concluded.  “We exposed the size of the problem, using a widespread survey to reveal rising rates of sexual harassment complaints in 1400 public sector bodies.” The article documented the value of this type of investigative journalism through a list of examples where specific follow-up actions or corrective measures were taken as a result of the published stories.

James Hollings, co-founder of the New Zealand Centre for Investigative Journalism, conducted an assessment in 2019 of Stuff  #MeTooNZ campaign in a special issue of Journalism Practice on “Journalism and sexual violence.”39  Hollings reviewed 49 stories based on approximately 400 testimonies received over a period of 16 months. 

Both the Stuff self-assessment and Hollings’ interviews of its investigative team provide a rare opportunity to learn from a distinctive news reporting approach and tested best practices:

  • Acknowledging the limitations of the “balance” concept:40  Hollings found that the practice of giving similar weight to both sides of the story, or “issue dualism,” takes the attention away from the complexity of its context and impact as a human rights issue. He further noted that, “in #metoo reporting, it has been found to give more power to the accused by shifting focus away from the issue itself and its effect on the survivors, to the effect on the abusers.”
  • Claiming a “campaign” approach:  A multiplicity of stories over a long time period allowed the Stuff journalists team to build contacts, trust, skills, and expertise, to expose workplace patterns, and more broadly consider what works and what doesn’t regarding sexual harassment training and policies. Reporting on systemic issues (such as dismissal and cover-up of complaints), in the case of the #MeTooNZ campaign, had a clearly stated goal of influencing policy decisions to prevent workplace abuses.
  • Adopting survivors-led practices:  “At all stages”, Hollings concluded, “The survivor was given control over whether the story would be pursued. . . . While [it] was being compiled, survivors were sometimes given a chance to collaborate in how it was written, in the sense of deciding which aspects should be highlighted.” This approach also entailed establishing clear ground rules, addressing risks as well as expectations, and prioritizing the needs and safety of the survivors.
  • Offering journalists adequate training, mentorship, and support: The length and scope of the Stuff investigative project pointed at the challenges of such specialized reporting and the need for media organizations to provide skills-building and professional support opportunities.


#MeToo news coverage: Examples of noteworthy reporting from around the world


“Rape, power and corruption: Is this Egypt’s MeToo moment?”

Middle East Monitor (Sept. 24, 2020)



“In France, the #MeToo movement has yet to live up to women’s hopes”

National Public Radio (May 19, 2019)



“The #MeToo tracker by the Indian Express”

The Indian Express (Oct. 30, 2018)



“One year after India’s big #MeToo wave, a reality check”

ThePrint (Oct. 12, 2019)



“Vatican meets #MeToo: After decades of silence, nuns talk about abuse by priests”

Associated Press (July 27, 2018).



“#Metoo Mexico is a historic opportunity”

Página12 (May 6, 2019)



“The Me Too movement was silent in Senegal.  These women are trying to change that”

CNN (Dec. 19, 2018)



United States
“The #MeToo movement: News and reporting on sexual harassment and abuse”

The New Yorker (March 25, 2019)



She Said is the best book about journalism I have ever read. Here are its best lessons for journalists”

Insider (Oct. 7, 2019)

https://www.insider.com/she-said-journalism-harvey-weinstein-investigation-book-2019-10#:~:text=%22She%20Said%2C%22%20a%20new,journalism%20I've%20ever%20read. Resources

A. Websites (international organizations and networks)

Domestic Violence at Work Network



International Domestic Workers Federation



Global Labor Justice



Solidarity Center



Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)


The UK-based nonprofit organization is an international network of informal workers unions and associations, researchers and statisticians, as well as practitioners from development agencies.  Their website has a very helpful section for journalists seeking resources, statistics, and experts.


B. The following reports, studies, and websites provide statistics, data analyses, case studies, and recommendations related to the sectors and issues outlined in this handbook section.

International Labour Organization 
Violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work 

(2017) 171 pages


Includes an excellent section on “domestic violence as a world-of-work issue.” (Section 5.9)


Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture

(2018) 164 pages



Addressing violence and harassment against women in the world of work

(2019) This handbook was produced with UN Women, 124 pages



Safe and healthy working environments free from violence and harassment 

(2020) 94 pages



International Labor Organization Convention 190
Violence and Harassment Convention

2019 (No. 190)



Safety and dignity at work: A guide to the 2019 ILO Violence and Harassment Convention

(Human Rights Watch 2020) 32 pages



Protecting workers from gender-based violence and harassment in Europe 

(European Public Service Union 2019) 13 pages


This briefing is a comparative analysis of ILO Convention 190 (2019) and the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011).

