Special Rapporteur concerned for spaces for women in Rome

On 22 October, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice wrote a letter to the Italian government expressing concern on the pressure on spaces for women in the Capital. They stated:

“There exist in the city of Rome a number of not-for-profit organizations providing economic, legal, cultural and health services to women, including providing shelter and support to women who have been subject to domestic or gender-based violence, which are operated in buildings owned by the Municipality of Rome, according to rental contracts that stipulate that the spaces are intended to be used for the purposes of providing services to women.

Beginning in April 2017, the municipal government began efforts to collect years of back rent from a number of these organizations, based on rental calculations that failed to take into account their not-for-profit status, their value to the community, or in some cases, significant independent expenditures for the restoration and maintenance of the buildings in question. These efforts have been ongoing despite the Italian Law n. 117 of 2017, which provides in Article 71 that Government entities may lend their real estate facilities and other property that is not needed for institutional purposes, free of charge to “third sector” organizations
that perform a service of public utility.

The efforts by the city to collect significant amounts of money from these organizations risks dislocating them and putting an end to the services that they provide, thus depriving thousands of women in Rome from necessary services that are not being provided by the State.

We wish to express our deep concern that the “Pillon Decree” and the crackdown on women’s spaces may be reflections of a trend, also expressed in statements of Government officials and other elements of the platforms of the ruling Government parties, of backlash against the rights of women and attempts to reinstate a social order based on gender stereotypes and unequal power relations and structures between men and women and contrary to Italy’s international human rights obligations.”

They urged the government to:

“[…] provide an update on the status of efforts to negotiate with women’s organizations currently occupying spaces owned by the municipal government in Rome.

[…] explain any efforts to ensure that women’s organizations will be able to continue to provide the important services that they are currently providing to women in Rome.

[…] provide information regarding any efforts taken by Governments at the municipal and national levels to provide adequate services and restitution to women who are at risk of or survivors of domestic or gender based violence”

Read the statement here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WG/Communications/OL_ITA_5_2018.pdf

Read about the International House of Women eviction here: /italy-solidarity-to-casa-internazionale-delle-donne-international-womens-house-evicted-after-more-than-30-years-of-work/