Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

New Guidelines Tackle Impact of Forced Evictions on Women

Center on Housing Rights and Evictions
October 22, 2010

Worldwide, millions of poor communities face forced evictions every year.  Yet, it is women who are most often the ones at home when the bulldozers come.

Addressing this issue, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), a Geneva-based international housing rights watchdog, today released its Guidelines on Gender Sensitive Approaches and Alternatives to Eviction.

The Guidelines, based on international human rights standards, tackle head-on a government’s duty to pursue gender-sensitive alternatives to eviction, including through consulting with affected women, and to take steps so that women are not disadvantaged or abused when evictions do take place.

“While there are good standards regarding the prohibition on forced eviction, most of these standards are not gender-sensitive and do not directly speak to women’s experiences of forced eviction,” said Mayra Gomez, COHRE’s Senior Expert on Women and Housing Rights.

“That is why we felt it was critical to articulate clear standards in this area, so that women could be better protected.”

COHRE’s Guidelines stress that States have concrete responsibilities to uphold women’s rights within the context of forced evictions, and to take steps before forced evictions occur to ensure that these rights are not violated.

The Guidelines place emphasis on preventing and addressing the phenomenon of violence against women within the context of forced eviction, noting that governments need to provide training to all personnel involved in carrying out evictions on respectful treatment of women during eviction, and need to communicate and enforce a zero-tolerance policy on gender-based harassment and violence.

But violence against women is not the only concern during evictions. In its Guidelines, COHRE urges States to ensure the continuity of girls’ education and women’s livelihoods should an eviction occur, and ensure gender equity in rehabilitation, relocation, resettlement and compensation schemes.

“We know from our experience working with women who have either faced or been threatened with forced eviction that, in the midst of the violence and chaos that often accompanies forced evictions, they often face violence and harassment,” said Mayra Gomez.

“We also know that women often suffer additional violence in the home after forced eviction, and that forced evictions increase women’s and girl’s social, economic and educational isolation.”

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