  1. ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190). Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/ilc/ILCSessions/108/reports/texts-adopted/WCMS_711570/lang--en/index.htm
  2. ILO Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019 (No. 206).  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:R206
  3. International Trade Union Federation (2016).  Stop Gender-based violence at work (p.2). Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/stop_gender_based_violence_at_work_en_final.pdf
  4. Global Labor Justice (2018): Gender-based violence in the GAP Garment Supply Chain. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.globallaborjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/GBV-Gap-May-2018.pdf Gender-based violence in the H&M Garment Supply Chain. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.globallaborjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/GBV-HM-May-2018.pdf Gender-based violence in the Walmart Garment Supply Chain. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.globallaborjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/GBV-Walmart-25-May-2018.pdf
  5. Rosenbaum, J. (2020, July 1). International Labor Rights Forum press release.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://laborrights.org/releases/ilrf-and-global-labor-justice-are-joining-forces-defend-worker-rights-and-build-worker
  6. Human Rights Watch (May 2018). Ending Violence and harassment at work: The case for global standards (pp.3-5) Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/news_attachments/2018_hrw_ilo_brochure.pdf
  7. International Labour Organization (2018, April 30). Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture (pp. 20-21).  Retrieved on December 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_626831/lang--en/index.htm
  8. International Labour Organization (n.d.). Informal economy: a hazardous activity. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/safework/areasofwork/hazardous-work/WCMS_110305/lang--en/index.htm
  9. International Labour Organization (2015). Who are domestic workers. Retrieved on Dec. 18,
    2020, from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/ domestic-workers/who/lang--en/index.htm
  10. Solidarity Center (2013, July 25). Empowering women: Ensuring agricultural workers have a voice. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https:// www.solidaritycenter.org/empowering-wom- en-ensuring-agricultural-workers-have-a-voice/ 
  11. International Labour Organization (2017, Aug. 3). Cooperation among workers in the informal economy: A focus on home-based workers and waste pickers. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/cooperatives/ publications/WCMS_567507/lang--en/index.htm
  12. WIEGO (2020). Waste pickers: Essential service providers at high risk. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020 from https://www.wiego.org/waste-pickers-es- sential-service-providers-high-risk
  13. International Transport Workers’ Federation (2006). Organising informal transport workers: Global research project. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.itfglobal.org/media/ 1382/08e_report.pdf
  14. Bhalla, N. (2020, June 3). ‘Hunger or Murder’: Lockdown poverty exposes African sex workers
    to more violence. Reuters. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/ us-health-coronavirus-women-sexworkers/hun- ger-or-murder-lockdown-poverty-exposes-af- rican-sex-workers-to-more-violence-idUSKBN- 23B0CS
  15. Upreti, M. and Fan, M. (2020). Global 16 Days Campaign Advocacy Guide. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://16day- scampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ OFFICIAL-CWGL-2020-16-Days-Campaign-Ad- vocacy- Guide.pdf
  16. Global Justice Network (2018, May 25).  Gender-based violence in the Walmart garment supply chain (pp. 4-5). Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.globallaborjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/GBV-Walmart-25-May-2018.pdf
  17. Hodal, K. (2018, June 5). Abuse is daily reality for female garment workers for Gap and H&M, says report. The Guardian. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jun/05/female-garment-workers-gap-hm-south-asia
  18. Nordic Union (2016, May 25). Sexual harassment in the hotel and restaurant industry. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.nordichrct.org/nyheder/report-on-sexual-harassment
  19. Runge, R. (2017). Ending gender-based violence in the world of work in the United States (p.5). AFL-CIO. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://aflcio.org/sites/default/files/2017-04/Ending%20Gender%20Based%20Violence%20in%20the%20World%20of%20Work%20USA%20Report%20%28002%29.pdf
  20. International Labour Organization (2015, December 15). ILO global estimates on migrant workers: Results and methodology (p. xiii). Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/labour-migration/publications/WCMS_436343/lang--en/index.htm
  21. United Nations, Women’s human rights in the changing world of work: Report of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls to the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/44/51 (2020, April 16).  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://undocs.org/A/HRC/44/51
  22. International Labour Organization (2020, July 30). Reporting on forced labour and fair recruitment: An ILO toolkit for journalists.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://readymag.com/ITCILO/1292461/
  23. World Bank (2018). Women, Business and the law: Key findings (p.20).  Retrieved on December 18, 2020, from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/29498
  24. United Nations, #MeToo: “A transformative moment, liberating and empowering”, a UN experts statement marking International Women’s Day (2018, March 6). Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22767&LangID=E
  25. United Nations, Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: Sexual harassment. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, A/RES/73/148 (2018, December 17).  Retrieved on December 18, 2020, from https://undocs.org/en/A/RES/73/148. See also reporting from: India Today Web Desk (2018, November 20). In a historic move, UN adopts first resolution to fight sexual harassment. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from: https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/united-nations-first-resolution-sexual-harassment-1392332-2018-11-20
  26. Nebehay, S. (2019, June 21). U.N. labor body adopts #MeToo pact against violence at work. Reuters. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-labour-harassment/u-n-labor-body-adopts-metoo-pact-against-violence-at-work-idUSKCN1TM1CM
  27. Begum, R. (2019, December 19). Two years after #MeToo: New Treaty anchors workplace protections. Women’s eNews.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://womensenews.org/2019/12/two-years-after-metoo-new-treaty-anchors-workplace-protections/
  28. Varia, N. (2019, October 14). The #MeToo movement’s powerful new tool.  Inter Press Service.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/10/metoo-movements-powerful-new-tool/
  29. Ennis, E. and Wolfe, L.  (2018, October 5).  Media and #MeToo: The Women’s Media Center report.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.womensmediacenter.com/reports/media-and-metoo-how-a-movement-affected-press-coverage-of-sexual-assault
  30. Ibid. p. 2
  31. Ibid. p. 14
  32. Graves, L. (2016, July 20). Jill Harth speaks out about alleged groping by Donald Trump. The Guardian. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/20/donald-trump-sexual-assault-allegations-jill-harth-interview. See also CJR interview of Lucia Graves: Vernon, P. (2016, October 13).  Q&A: Journalist who broke Trump groping story on why others were slow to follow. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.cjr.org/q_and_a/donald_trump_sexual_assault_allegations_lucia_graves.php
  33. Korecki, N. (2020, May 15). ‘Manipulative, deceitful, user’: Tara Reide left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances. Politico. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/15/tara-reade-left-trail-of-aggrieved-acquaintances-260771
  34. Korecki, N. (2020, May 22). Defense lawyers look to reopen cases where Tarar Reade testified as an expert. Politico. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/21/tara-reade-biden-expert-testimony-274460 See also: Coleman, J. (2021, March 16). Ryan Grim: Probes into Tara Reade’s undergraduate degree ‘demolished her ability to be heard’. The Hill. Retrieved on July 31, 2021, from https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/543477-intercept-bureau-chief-probes-into-validity-of-tara-reades-undergraduate-degree
  35. Ahumada, C. and Harper, M. (2020, December 3). Judge and Juror – the UN system is failing the women who blow the whistle on sexual harass- ment. Devex news. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.devex.com/news/opinion- judge-and-juror-the-un-system-is-failing-the- women-who-blow-the-whistle-on-sexual-harassment-98660
    Both authors are former UNAIDS staff members and have denounced sexual harassment within the agency.
  36. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/me-too-nz
  37. Huffadine, L. (2018, February 28). Alison Mau launches #metoonz investigation into sexual harassment in New Zealand. Stuff. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/101862288/alison-mau-launches-metoonz-investigation-into-sexual-harassment-in-new-zealand#:~:text=Alison%20Mau%20announces%20the%20launch,bring%20their%20tormentors%20to%20account.
  38. Mau, A., Duff, M. & Meier, C.  (February 2019).  One Year on, what has changed? Stuff. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2019/02/metoonz/one-year-on/
  39. Hollings, J. (2020, January 9). It does become personal: Lessons learned from a news organization’s #Metoo campaign. Journalism Practice. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2020.1712223. For this concept, see also:  Blumell, L. and Huemmer, J. (2019, January 1). Reassessing balance: News coverage of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood scandal before and during #metoo. Journalism.  Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884918821522
  40. For this concept, see also: Blumell, L. and Huemmer, J. (2019, January 1). Reassessing balance: News coverage of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood scandal before and during #metoo. Journalism. Retrieved on Dec. 18, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/ abs/10.1177/1464884918821522

7.7.4.Gender-based harassment and violence in public spaces

Gender-based violence and harassment in public spaces1 are an everyday occurrence for many women and girls.  Across the world, women report verbal harassment in streets, fear of being alone in public, both during the day and after dark, and unwanted touching and sexual assaults in deserted or crowded spaces.

In spite of its global pervasiveness, sexual harassment has rarely been prioritized and addressed as a human rights issue. For instance, a World Bank report2 showed that only 18 governments had adopted laws protecting women against it by 2016. Where legal and policy frameworks do exist, however, implementation is often poor. 

Gender-based harassment and violence in public spaces can range from intimidation and threats to sexual harassment (including catcalling and stalking), and from sexual assault to femicide. It happens on streets, public transportation, parks, beaches, schools, workplaces and refugee camps, as well as what might be deemed essential spaces, such as public toilets, eateries, and more. Women are especially at risk in marginalized communities, and during times of crisis, natural disasters, and conflict.

Gender-based violence in public spaces reduces women and girls’ freedom of movement, ability to participate in school, work, and public life. It curtails their access to essential services, including timely and safe access to sexual and reproductive health services, and limits their enjoyment of cultural and recreational activities, inhibiting the personal development necessary for their overall health and well-being.

In 2013, the UN Commission on the Status of Women specifically expressed “deep concern about violence against women and girls in public spaces, including sexual harassment, especially when it is being used to intimidate women and girls who are exercising any of their human rights,”3 including the right to work. Later, making cities inclusive and safe became a core component of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2015),4 as well as the UN New Urban Agenda (2016).5 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 (2019)6 “applies to violence and harassment in the world of work, including public and private spaces:

  • Where they are a place of work 
  • During work-related trips 
  • When commuting to and from work.”

