A report released by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), a Geneva-based international watchdog focused on housing rights, indicates many women – possibly hundreds of thousands – remain with abusive partners because they do not have alternative housing options. The report, based on interviews with women in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, highlights the lack of short- and long-term housing for women seeking to leave abusive relationships.
Though domestic violence is widespread throughout Latin America, with estimates ranging from 30 to 60 percent of women being subjected to domestic violence at some point in their lives, there is a severe shortage of women’s shelters. In Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires, which has a population of over 12 million, there are only two government-administered women’s shelters, both of which generally limit stays to no longer than six months. Porto Alegre, Brazil and Bogota, Colombia are home to just one shelter each.
COHRE Senior Expert on Women Mayra Gomez emphasizes “The government has a responsibility to provide alternatives for these women so that they can live in safety and dignity.” COHRE has accordingly encouraged governments to implement protective measures that would require abusive partners to leave a family’s household until the domestic violence survivor has had an opportunity to find alternative housing.
The women interviewed by COHRE also expressed a desire for their governments to provide domestic violence survivors access to permanent housing options, in addition to offering legal support to women attempting to obtain legal protection within frequently complex legal systems.