Although the situation of women exposed to domestic violence and sexual abuse is very individual, the lack of access to safe housing in Saint Lucia worsens the situation for them all, we provide limited access to safe housing to victims due to budgetary constraints, while the Government of Saint Lucia also provide limited access due to space constraints.
The need for housing is often the most common and urgent one for survivors of domestic violence. Yet, is frequently also the most unmet as under normal circumstances housing stocks are low and one cannot find an affordable apartment due to low wages or unemployment.
Women who are abused in their homes often have no choice but to leave, entering homelessness due to a lack of safe housing opportunities. At the same time, women and their children who lack access to safe housing are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and violence.
Our inhouse data shows a significant number of women and girls aged older than 15 have been suffering gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence or domestic violence. To escape from their perpetrator, women and their children often have no other option but to flee their homes, resulting in homeless.
This becomes even more apparent in the context of rapid urbanization and informal growth, where governments struggle with providing services. While informal settlements offer some freedoms and protections for women, these are usually outweighed by the risks and challenges that come with informal living such as eviction by government for squatting.
And yet, often informal living and housing represent the only opportunity for women to escape from abuse and violence. Compared to women with access to safe housing, women who live in informal settings face a lack of economic resources or severe health problems due to poor nutrition and limited access to basic services, resulting in higher rates of diseases and mortality. Moreover, the lack of privacy and poor environmental conditions cause or fuel intra-household tension – including domestic violence.
Female property owners and tenure holders are considerably less likely to experience domestic violence and are more capable of ending violent relationships. They enjoy higher status in the community, enhanced legal rights, greater economic independence, and bargaining power. Yet, in 2023 women still constituted less than 15 per cent of global landowners, and in urban areas, over 6 per cent more women than men are facing difficulties to secure tenure. Even if they succeed in finding housing and do not need to settle in informal neighborhoods, gender-based violence survivors are more likely to face eviction, which they are often unable to fight due to language barriers, societal status or unfamiliarity with prevailing legal and social security systems.
We continue to pay rent for safe space or support victims with temporary rental support, however our capacity to support all victms are severly hampered by financial constraints.