Certain types of work have to be done in public spaces. For example, street vendors, fuelwood carriers, and waste pickers must work in public to ensure their livelihoods. Women are especially vulnerable to poor infrastructure, stigma, and discrimination, which further increase their risk of experiencing violence and harassment. In addition, street vendors, waste pickers, and sex workers often face attacks from police or state actors, as well as a variety of other arbitrary punishments, such as evictions, violent arrests, and immigration status investigations. They also report harassment and abuse from the public. cities for women and girls: The prevalence of harassment and violence

Since 60% of humanity is projected to live in cities by 2030,7 the vulnerability of women and girls in urban communities is gaining more attention both among human rights advocates and in the media.  Although the mobilization around this issue started in the ‘70s and ‘80s thanks to the feminist movements, its increasing impact has benefited from a series of landmark global studies and civil society initiatives of the past decade. All have also contributed to shifting the narrative from “protecting” women (through restrictions or surveillance) to increasing their autonomy and agency.8

Several key studies have revealed the prevalence and impact of such violence, and shown how young women and girls are often especially at risk:

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts 

As part of the 2017 global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, the association conducted a poll on the places and spaces where girls and young women feel the most unsafe.9 Based on over 7,000 responses received:

  • 70% said the street was the most unsafe place in their community
  • 52% said the fear of harassment made them avoid public transportation and other public spaces
  • 43% would not report harassment

The following year, another international poll conducted through UNICEF’s U-report platform, showed that, out of almost 10,000 respondents, 81% of girls agreed that governments should pass laws to end public harassment “in order to make them feel less vulnerable.”10

Plan International

In 2018, the UK-based global children’s rights organization published two significant reports on the harassment and violence against girls and young women in major metropolitan areas. An online perception-based survey of experts was conducted in 22 cities across six continents. According to Plan International, it was “the first of its kind to examine the safety risks facing girls and young women on such a large scale, highlighting the universality of the dangers they face in cities across different societies and cultures.”11 

The risks were rated in each city under six primary areas of concern, sexual harassment being, according to the survey results, “the biggest global safety concern for girls – worst in Bogota and Johannesburg.” 78% of the experts surveyed said harassment in public spaces occurred very or fairly often, and girls and young women were at high or extremely high risk of being harassed in their city. Other safety risks in decreasing order of prevalence were: sexual assault and rape (Hanoi being the safest city); theft and robbery; kidnap and murder (Kampala being by far the worst); and acid attacks (especially in Bogota and Delhi).        

Plan International’s other report, “Unsafe in the city: The everyday experiences of girls and young women,” was based on Free to Be, a map-based social survey tool that was developed with the help of girls and young women. It polled them, in a way they would not face recrimination, about where they felt safe or unsafe in their cities.12 The research was conducted over a period of six weeks in five cities: Delhi, Kampala, Lima, Madrid, and Sydney.

Some of the key findings were:

  • Whether walking to school, work, shopping areas or meeting places, the street is where girls and young women spent the most time and felt most unsafe (between 59% and 79% of respondents), followed by public transportation.
  • Sexist male behavior is a root cause of the problem, not how the girls “look” and “act”.  
  • The inaction of bystanders (especially in crowded places) and local law enforcement reinforces the perception that harassment is not only normal but the fault of the victims.  Women and girls mentioned blaming themselves, avoiding public spaces that they experience as unsafe, and not reporting abuses.
  • The dangers that they fear often lead them to leave school or jobs and limit their time away from home, restricting their rights to education, work, and freedom of movement.

“Despite the differences of context, culture and geography, the experience of harassment and the consequent feelings of both fear and anger are universal across the five cities,”13 the study concluded.


ActionAid International, a global anti-poverty federation headquartered in Johannesburg, since 2011 has documented the gender impact of violence and urbanization in a series of reports titled “Women and the City.” The initial reports (2011 and 2013) emphasized insecurity, sexual harassment, and abuse in half a dozen cities.  They showed how “women’s fear of violence restricts their movement, limiting their use of public spaces, their movement from their homes and as a result, their full enjoyment of a range of human rights.”14

The 2015 baseline study, involving 3,000 women and girls from urban communities in seven different countries, further demonstrated how gender-based violence is a systemic issue.  In Brazil, the report found:

“Women and girls reported changing the way they dressed, their behaviour and their daily routes in order to feel safer, yet they felt unable to speak about sexual harassment and assault.  This was because of a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators to account, and the fear that they themselves would be blamed for the abuse.”15

In its 10-country 2017 study “Whose City?”16 ActionAid looked at the impact of violence against women and girls  as a “global pandemic” threatening urban communities.  It was based on a comparative assessment of the measures in place to address violence against women in each country, selecting indicators, such as the use of a gender perspective in urban and transport planning and design. The resulting scorecard ranked Nepal as the best, in part because of the legal framework and policies in place. A key finding, however, was that “public spaces are becoming more unsafe” in Nepal, especially in the area of public transportation.

This was confirmed by a scoping study conducted during that same year by ActionAid Nepal in earthquake affected districts.17 This safety audit also stressed how girls (especially those aged 10-14 years) face higher risks, and how few victims (4%) ever report violence in public spaces.

A key outcome of these studies was the recognition that “the public safety of women and girls has to be understood from a rights perspective and must be included in planning, with a focus on the right to mobility rather than restrictions on women.”18

The public safety of women and girls has to be understood from a rights perspective and must be included in planning, with a focus on the right to mobility rather than restrictions on women

Similarly, journalists need to ensure that their reporting on public space dangers does not contribute to “deter women from accessing the streets by making their families/communities police them more closely,”19 as Sameera Khan wrote for the Feminism in India platform, or by “the adherence to stereotypes that blame [their] way of dressing or behavior for the unwanted conduct,”20 as the Inter Press Service handbook on gender-based violence reporting stated.

Safety is not the responsibility of those who cannot enjoy it.  Patriarchal norms that devalue women and deny their autonomy ultimately lead to the impunity of perpetrators.  They also prevent those obligated to ensuring public spaces safety from being held accountable.




The Center for Women’s Global Leadership, with support from UNFPA, organized focus groups on public safety in nine different countries in late 2020.21 In Yemen, 17 young women (mostly college students) discussed their use of public space, their own experience of harassment, and its impact on their lives. 

The most frequently mentioned spaces where incidents of harassment or violence occurred were:

  • Street
  • School (college)
  • Public transportation (bus)
  • Shopping malls / supermarkets
  • Souks (marketplace)
  • Cafés

Participants also cited parks, gardens, beaches, gas stations, places of entertainment and festivals.

The perpetrators they mentioned included boys, older men, fellow students, teachers, car/bus drivers, and police.

The safety of the focus group allowed the young women to candidly describe the commonality, ubiquity, and deep impact of their experiences. The daily exposure to all forms of verbal and physical sexual harassment led them to talk about the multiple ways in which such inescapable abuses restrict their lives and infringe upon their basic rights, such as freedom of expression and movement, access to education and leisure, and access to drinking water.

The young women felt that the conflict in their country has led to gradually worsening their oppression and harassment, and to their suffocating feelings of being sub-human and not belonging: “Homeland should be where you feel safe,” one participant said.

They talked about everything they had to avoid (walking, taking the bus, going out at night, wearing certain clothes) or give up altogether: taking public transportation, going to school, to hospitals, meeting friends, and engaging in recreational activities. They described being frightened, anxious, stressed, and traumatized, and dealing with long-term psychological problems, mental health disorders, and family conflicts. And some of them even said that they yearned for “a planet for themselves only” or an “island just for women.”

they yearned for “a planet for themselves only” or an “island just for women.”

Their discussions also included suggestions about what would help address public safety issues, such as improving street lighting and holding perpetrators accountable, among others.22


When reporting on the pervasiveness and severity of harassment and violence in public spaces, journalists should consider:

  • Highlighting their direct and lasting impact on women’s autonomy, life decisions, and livelihood, rather than focusing on the nature of the harassment and on how victims may have “provoked” or avoided it.
  • Avoiding the assumptions or stereotypes that reinforce the perception that public harassment is “normal.” This can occur when it is dismissed as a minor aggravation, if it is not physical, or as something “to be expected” if women choose to use public spaces, for instance, without escorts or adequate precautions.
  • Reporting on populations that may be disproportionately affected, such as LGBTQ individuals, women with disabilities, younger girls and migrant, immigrant, or refugee women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, transgender women have been victimized by gendered lockdown policies.  Several Latin American countries (Panama, Peru, and Colombia) initially chose to allow women and men to go out on alternative days only, which resulted in increased harassment and hate crimes against the transgender community.23
  • Referencing comparative studies,24 when time allows, to address the complexity of the issues and help the audience better understand some of their root causes or contributing factors. These may include perpetrators taking advantage of crowded spaces, and the absence of accountability, among other factors. 
  • Using surveys about safety perceptions,25 in addition to prevalence data. Such surveys show, among others, how perceptions (depending on gender) result in significantly different behavior changes. 
  • Exploring the multiple reasons why many “women don’t report, police don’t investigate, and prosecutors don’t prosecute.”26
  • Reporting on proposed or implemented community solutions27 to the gendered impact of public safety issues. harassment: “The stories that paint a picture of statistics”

Street harassment28, as broadly defined, includes a multiplicity of unwanted and degrading interactions encountered when people leave home to go to work, go to school, and go shopping; when they need to access public services and facilities, and when they want to socialize or worship.  For women in particular, this means being subjected to demeaning comments and behaviors on a daily basis, without recognition that these violate some of their most basic rights and needs, and without recourse.

