image d'une manifestation.

Dossier d'information Zero sexism in my city


As part of its gender equality policy, the City of Geneva is committed to preventing gender-based and sexual violence. Particular emphasis is placed on preventing sexism and harassment in public areas in order to reinforce right of each and every individual to make use of the city’s public areas in total peace of mind.

The fight against gender-based and sexual violence is one of the main focal points of the municipal policy of promoting gender equality. Since 2017, specific emphasis has been placed on the prevention of gender-based violence in public areas.

Action Plan "Zero sexism in my city"

After motion M-1275 was filed in the Municipal Council, the City developed and adopted an action plan called: Plan d'action "Zero sexism in my city" (available in French only):

To this end, consultation was led with the municipal and cantonal services, academic institutions and associations actively promoting gender equality and working to prevent gender-based and sexual violence. These discussions enabled the municipality to benefit from the expertise of actors specialising in issues linked to gender, youth, safety and public areas.

The action plan was launched in 2019 for an initial period of 3 years. It highlights the fact that sexist harassment is part of the gender-based violence continuum and that multiple actions are needed to tackle this issue and change representations and behaviours in the long-term.

In 2021, the action plan was evaluated and renewed for another 3 years (2022-2025).

Five priorities

Five priorities have been defined:

Élément de l'accordéon

This involves developing and supporting projects designed to prevent gender-based and sexual violence and to increase awareness of gender equality.

Awareness campaign

Through the «Zero sexism in my city» awareness campaign, the City of Geneva wants to reassert its commitment to fighting sexism and harassment while reinforcing each person’s right to enjoy public space in total peace of mind.

The visuals were developed in connection with the main results of the survey conducted by the University and the City of Geneva, entitled «Geneva, an equal and fair city?». They refer to the universal right to access the city and reiterate the fact that women are entitled to make use of the city without being harassed, be it when they commute, practise sport, celebrate or simply enjoy a walk through the streets. This campaign has also become the visual identity of the municipal action plan.

Mediation actions

As part of the municipal “Zero sexism in my city” action plan, the City supports projects from local grassroots organisations and develops mediation actions focusing on gender issues in public areas. Workshops, conferences and debates, performative installations, podcasts or many other actions, their aim is to provide the general public and professionals working in the public sphere with tools and forums to address issues of sexism and harassment.

The aim here is to make employees of the City of Geneva aware of the issues of sexism and harassment and give them the tools to react appropriately depending on their mission in the public sphere.

Providing municipal employees working in the public sphere with the necessary tools to identify and react to issues of sexism and harassment is an essential lever to foster change. 

In 2019, an awareness workshop on the issues of everyday sexism and harassment in the public sphere was organised for municipal police officers as part of their vocational training. This approach was then incorporated into their basic training.

Other regular training opportunities are provided for municipal employees working on issues relating to public space in order to raise their awareness of gender issues.

This involves mainstreaming gender into a number of pilot projects and into city planning.

The various forms of sexism and harassment experienced repeatedly in public areas have a major impact on women’s lives and their citizenship. Taking action on how public areas are designed, planned and used is important to make the city more welcoming, accessible and inclusive for all.

Historically seen as predominantly male areas from which women were excluded, cities have primarily been designed by and for men. Even today, men and women do not make the same use of public areas, a fact that can be observed from a young age, for example in the school yard.

With this in mind, gender-based harassment in public areas reflects the power relationships in play and is a means of showing women that they are not in their rightful place. These forms of violence have a major impact on women’s lives and their citizenship leading to mental charge, avoidance strategies, withdrawal from public areas, which has consequences in terms  of accessing certain areas and participating in local life.

Taking action with regard to public areas and how they are planned, owned and used is one means to create a more inclusive and welcoming city for all. This may involve events designed to highlight the contributions of women to the history of the city, such as HERitage Day, actions on the symbols visible in the streets (signs, statues, street names, etc.), temporary or long-term performative installations in public areas and efforts aimed at preventing sexism in festivals or open-air gatherings. 

Several surveys conducted in Geneva since 2019 have collected local data concerning the different use made of public areas according to gender, gender--based violence in public areas and the impact of urban planning and atmosphere on this violence.

It is essential to understand women’s experiences and take account of their experiences and  expectations, while also benefiting from professional expertise in order to undertake effective public action. Accordingly, since 2020, the local security diagnostic of the Canton of Geneva has incorporated information concerning sexist harassment in its survey. Furthermore, different projects conducted as part of the municipal «Zero sexism in my city» action plan have made it possible to collect quantitative and qualitative information on gender-related violence and gender issues in public areas.

Disseminating this information to professionals, institutions and the general public is a key step in ensuring effective public action.

Coordinated by the City, the «Zero sexism in my city» action plan is developed in partnership with local associations and institutions based in Geneva, whose expertise and actions are essential to tackle sexism and harassment in all its ways.

Sexism and harassment in public areas

While the majority of violence against women occurs in the domestic sphere, gender-based harassment in public areas also has a major impact on their freedom and their ability to exercise their citizenship. Sexism and harassment in the public sphere are thus part of the different types of violence defined by the concept of gender-based violence.

In the public sphere, the notion of gender-based harassment refers to numerous types of sexist comments or behaviours primarily targeting women in the different areas they make use of during the course of a day. Ranging from often trivialised «micro-attacks» to verbal or physical attacks punishable by law (insults, threats, molestation, constraints, etc.), these incidents contribute to transforming public areas into a hostile environment for the people targeted by these types of behaviour.

To prevent such unacceptable behaviour effectively, it must be understood in the context of gender-based violence and power relationships, which remain present in our society. It is also necessary to bear in mind the fact that sexist harassment in the public sphere is not limited to the streets, but also occurs in public transport, festive venues, sports or training facilities, the workplace, the political sphere and the digital world. While the particularities of these spaces might differ, the power relationships at play remain the same.

Gender-based harassment and intersectionality

Finally, gender-based harassment does not affect only women; it also concerns the LGBTIQ+ community. In some cases, the forms of discrimination intersect with other issues and the violence is not only sexist but also racist, lesbophobic or transphobic. The social sciences refer to this phenomenon as «intersectionality», reflecting the fact that certain people are the target of several types of discrimination simultaneously and may therefore be exposed to additional violence.


Héloïse Roman

Chargée de projets égalité

Service Agenda 21-Ville durable

5, rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville




Tél. +41 22 418 22 93


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Article modifié le 06.11.2023 à 12:09