Experiences of domestic violence within 'decent' settlements: comparative insights

Principal Investigator:

Paula Meth


April 2014 - January 2016

This project examines the intersection of two key trends in cities across the global South: the substantial rise in state-led upgrading of informal housing to produce ‘decent’ settlements, endorsed by the UN through the MDG goal 7d; and the persistence of gendered violence within cities, both domestic and public. Social
and gendered analyses of urban upgrading are negligible and progressive gendered outcomes cannot be assumed.

Recognising that social changes are tied to spatial changes, this project focuses on domestic violence in the context of urban upgrading and extends the argument that informal housing shapes domestic violence experiences (lack of internal walls, locks, formal policing etc). Using a qualitative comparative urban methodology, in recently upgraded settlements in Durban, South Africa and Trivandrum, India, the continuities and changes in experiences of domestic violence in terms of social, spatial, political and economic factors will be analysed. An understanding of how urban ‘improvements’ shape gendered experiences of violence will be produced.

Key objectives are:

  • to establish the comparative location, provision, beneficiary costs, status and forms of upgraded housing in the selected settlements;
  • to understand the comparative continuities and changes in domestic violence experiences of female and male residents (scale, frequency, explanations and challenges);
  • to examine and compare historial and current local local responses to domestic violence and to understand their relationship to upgrading;
  • to shape wider conceptual debates about gender and urban change informed by empirical comparison.


British Academy