The following examples of media coverage illustrate the value of some of the recommendations listed in the previous section.


Several studies29 and press reports have rightly focused on women’s responses to street harassment and assaults. Responses varied from internalizing gender norms and stereotypes (“More women than men blamed the victim’s appearance for provoking harassment,” according to a UN Women/Promundo 2017 survey30); developing coping mechanisms, confronting harassers, reporting incidents of violence, and mobilizing for change.

An August 2018 news report in the Middle East Eye31 highlights the culture of impunity that persisted after the adoption, earlier in the year, of a law against harassment and violence against women, including in public spaces. Although it provides for jail time and fines, the article noted, “Moroccan women say they are reluctant to file charges in such matters. That’s because when it comes to public spaces, men in Morocco are raised to think they must constantly assert their masculinity. [They] feel entitled to women’s bodies.”  In reality, the new law, according to human rights lawyer Stephanie Bordat quoted in the article, is “a cosmetic law that is hard to enforce because of limited police power and strict evidence requirements.”

The article also referred to the launch of the first mobile app in Morocco allowing women to “anonymously file a report and provide information about the location, the nature of what happened and descriptions of the victim and aggressor.” The article concluded: “These initiatives are designed to build public awareness and understanding about the impact of sexual harassment in Morocco. But the toughest task for the anti-harassment advocates may be changing the mentality of men.” 

The toughest task for the anti-harassment advocates may be changing the mentality of men

Women’s mobilization against sexual harassment and assaults has given survivors a voice, especially since the August 2018 launch of the grassroots movement #Masaktach (I will not be silent)32 – co-founded by freelance journalist Aida Alami – and sometimes referred to as the Moroccan #MeToo. The Masaktach campaign was triggered in part by the shocking case and media coverage of the abduction and torture of a 17-year-old girl.  Alami decided to cover the case when she saw what she called the ‘horrific way the media covered [it], which brutalized this teenager a second time.”33 


The high incidence of street harassment in France has received a lot of media attention, especially in the context of the #MeToo Movement,34 some of it having effectively highlighted how women experience it multiple times throughout their lives, and how it impacts them long term. Media coverage of egregious cases and #MeToo advocacy have also contributed to the August 2018 law on sexual harassment, which has been credited in part for the deterrence effect of “on-the-spot” fines.

A high profile case in 2020 demonstrated again the role that the media can play in breaking the silence around street sexual harassment and assaults, and the prevailing culture of acceptance and impunity. The French magazine Neon35 published the results of an extensive investigation in which scores of women accused Parisian street artist and photographer Wilfrid Azencoth of harassing them on the streets of Montmartre, and then sexually assaulting them after having lured them to his studio. The assaults were alleged to have taken place between 2009 and February 2020.

A few days after the first installment was published on June 22, investigators opened an inquiry, and one day after the second article came out on July 6, 25 women filed a collective complaint.  On Oct. 2, Wilfrid A. was indicted and placed in pre-trial detention. The Neon investigation is a prime example of allowing survivors to discover that their experiences were not isolated incidents, and to be given an opportunity to speak out and seek accountability.


A perception survey published in a 2019 report of the Community Council for Australia36 found that half of the female respondents did not feel safe walking alone at night, and 1 in 4 women (as opposed to 1 in 24 men) didn’t walk alone in their neighborhoods after dark. The 50 percent of women who did not feel safe represents the highest rate among the 37 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

“The explanation for this is not that violence against women is worse in Australia than anywhere else in the OECD,” Jane Gilmore wrote in reporting on these findings in The Sydney Morning Herald. “The report suggested it has more to do with women’s perception of risk and their trust that their community will believe them and act to protect them.”37 Such gender gaps show how the fear of violence, not just the experience of it, has a potentially debilitating and disproportionate impact on women’s lives. 

An earlier report on street harassment by the Australia Institute specifically documented38 the gender gap regarding actions undertaken to ensure personal safety: It found that 90 percent of women took at least one of 12 actions listed in the survey, within the previous year, in order to ensure their safety, whereas 40 percent of the male respondents said they took none. Public transportation harassment and violence: “What is not measured is not known”

A landmark poll conducted by YouGov for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (2014),39 as well as the more recent Guardian series on “Extreme cities” and “Ideal Cities” underscore how the media can keep shining a light on pervasive forms of harassment and violence, even though they may be taken for granted by governments and public transportation agencies, as well as by a large percentage of the public across the globe.

A. Data challenges

Reporting on the gendered dimensions and impact of this urban safety issue is challenging in part due to the lack of adequate data collection and analyses. Flavie Halais, a Montreal-based independent journalist, rightly noted in a 2020 Wired magazine article: “What is not measured is not known, and the world of transit data is still largely blind to women and other vulnerable populations. . . . Data collection often fails to consider the travelling experience of women,”40 including incidents of sexual harassment and violence.

Halais’ article clearly exposes the need for disaggregated data,41 especially broken down by gender, and the fact that “data collection often fails to consider the traveling experience of women.” Given this reality, journalists can turn to studies that look at the specific mobility risks, needs and patterns of female transit users, and learn from their respective methodologies to formulate their own questions and investigations.

  • Perceptions are an essential part of the experience, as illustrated by the safety concerns raised by targeted survey questions:
    • The YouGov survey for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (2014) included the following questions:
      • “How safe do you feel travelling alone at night in the city where you live?”
      • “How confident are you that other people would come to your assistance if you were being abused on public transport?”
      • “Safe public transport is available in the city where I live. Agree or disagree?”


    • A Sonke Gender Justice study (2019)42 on “Women and girls’ experiences of gender-based violence on public transport” in South Africa.  It included a section on “women’s perceptions of risk to their safety and personal security.”  A survey asked women, for instance, how likely they were to be robbed, sexually harassed, and to avoid taking public transportation altogether.
    • A report (2019) by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) on “Understanding how women travel.”43 The transit agency survey found that safety concerns force Metro riders to change their behavior, including not riding transit. Metro users were also asked about their perceptions of the police officers on board buses and trains.
  • Data gaps (when data are neither collected nor accessible) can distort the assessment and characterization of a global problem such as the risks and challenges encountered by women using public transportation. 

As part of its “Data Gap” investigative series, The Globe and Mail published in 2019 a landmark study on Canadian transit passengers who were targets of sexual violence between 2013 and 2017:44 “The Globe obtained and analyzed scores of records to find out how the country’s 22 largest public transit systems track and handle sexual misconduct.” The Globe’s analysis was based on statistics obtained through dozens of Freedom of Information requests. Some of the exposed data gaps included:

    • Cases of passengers discouraged by transit staff to file complaints
    • Records of incidents not reported to the police
    • Incidents taking place at bus stops/shelters/terminals or subway/train stations
    • Incidents that transit agencies did not think met criminal offense thresholds (e.g. leering, voyeurism)
    • Misclassified incidents
    • Unsuccessful assault attempts


B. A gender and human rights issue

In a world of “normalized” discriminatory practices and sexist behaviors, it is easy to overlook access to mobility as access to basic rights: equality, safety, bodily integrity, and of course freedom of movement. Whether restricted by their fear or by their actual experience of harassment and assault, women may also be unable to go to school or go to work.

