Women are the worst affected in forced evictions, resettlement schemes, slum clearance, domestic violence, civil conflict, discriminatory inheritance laws and practices, development projects, and globalisation policies. Rape is often used to forcibly remove women from their homes before and during forced evictions. UN-HABITAT’s Land and Tenure Section is the agency’s point of reference for land management and tenure systems, policies and legislation that help achieve adequate shelter, security of tenure and equal access to economic resources for all, with a specific focus on gender equality. The main focus areas and mandate are implementation of land, housing and property rights, and particularly secure tenure for women.

Close to one third of the world’s women are homeless or live in inadequate housing and in many countries, a majority of homeless women have escaped from domestic violence. In France alone, six women die every month as a result of domestic violence, while in the US, an estimated 60 per cent of homeless women are escaping domestic violence.

Women in Africa and south Asia, especially, are systematically denied the right to own or inherit land, housing and property. They can only access land and housing through male relatives and their security of tenure is dependent on good marital and family relations.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, “In almost all countries, whether ‘developed’ or ‘developing’, legal security of tenure for women is almost entirely dependent on the men they are associated with. Women headed households and women in general are far less secure than men. Very few women own land. A separated or divorced woman with no land and a family to care for often ends up in an urban slum, where her security of tenure is at best questionable.”

Securing tenure for the household does not necessarily secure tenure for women and children. The extension of secure tenure must benefit women and men equally, which will require some fundamental changes to the rights of women.” Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, Implementing the Habitat Agenda.

Without implementation of their equal rights to adequate housing, land and property, women cannot enjoy other fundamental human rights such as:

  • the right to privacy
  • the right to the highest attainable standard of health
  • the right to food
  • the right to water
  • the right to protection of the law against interference or attacks against one’s privacy,
  • family and home
  • equal rights before, during and upon dissolution of a marriage
  • the right to security of person
  • the right to equal protection before the law, and
  • the right to self-determination.

Original Resource: UN Habitat

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