Laws on violence against women should include provision for (1) emergency shelter for victims fleeing violence and (2) longer-term housing options. The Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) Network has promulgated the following guiding principles for shelters, drawn from a conference of experts. The following principles should be considered in drafting legislation on shelters:
See: More Than a Roof Over Your Head, WAVE Network (2002).
Related to domestic violence in particular, experts recommend that legislation should mandate a shelter/safe space for every 10,000 members of the population, located in both rural and urban areas, which can accommodate complainants/survivors and their children for emergency stays and which will help them to find a refuge for longer stays. See: UN Handbook, 3.6.1; and Shelters and Safehouses, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights.
Shelters and safe houses provide women who are seeking protection from violence a means of escape. Such resources provide a temporary place to live removed from violence and also present an opportunity to provide the economic, health, social and legal services discussed throughout this knowledge asset. For many women, these places can provide the immediate emergency services needed when escaping violence as well as assistance to deal with more long term economic and support service. Long-term housing is a critical need as well, to ensure that women can be independent and remain in safety.
Many countries include provision for shelter in their laws, particularly in laws related to domestic violence [cross link to DV Chapter]. Shelters for victims of trafficking, FGM, early marriage, dowry violence, etc. should also be included as part of national legislation and actions plans on these topics.
CASE STUDY – Housing for Victims of Trafficking in Israel
Under a government resolution and a national action plan to combat trafficking, Israel outlined a system for short-term and longer-term housing for victims of trafficking. The housing program also integrates rehabilitation services for victims. The Minister of Social Welfare and Social Services is charged with ensuring that victims of trafficking are released from immigration custody into apartments in designated locations across the country for short stays. For victims who “are suffering from severe psychological and medical problems as a result of the crimes committed against them and who need to undergo a process of rehabilitation,” rehabilitation centers are established for stays of up to a year. The resolution also allocates specific funding to the program through the Ministry of Social Welfare. Prior to development of the plan, victims were housed in temporary facilities, homes of activists or volunteers, as well as in other informal settings. See: Tova Ztimuki, Combating Human Trafficking (Non. 30, 2007); Government Resolution No. 2670 of December 2, 2007.
CASE STUDY – Shelter for Victims of FGM and Early Marriage in Kenya
The Tasaru Rescue Centre was established in the Narok district of Kenya, one of the traditional home regions of the pastoralist Maasai community, to assist girls escaping FGM and forced early marriage. The Centre houses more than 60 girls who are referred to the Centre by Ministry of Education officials. This referral process and a lengthy intake process ensure that the cases are genuine and that the Centre is not accused of kidnapping. Girls live at the shelter, attend school, and receive rights-based education from the staff. Girls are also supported in reconciling with their families through education and mediation undertaken by shelter staff. The Centre creates alternative rites of passage for Maasai girls in the area, as well as creating alternative sources of income for former FGM practitioners. The Centre has extensive networks of support within the community including government departments, religious and traditional leaders, and national and international NGOs that work in the local area and has worked to establish support among Maasai male opinion leaders. See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 10 Case Studies, 49-56.
Long-term Shelter & Housing
Women’s ability to secure long-term housing can be determined by an array of laws and policies in any given nation or region. For this reason it is critical to establish policies to accommodate victims of violence with assistance for long-term housing. For example, in France a 2007 Decree ensured that in cases of petitions for divorce or separation associated with domestic violence, only the revenue of the spouse or civil partner that is declared in the petition should be taken into account in application for government-provided housing. The Housing Act in Slovenia makes victims of domestic violence eligible for publicly funded or non-profit rented housing. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States provides protection specifically to survivors of domestic violence who utilize public housing. VAWA states that a survivor of domestic violence cannot be evicted from her shelter provided by housing programs on the basis that she is facing domestic violence. Section 606 amended Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, to ensure that: 1) a person is not denied public housing assistance on the basis that she is a survivor of domestic violence; 2) an incident of violence is no longer a “good cause” for terminating the lease; 3) the owner of the premises can now divide the lease to maintain the survivor’s tenancy while evicting the perpetrator, if the lease is held jointly; 4) the owner is, however, entitled to take appropriate action if there is an actual and imminent threat to other tenants in the same housing.
Previous Topic Legal Services