In a world of “normalized” discriminatory practices and sexist behaviors, it is easy to overlook access to mobility as access to basic rights

“Cities should present a land of opportunities. But if gender considerations are not systematically integrated into city design, planning, and governance, the cities and the public spaces become the land of discrimination, exclusion, and violence,”45 Lakshmi Puri, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, said in a March 2015 session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The gender dimensions of public transportation are linked to the type of work that mostly women do (such as caregiving, domestic work, and shopping) when they have to rely on public transportation for frequent trips, including at night and during the overcrowded peak hours. The type of transport they use is often dictated by their economic status, or need for shorter trips, and may translate into higher safety risks.46 For those reasons, women often become “captive riders.”47 The lack of transportation alternatives, other than reducing their mobility, increases their exposure to harassment and assaults.

In an important study of “Sexual harassment on public buses and trains in Sri Lanka,”48 UNFPA underlined its connection to “the deeper issues of gender imbalances within societal structures,” as well as its impact on restricting women’s basic rights and freedoms.  The study, conducted in 2016, showed that 90% of female respondents had been sexually harassed in buses and trains – with more than one in four having experienced harassment at least monthly. In addition, 60% were unaware that it was a punishable crime, and 92% of the victims did not seek help from law enforcement. Moreover, 37% reported that the incident adversely impacted their job performance. 

As part of the 2018 Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, UNFPA sponsored a photojournalism series,49 in collaboration with British photographer Eliza Hatch. The series featured the stories and voices of 16 Sri Lankan women who had experienced sexual harassment on public transportation. 

C. Underreported issues

Media coverage of gender-based violence related to mobility is usually linked to the publication of new studies,50 to egregious cases triggering strong social media reactions,51 to new legislation,52 and to advocacy campaigns53 trying to raise awareness and prompt action to address the problem. 

Meanwhile, the root causes, prevention, and long-term impact of such violence are often neglected issues, as is the quest for accountability and solutions. Examples of underreported dimensions, trends, and impact are:

  • Harassment and violence against female riders in transportation hubs, train/metro stations, parking lots, and bus stops/shelters
  • Harassment and violence against female transportation workers from customers, passengers and the general public. The risks they can be exposed to have been especially well documented by the European Transport Workers’ federation.54
  • The aftermath and subsequent developments in high-profile cases. 



A student was gang-raped and murdered on Dec. 16, 2012, on a Delhi bus, sparking widespread protests. The BBC followed up with a 2017 story on the impact of the case (“Was Delhi gang rape India’s #Metoo moment?”).55 Reporter Geeta Pandey concluded:

“The biggest change has been the one in attitudes – sexual attacks and rapes have become topics of living room conversations and that is a huge deal in a country where sex and sex crimes

are a taboo. Taking control of the conversation is the first step to India becoming a better place for women. Every incident, big or small, is being discussed and written about, and women’s rights to safe living and equality have been under much greater scrutiny.”

Three years later,56 when four men were hanged for committing that crime, Pandey’s follow-up story addressed the issue of punishment and deterrence.

“Some say strict punishment, swiftly delivered, will instill a fear of the law in the public mind and deter rape, but experts say the only permanent solution to the problem is to dismantle the hold of patriarchal thinking, the mindset that regards women as being a man’s property.”

  • Statistical trends, such as increases in sexual harassment reports that reached 42% on the London Underground between 2015 and 2019,57 and 70% in Melbourne train stations between 2015 and 2018.58
  • New forms of harassment, such as cyber-flashing,59 which occurs when a stranger sends sexual images to a passenger’s device through smartphone technology.
  • Governmental campaigns/responses,60 urban planners and NGOs’ recommendations, and women’s rights activists/social entrepreneurs’ initiatives, such as the Safetipin app available in India since 2013, and now in over half a dozen other countries and five languages.61
  • Consequences of avoiding public transportation for safety reasons. Trying to reduce the risks of harassment and violence on public transportation significantly limits options to access workplaces and services. on specific risks and solutions: the case of street and market vendors

Women who labor in the informal economy work are at higher risk of gender-based violence, especially when they work in public spaces and fall victims to criminalization and livelihood threats.

Media coverage rarely delves into the multiple forms of harassment, punitive measures, and assaults against women street vendors. They routinely face challenges in accessing sanitation, water and public transportation, and fall prey to evictions, stigmas against migrants, and various discriminatory or repressive regulations (including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic). Reporting on those risk factors is especially important in countries where women represent the majority of street vendors. 

The following stories, focusing on three major cities, illustrate the value of reporting not only those challenges, but also solutions emerging from the participation or initiatives of the women vendors themselves.

Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea)


Annie Kelly, Editor of The Guardian “Human Rights in Focus” series, reported on the plight of women vendors who “are bullied by market security, intimidated by police and sexually harassed throughout the day.”  The focus of her story, however, was on the “more than 3,000 women [who] formed 12 vendor associations to represent their concerns to local authorities.”

This initiative took place as part of UN Women “Safe Cities Global Initiative.”62

Kampala (Uganda)


Also published by The Guardian, this story by Alice McCool described how women market vendors had organized, with the support of the Institute for Social Transformation, to protect themselves against sexual harassment: 240 women representatives in the Nakawa market collected complaints that lead to perpetrators being fined or expelled. This story was also framed around the adoption of the International Labor Organization Convention 190 (2019), which protects workers, including from the informal sector, against all forms of harassment and violence. 

Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)


This article addressed the specific issues of market vendors assaulted by male customers: “Being subjected to gender-based violence is a daily occurrence. The fear and stress of being targeted can make it difficult for women to earn a living, hindering their economic potential,” freelance journalist Kizito Makoye Shigela wrote. His article focused on the attempt by a local NGO, Equality for Growth, to provide remedies against those abuses by raising awareness of women’s rights, as well as helping women vendors protect themselves and report incidents of harassment and violence. and violence against unsheltered homeless women: “The violence of looking away”

Unsheltered63 homeless people mostly live in urban public spaces not meant for habitation such as parks, abandoned lots, streets, sidewalks, and doorways. Many studies and news reports on homelessness, unfortunately, do not provide data broken down by gender.

A June 2020 blog by the U.S. National Alliance to End Homelessness64 addressed this lack of gender analysis.  Author Jackie Janosko, reviewing government statistics for the 2016-19 period, noted the alarming gender disparities and trends among the U.S. unsheltered population: The number of men increased by 20%, of women by 35%, and of transgender people by 113%. Janosko also quoted studies mentioning that “women are at a higher risk of dying prematurely,” of experiencing longer losses of housing and higher levels of trauma.

Government statistics from the United Kingdom, where street homelessness increased by 169% between 2010 and 2017 – a period of austerity politics – also showed that women die at a younger age (42).65 In spite of those distressing numbers, and some major reporting initiatives by the UK media,66 very little is said about gender-based harassment and violence against unsheltered people.

In contrast with extensive reporting on the issue of domestic violence as a leading cause of homelessness, the lack of GBV documentation and reporting, once women are on the street, is striking. Even when statistics are broken down by gender, the experience of women often remains untold, in spite of their vulnerability to misogynistic behavior and assaults by acquaintances, strangers, pimps, and sex traffickers.

One exception worth mentioning is a 2016 policy statement of the Brussels-based European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless:67 

“Research shows that once homeless, women are at increased risk of exposure to further gender-based violence and trauma, as a consequence of homelessness. Their living situation exacerbates trauma and puts [them] at a higher risk of abuse. . . .  The gendered violence endured while homeless leads to the further marginalization and social exclusion of homeless women.”

