Definition of Forced Evictions

last updated December 2014


In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at

Definition of Forced Evictions

Legislation should prohibit the forced eviction of widows and their children. A definition of forced eviction should include the following basic elements:

  • involuntary removal of a widow or the widow and her children from the marital residence or land;

  • using either force or coercion;

  • without access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Fact Sheet No. 25 defines forced eviction as:

“the involuntary removal of persons from their homes or land, directly or indirectly attributable to the State. It entails the effective elimination of the possibility of an individual or group living in a particular house, residence or place, and the assisted (in the case of resettlement) or unassisted (without resettlement) movement of evicted persons or groups to other areas.”

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) further describes “forced eviction” as:

“The permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection. Forced Evictions are a particular type of Displacement which are most often characterized by (1) a relation to specific decisions, legislation, or policies of States or the failure of States to intervene to halt evictions by non-state actors; (2) an element of force or coercion; and (3) are often planned, formulated, and announced prior to being carried out. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that "forced eviction are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of the [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] and can only be justified in the most exceptional circumstances, and in accordance with the relevant principles of international law.” See: Committees General Comment No. 7 and OHCHR Fact Sheet No. 25: Forced Evictions and Human Rights.  


COHRE also notes that the “arbitrary deprivation of women’s housing, land and property—when it is a result of gender-biased norms, policies and practices which negatively affect women” must fall within the state’s obligation to protect all people from forced eviction. This is particularly important because the forced eviction of individual women is often invisible against the more visible, mass scale evictions. See: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Shelter from the Storm: Women’s Housing Rights and the Struggle against HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2009.

(See also: OHCHR Fact Sheet No. 25: Forced Evictions and Human Rights; COHRE, Guidelines on Gender-Sensitive Approaches and Alternatives to Evictions (2010); COHRE, Fact Sheet No. 3: Women and Forced Evictions).


  • Drafters should take into account that the marital home may be titled under the deceased’s name, and customary or religious systems may transfer ownership of the home to the deceased’s relatives. In these and intestacy cases, legislation should guarantee the widow’s right to remain in the home with her children as a life interest and state that her remarriage does not terminate this right. Legislation should prohibit a testator from willing the marital home to another when survived by his spouse; any such provision should be construed as null and void.