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Legislation to equalize women’s access to housing

UN official calls for legislation to equalize women’s access to housing

The head of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) is urging governments to enact new legislation to guarantee that women have equal access to housing.

Meeting the gender-related targets of the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will depend to a large extent on changing a multitude of laws and restrictive legislation that are now major obstacles to women’s empowerment, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said earlier this week in Nairobi, Kenya.

“In order to remove the barriers to gender equality in the human settlements sector, we must deal with housing laws and by-laws, urban planning regulations, laws dealing with property rights and inheritance rights, access to credit, and the list goes on,” she said.

Mrs. Tibaijuka was speaking during the joint two-day meeting of the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which brought together some 50 gender experts from around the world.

“Poverty within urban areas means not only very low incomes and associated hunger, but also overcrowded housing conditions and exposure to a number of hazards, such as floods, landslides, earthquakes and fires. The urban poor are continually at risk by virtue of both their precarious incomes and of the natural and human-made hazards to which they are exposed daily,” she said.

The Network’s Chair, Rachel Mayanja, who is also UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, said both donor and partner countries needed to do more to halt and reverse the increasing poverty among women.

“While policies purporting to address gender gaps have been put in place in many countries, the real political will of implementing those, including by providing adequate funding, is lacking,” she said.

Since 2000 the UN Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly adopted resolutions on the issue of women's equal access to and control over land as well as their equal rights to own property.

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