The gendered violence endured while homeless leads to the further marginalization and social exclusion of homeless women

In spite of this recognition, though, two of European Federation 2020 reports – on the experience of homeless Roma and of homeless migrant women in Europe – barely touched on the issue other than mentioning the fear of being separated from their children and of seeking help because of the multiple stigmas they may be carrying from previous GBV traumas.

On the other hand, a 2019 study on the experiences of Roma homeless women living in Malmö, Sweden,68 having to survive by begging in public spaces, showed how these marginalized communities experience a range of bias crimes from harassment to sexual violence.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness has also noted that women living on the street are at higher risk of being abused than women who are housed. Indigenous women, over represented in the homeless population, are three times more likely to face violence.69 The organization is also trying to bring attention to the issue of “survival sex”: “Some people experiencing homelessness turn to sex work as a means of staying alive or obtaining the necessities of life.”70 This further increases the risks for unsheltered women to be harassed and stigmatized.

 “Across the world, women rough sleepers face unique challenges living on the streets,” wrote Alasdair Soussi, a Glasgow-based freelance journalist, on the unseen violence faced by homeless women on the streets of his city,” and “Scotland is no exception.  But many Scots are unaware of this dark underbelly of female existence where stories of sexual exploitation abound.”71


As told to reporter and Handbook Contributor Eunice Kilonzo, this story is excerpted from an article published in Nation Africa on Nov. 14, 2016 and updated on July 5, 2020.72

It was originally published as a first-person narrative so that readers could “hear” the street mother’s voice. The Nation’s editors felt it was the best way to give the story the authenticity it deserved and ensure that it would resonate with them. The Nation continued to receive positive feedback after the story was reposted in 2020 on its new website.

It is hard for me to separate the street from my life, and so I told her that I’d just tell her the story of my life. Period. I will just speak, and she will do the writing later on, joining the strands of my barely comprehensible narrative to make something out of it.

Some people call me Emma, others Mary. I don’t mind either name. I am aged 24, I live in the streets of Eldoret, I am four months pregnant with my fourth baby, and I am HIV-positive.

These streets are chock-full of many like me. We are used to the stares, but, honestly, I can’t stand them.

My days are like those of any other street child; I scavenge to eat, slug it out for a place to put my head at night, and, because I am a woman, spend the better part of the night fighting off loonies trying to rape me.

I have lived that life for nearly eight years now. I came here together with my siblings from Turkana in search of a better life. We did not have anything worth living for at home, and so we embarked on the long journey here, spending nights in the cold and enduring the elements for days on end.

I am often raped on the streets. My worst nightmare is going to the river to take a bath in the cover of darkness, when there are no prying eyes.

That cover of darkness also provides the perfect blanket for rapists, and so, as sure as the sun will rise from the east tomorrow, I know I will be raped if I make my way to the river to take a bath.

When I beg enough money I go to the public washrooms to shower there. They are much safer, but not always affordable.

They do not know that I am sick; that I have HIV. And I don’t think I’ll tell them, because their brand of violent sexual perversion leaves no room for dialogue.

I am on medication though, and I have taken my antiretrovirals religiously for the last seven months. Sometimes the challenges in these streets make me desperate for food as I cannot take my ARVs without eating. When I don’t get enough money from my begging rounds, I get desperate and hawk my body to the street kids for whatever morsels they can spare me.

It breaks my heart when I see young street girls — some as young as eight — come to the streets to find a new life. Because I know that, like me, they will have it rough. the worst to access water and sanitation

According to the United Nations, in 2018 the number of people living in urban informal settlements (slums) reached over one billion.73 There is a need for more media coverage of the pervasive dangers they face, especially the harassment and violence against women and girls who have to walk long distances to access water and sanitation, among other essential public services. 

“The failure of States to ensure the adequate provision of water and sanitation in public spaces has a particularly negative, and often disproportionate, impact on women and girls, and their enjoyment of a great number of their human rights,” warned Léo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation in a 2019 report that emphasized risks in the public spaces of urban areas.74

An especially useful case study on this issue was published by Amnesty International in 2010.75  The report, “Risking rape to reach a toilet,” described the widespread violence against women seeking access to water and sanitation in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya.  The lack of policing and street lighting, compounding the shortage of toilets and places to wash, significantly increase the risks of sexual harassment and assaults, and threaten the rights of women and girls to dignity and privacy.

Similar risks have been documented in the informal settlements of Cape Town, South Africa. A 2016 Reuters article76 focused on the dangers faced by their residents, especially women, due to inadequate sanitation. Paola Totaro, reporting from Khayelitsha, one of the five largest informal settlements in the world, referred to an innovative study by Yale University (U.S.)77 connecting sexual assault risks to the number of available sanitation facilities and the average time walking to access them. Based on these calculations, it was estimated that 635 sexual assaults took place each year in Khayelitsha.

A George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) study83 estimated that over 13 million women In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, are responsible for the daily collection of water, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence due to high access risks. Although exposed by researchers during the past decade,79 these widespread forms of gender-based violence are still neglected by the media.

