Gender Equality

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Sexual Harassment as an Everyday Form of Gender-Based Violence

  • Sheena SwemmerEmail author
Living reference work entry


Prior to the 1970s, there was no formally recognized term for the acts associated with what we today know as “sexual harassment.” On this, feminist Catharine MacKinnon states that “[i]t is not surprising… that women would not complain of an experience for which there had been no name.” This statement by MacKinnon captures the fact that, for an extended period of time, this form of discrimination against women long preceded its naming and consequently women could not access justice and recourse adequately until such naming occurred.

The development of the term “sexual harassment” occurred in and around the 1970s and is cited as first being used in 1975 where the Working Women United Institute employed the term in relation to the case of Carmita Wood, a woman who was seeking compensation after having to leave her job due to the sexual advances of her superior (Fitzgerald 1990). A short while later, in 1976, the term was similarly used by the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Applied Legal StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

Section editors and affiliations

  • Julia Mambo
    • 1
  1. 1.Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - Natural Resources and EnvironmentJohannesburgSouth Africa