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International Research Project about Perspectives and Discourses on Sexual Harassment in International Higher Education Contexts

Conference participants

Conference participants
Bildquelle: Rainer Hoffmann

Sexual harassment constitutes a human rights violation and therefore the topic has to be put on the agenda of publicly funded institutions most of all in times when right-wing populists not only try to discredit women’s rights but also gender equality and gender research. To effectively address sexual harassment at the university level, more knowledge on prevalence, manifestations and effects as well as on favorable and prohibitive circumstances is required. As sexual harassment is a global phenomenon and universities in many countries (as well as societies as a whole) struggle in addressing the topic, implementing an international perspective on the topic will be very useful for a deeper understanding and very insightful in order to achieve change.

Universities nevertheless tend to negate the incidence of sexual harassment in institutions with the aim to be considered as open-minded and enlightened. So it is very important to discuss two main topics to be connected with sexual harassment in universities. First, sexual harassment as a phenomenon in universities must be considered and seen in the field of gender violence. Structures of power relations and hierarchical and heteronormative gender relations are reproduced in higher education contexts. On the other hand, sexual harassment is normalized in university contexts. Often it is considered part of the educational system where hierarchical structures and academic dependencies determine relationships between the different member groups of the university.

So these two points foster power relations and difficulties in the students and employees' lifes, most of them women* and LGBTIQ, in universities. As power relations are reproduced in universities they are a mirror of cultural practices of the society. It is indispensable to apply an intersectional perspective when investigating sexual harassment in universities and to consider also differences of ethnicity, class, sexual identity and sexual orientation such as disabilities. These structures in universities are global because they are based on a patriarchal system.

In a first step there will be a survey at all participating universities questioning students on experiences with sexual harassment at the university in order to explore differences and analogies at all participating sites. In order to be able to compare the results, the partner universities have decided to execute the survey among students of social sciences and natural sciences. This will help to understand if different scientific cultures have an impact on the issue. In this first phase, the results of the survey are not supposed to be representative for the respective national higher education contexts, but will give a first insight on the correlation between contextual factors and phenomena of sexual harassment at universities. The questionnaire was developed at Universidad de Costa Rica, was used there and will now be translated and adapted to the other national/higher education contexts. The results will only be used in the context of the project and will not be shared outside the project.

In a second step, the results will be used for the development of a proposal for a further transnationalresearch project  on favorable and prohibitive circumstances such as cultural practices and discoursive normalisations of sexual harassment in different higher education contexts.

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El resumen de la presentación de las Universidades Latinoamericanas sobre la investigación realizada, el tipo de estudio, resultados, complementado datos con estudio de caso:

Se darán a conocer resultados de estudios realizados en instituciones de educación superior de América Latina, específicamente de los países participantes en la investigación conjunta: Perú, México, Colombia, Ecuador y Costa Rica, sobre violencia sexualizada, que incluye el hostigamiento sexual, violencia intrafamiliar, en la relación de pareja, abuso sexual, incesto. Ubicando este tipo de violencia como prácticas discriminatorias para mantener a las mujeres de todas las edades y algunos hombres, en condiciones de subordinación y opresión y potenciando a la vez el poder masculino hegemónico. De igual manera se presentarán los compromisos asumidos por las universidades para la información y prevención.

Conference participants:

(Please click on the names to find out more)

Rita Laura Segato

Katrin List

Ana Buquet

Carmen Edith Ulate Rodriguez

Zaira Carvajal Orlich

Roxana Arroyo Vargas

Sachiko Osawa

Dong Wei

Yun-Young Choi 

Yoon-jeong Jeon 

Hana Choi-Kim 

D. Parthasarathy

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