  1. A broad international definition of “public space” is provided in a UN Habitat toolkit: “Public spaces are all places publicly owned or of public use, accessible and enjoyable by all for free and without a profit motive.” They mostly include streets, open spaces, and public facilities. UN Habitat (2015). Global public space toolkit (pp. 26-27). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/2019/05/global_public_space_toolkit.pdf
  2. World Bank Group (2015).  Women, Business and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal (p. 23).  Washington, D.C.: World Bank. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/22546
  3. UN Commission on the Status of Women (2013). Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls: Agreed conclusions (par. 23). Retrieved on Jan.28, 2021, from: https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/57/csw57-agreedconclusions-a4-en.pdf?la=en&vs=700
  4. United Nations (2015). Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 11).  Retrieved on Jan.28, 2021, from https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal11
  5. United Nations (2017).  New Urban Agenda (adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development , Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador on Oct. 20, 2016). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf
  6. International Labour Organisation.  Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190), Article 3. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C190
  7. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2016). The World’s Cities in 2016 – Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/392). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_worlds_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf
  8. Sarkar, S. (2019, December 9). How not to talk about ‘women’s safety’ in public spaces. Feminism in India. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://feminisminindia.com/2019/12/09/talk-womens-safety-public-spaces/
  9. World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (2018, October 11). Young people want action to end street harassment. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.wagggs.org/en/news/street-harassment/
  10. Ibid.
  11. Plan International (2018, September 24). Expert Survey: Girls’ safety in cities across the world (p.13).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://plan-international.org/publications/expert-survey-girls-safety-cities
  12. Plan International (2018, October 11).  Unsafe in the city: The everyday experiences of girls and young women (p.7).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from: https://plan-international.org/unsafe-city
  13. Ibid. (p.21)
  14. ActionAid International (2013, February 21). Women and the City 2: Combating violence against women and girls in urban public spaces (p. 5). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://actionaid.org/sites/default/files/women_and_the_city_ii_1.pdf
  15. ActionAid International (2015, March 2). Women and the City III: A summary of baseline data on women’s experience of violence in seven countries (p.5). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://actionaid.org/publications/2015/women-and-city-iii
  16. ActionAid International (2017, November 30). Whose City? An evaluation of urban safety for women in 10 countries (Annex III, p.32).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://actionaid.org/publications/2017/whose-city
  17. ActionAid Nepal (2017). Safe city programme: Women safety audit report.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://nepal.actionaid.org/sites/nepal/files/women_safety_audit_report.indd_.pdf
  18. Ibid. (p.6)
  19. Khan, S. (2015, December 12). Sixteen ways to implement gender ethical journalism. Feminism in India. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://feminisminindia.com/2015/12/12/improve-media-reportage-gender-ethical-journalism/
  20. Inter Press Service (2009). Reporting gender-based violence: A handbook for journalists (p. 38). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from http://www.ipsnews.net/publications/ips_reporting_gender_based_violence.pdf
  21. This case study is based on a focus group report submitted to CWGL (Dec. 15, 2020) by Fahmia Alfotih, Communication and Knowledge Man- agement Specialist for UNFPA.
  22. For more information, see also openDemocracy reporting on young Yemeni women’s campaign- ing efforts. Al-Absi, G. (2012, July 23). Street sex- ual harassment: Breaking the silence in Yemen. openDemocracy. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/ street-sexual-harassment-breaking-silence-in- yemen/
  23. Glatsky, G. (2020, May 19). How COVID-19 responses are endangering trans people in Latin America. The New Humanitarian. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2020/05/19/coronavirus-trans-lgbti-latin-america-panama-colombia
  24. Suggested websites to access some of those studies: - Stop Street Harassment: www.stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/ - European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/604949/IPOL_STU(2018)604949_EN.pdf - Fondation Jean Jaurѐs (France):  https://jean-jaures.org/nos-productions/les-femmes-face-aux-violences-sexuelles-et-le-harcelement-dans-la-rue
  25. Three illustrative examples of such surveys are: -  Gallup (2012, July 6). Women feel less safe than men in many developed countries.  https://news.gallup.com/poll/155402/women-feel-less-safe-men-developed-countries.aspx - YouGov/Thomson Reuters Foundation (2014, October 31). Most dangerous transport systems for women. https://news.trust.org/spotlight/most-dangerous-transport-systems-for-women/ - The Australia Institute (2015, March 6). Everyday sexism: Australian women’s experiences of street harassment. https://australiainstitute.org.au/report/everyday-sexism/
  26. BBC News Magazine (2016, October 10). The Moroccan women fighting daily sexual harassment. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37589687
  27. See, for instance: Fleming, A. (2018, December 13).  What would a city that is safe for women look like? The Guardian. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/dec/13/what-would-a-city-that-is-safe-for-women-look-like
  28. Gilmore, J. (2019, May 10). If you don’t believe the harassment statistics, listen to these women. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/gender/if-you-don-t-believe-the-harassment-statistics-listen-to-these-women-20190509-p51lp2.html
  29. Monqid, S. (2012). Violence against women in public spaces: the case of Morocco. OpenEdition Journals (no.9, p. 105-117).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from  https://journals.openedition.org/ema/3011 Williams E. (2020, July 3). #Masaktach: Social media and sexual violence against women in Morocco. Oxford Middle East Review. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://omerjournal.com/2020/07/03/masaktach-social-media-and-sexual-violence-against-women-in-morocco/
  30. UN Women and Promundo-US (2017).  Understanding masculinities: Results from the international men and gender equality survey – Middle East and North Africa (p. 92). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 20221, from https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2017/images-mena-multi-country-report-en.pdf?la=en&vs=3602
  31. Lewis, O. (2018, August 7). ‘Hey, sexy’: Long road ahead to combat sexual harassment in Morocco. Middle East Eye.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.middleeasteye.net/features/hey-sexy-long-road-ahead-combat-sexual-harassment-morocco
  32. The Guardian (2018, November 26). ‘I will not keep silent’: Khadija rape case spurs women into action in Morocco (video).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2018/nov/23/i-will-not-keep-silent-khadija-case-sparks-backlash-in-morocco-video
  33. “Empowering Voices” Round Table, Al Akhawayn University (Ifrane), November 2018.  As quoted in: Williams E. (2020, July 3). #Masaktach: Social media and sexual violence against women in Morocco. Oxford Middle East Review. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://omerjournal.com/2020/07/03/masaktach-social-media-and-sexual-violence-against-women-in-morocco/
  34. For English-language coverage, see these BBC articles: BBC News Europe (2018, February 23). One French woman in eight has been raped, study says.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43167309#:~:text=About%20four%20million%20French%20women,sexual%20touching%20without%20their%20consent. BBC News Europe (2019, April 30). France harassment law hands out 447 fines in first months. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48104247
  35. Grand d’Esnon, P. (2020, June 22). ‘Un violeur court les rues’: de nombreux témoignages accablent un street artist et photographe parisien. Neon. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.neonmag.fr/un-violeur-court-les-rues-de-nombreux-temoignages-accablent-un-street-artist-et-photographe-parisien-556648.html Grand d’Esnon, P. (2020, July 6). ‘L’amour court les rues’ : De nouveaux éléments visant Wilfrid A. dessinent une pratique prédatrice hors du commun.  Neon. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.neonmag.fr/lamour-court-les-rues-de-nouveaux-elements-visant-wilfrid-a-dessinent-une-pratique-predatrice-hors-du-commun-557014.html
  36. Crosbie, D. & Marjolin, A. (March 2019). The Australia we want. Community Council for Australia, Canberra. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from: https://www.communitycouncil.com.au/sites/default/files/Australia-we-want-Second-Report_ONLINE.pdf
  37. Gilmore, J. (2019, May 10). If you don’t believe the harassment statistics, listen to these women. The Sydney Moring Herald. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/gender/if-you-don-t-believe-the-harassment-statistics-listen-to-these-women-20190509-p51lp2.html
  38. Johnson, M. and Bennett, E. (2015, March 7).  Everyday sexism: Australian women’s experience of street harassment. The Australian Institute, Melbourne. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://australiainstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Everyday_sexism_TAIMarch2015_0.pdf
  39. Thomson Reuters Foundation News (2014). Most dangerous transport systems for women. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://news.trust.org/spotlight/most-dangerous-transport-systems-for-women/
  40. Halais, F. (2020, January 21). Making public transit fairer to women demands way more data. Wired.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from https://www.wired.com/story/making-public-transit-fairer-to-women-demands-data/
  41. See also the recommendations of the Institute for Transportation and Development (ITPD) published in collaboration with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO): ITPD (May 2018).  Access and Gender (p. 16). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://itdpdotorg.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/access_for_all_series_1_baja.pdf
  42. Sonke Gender Justice (2019). Women and Girls’ experiences of gender-based violence on public transport in Gauteng & the Western Cape province (pp. 32-34).  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://genderjustice.org.za/publication/women-and-girls-experiences-of-gender-based-violence-on-public-transport-in-gauteng-the-western-cape-province/
  43. Hymon, S. (2019, September 19). Metro releases understanding how women travel report. The Source, a Los Angeles-area Metro transit system blog. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://thesource.metro.net/2019/09/19/metro-releases-understanding-how-women-travel-report/#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20titled%20%E2%80%9CUnderstanding,released%20by%20Metro%20this%20month.&text=The%20report's%20findings%20confirm%20much,for%20a%20variety%20of%20reasons.
  44. Burns-Pieper, A. (2019, July 9). Thousands of Canadian transit passengers target of sexual violence between 2013 and 2017, Globe analysis finds. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-data-gap-transit-sexual-assault-investigation/
  45. Scruggs, G. (2015, March 3). 59th CSW at U.N. focuses on women in urban spaces. Published on the website of the Indian feminist NGO Jagori.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.jagori.org/59th-csw-un-focuses-women-urban-spaces
  46. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITPD) (May 2018).  Access and Gender (pp. 7-8). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://itdpdotorg.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/access_for_all_series_1_baja.pdf
  47. Powers, M. (2017, October 20).  Why the #MeToo movement is a public transportation issue. The Washington Post. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/10/20/why-the-metoo-movement-is-a-public-transportation-issue/
  48. UNFPA Sri Lanka (March 2017). Sexual harassment on public buses and trains in Sri Lanka.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://srilanka.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/FINAL%20POLICY%20BRIEF%20-%20ENGLISH_0.pdf
  49. UNFPA (November 2018). Don’t look away: 16 stories of sexual harassment on public transport. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.unfpa.org/16-stories
  50. See coverage, for instance, of a study by the French government Council on Equality: Elzas, S. (2015, April 16). On French public transit, ‘100 per cent’ of women have been sexually harassed. Radio France International. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20150416-french-public-transit-100-cent-women-have-been-sexually-harassed
  51. See this story of a Turkish case by the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW): Oneko, S. & Baig, R. (2015, February 17). Outrage over sexual abuse sparks debate on public transport. DW.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.dw.com/en/outrage-over-sexual-abuse-sparks-debate-on-public-transport/a-18264022
  52. See the following analysis example: Antunes, L. & Martinelli, A. (2018, November 8). A new sexual harassment law is put to the test on Brazil’s public transportation. HuffPost Brazil. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brazil-sexual-harassment-law-public-transportation_n_5be48c33e4b0e84388957620#:~:text=WORLD%20NEWS-,A%20New%20Sexual%20Harassment%20Law%20Is%20Put,Test%20On%20Brazil's%20Public%20Transportation&text=A%20woman%20is%20sexually%20harassed,at%20curbing%20the%20pervasive%20problem.
  53. See the articles published during the 2018 Global 16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign focusing on harassment and violence on public transportation in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe: Gil, N. (2018, November 25). 90% of Sri Lankan Women have been sexually harassed on public transport. Refinery29.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2018/11/217602/sexual-harassment-sri-lanka Towo, A. (2018, December 2). Call to end violence against women and girls in public transport. Bulawayo 24 News. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://bulawayo24.com/index-id-opinion-sc-columnist-byo-150851.html
  54. Pilinger, J. (2020). Addressing violence and harassment against women in the world of work (p.30).  Brussels:  European Transport Workers’ Federation.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.etf-europe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ETF-Workplace-Policy-Guidance-addressing-violence-and-harrasment.pdf
  55. Pandey, G. (2017, December 16). Was Delhi gang rape India’s #Metoo moment? BBC News. As reported in this article, “the press dubbed [the victim] Nirbhaya – the fearless one.” Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-asia-india-42236752
  56. Pandey, G. (2020, March 20). Delhi Nirbhaia rape death penalty: What do hangings mean for India’s women? BBC News. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world- asia-india-50812776
  57. Wills, K. (2019, October 8). Which city is the worst for sexual harassment on public transport? The Guardian. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/oct/08/which-city-is-the-worst-for-sexual-harassment-on-public-transport
  58. Jacks, T. and Sakkal, P. (2019, January 25). Sexual offences up by 60 per cent on public transport. The Age. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/sexual-offences-up-by-60-per-cent-on-public-transport-20190125-p50tm6.html
  59. Gallagher, S. (2020, February 18). ‘The tip of the iceberg’: Cyber-flashing on trains ‘largely unreported’ despite huge rise in incidents. The Independent. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/cyber-flashing-incidents-number-2020-a9341676.html
  60. See, for example, the 2017 Australian ‘Hands Off’ campaign, a joint initiative of the Victoria Police and Public Transport agency: Fileborn, B. (2017, October 24). Why the ‘Hands Off’ campaign targeting sexual harassment on public transport misses the mark. The Conversation. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/why-the-hands-off-campaign-targeting-sexual-harassment-on-public-transport-misses-the-mark-86213
  61. Ghosh, S. (2020, February 4). Delhi’s My Safetipin app is telling women which streets are unsafe to be on. Edexlive (The New Indian Express Group). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 20121, from https://www.edexlive.com/happening/2020/feb/04/delhis-my-safetipin-app-is-telling-women-which-streets-are-unsafe-to-be-on-heres-how-10135.html#:~:text=With%20an%20intent%20to%20make,reasons%20including%20bad%20street%20lighting. See also:  Fleming, A. (2018, December 13).  What would a city that is safe for women look like? The Guardian. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/dec/13/what-would-a-city-that-is-safe-for-women-look-like
  62. https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/~/media/44F28561B84548FE82E24E38E825ABEA.ashx
  63. This term was used by a homeless woman in San Francisco describing her daily experience to the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty during a 2017 mission to the U.S., as related in: Pilkington, E.  (2017, December 15). A journey through a land of extreme poverty: Welcome to America.  The Guardian.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-un-special-rapporteur
  64. Janosko, J. (2020, June 4). Increases in individual homelessness: A gender analysis. National Alliance to End Homelessness.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://endhomelessness.org/increases-in-individual-homelessness-a-gender-analysis/#:~:text=Homelessness%20among%20individual%20men%20increased%208.5%20percent%20overall%20since%202016.&text=Their%20numbers%20increased%20by%2021%2C527,other%20populations%20(i.e.%20families).
  65. Hattenstone, S. and Lavelle, D.  (2019, September 17).  We’re telling the stories of those who died homeless – here’s why. The Guardian. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/sep/17/were-telling-the-stories-of-those-who-died-homeless-heres-why
  66. See the 2019 Guardian series on the deaths of homeless people across the UK, as well as a publication of the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism: McClenaghan, M. and Boutaud C. (2018, April 23). Dying homeless: counting the deaths of homeless people across the UK. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2018-04-23/dying-homeless
  67. FEANTSA (2016, June 3). Homelessness and violence against women. European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from https://www.feantsa.org/en/feantsa-position/2016/06/03/feantsa-position-homelessness-and-violence-against-women-addressing-the-link-and-responding-effectively?bcParent=27
  68. Iachim, V. (2019). Experiences and consequences of victimization of Romanian Roma women in Malmö, Sweden.  Malmö University.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1485548/FULLTEXT01.pdf
  69. Linsay, C. (2014) Do homeless women experience violence?  The Homeless Hub. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from: https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/do-homeless-women-experience-violence
  70. Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. Sex workers. The Homeless Hub.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.homelesshub.ca/solutions/priority-populations/sex-workers
  71. Soussi, A. (2018, December 15).  Abused, harassed, rejected: Glasgow’s homeless women. Al Jazeera. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/12/15/abused-harassed-rejected-glasgows-homeless-women
  72. Kilonzo, E. (2016, November 14). They rape me but they don’t know I have HIV: The life of
    a street mother. Nation Africa. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021 from https://nation.africa/ken- ya/healthy-nation/they-rape-me-but-they- don-t-know-i-have-hiv-the-life-of-a-street- mother-327114
  73. United Nations (2019).  The Sustainable Development Goals Report (Goal 11). Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/goal-11/
  74. Léo Heller (2019, July 10). The human rights to water and sanitation in spheres of life beyond the household with an emphasis on public spaces. UN Human Rights Special Procedures, A/HRC/42/47.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.unwater.org/new-thematic-report-on-access-to-water-and-sanitation-outside-the-household/
  75. Amnesty International (2010). Risking rape to reach a toilet: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR32/006/2010/en/
  76. Totaro, P. (2016, October 12). Dying for a pee: Cape Town’s slum residents battle for sanitation. Reuters. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 202,1 from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-slums-sanitation/dying-for-a-pee-cape-towns-slum-residents-battle-for-sanitation-idUSKCN12C1WA
  77. Gonsalves, G., Kaplan E. & Paltiel, D. (2015, April 29). Reducing sexual violence by increasing the supply of toilets in Khayelitsha, South Africa: A mathematical model. PLoS One; 10(4): e0122244. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2121, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414450/
  78. See Milken Institute School of Public Health study (George Washington University, Washington, D.C.): Graham, J., Hirai M. & Kim, S. (2016, June 1). An Analysis of water collection labor among women and children in 24 Sub-Saharan African countries. PLOS ONE. Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155981
  79. Pommells, M., Schuster-Wallace, C., Watt, S. & Mulawa, Z. (2018, March 16). Gender violence as a water, sanitation, and hygiene risk: Uncovering violence against women and girls. Violence Against Women Journal: 24(15):1851-1862.  Retrieved on Jan. 28, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29546802/