States must provide shelters to women victims of violence under their human rights obligations, a United Nations independent expert has said.
"Shelters and protection orders are survival tools which protect women whose lives are at risk," UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Simonović told the Human Rights Council on Monday.
She said, "These measures are not optional extras. They are human rights obligations which are essential to ensuring women's safety and human rights. But many states seem to lack understanding of their requirement to combat gender-based violence, which includes offering shelters and protection measures."
Simonović, presenting her latest report to the Council, said some states had no shelters, while others had only day centres which were not equipped for overnight stays.
Experts recommend one refuge place for every 10,000 inhabitants.
"States must help victims rebuild their lives and overcome the multiple consequences of violence," the Special Rapporteur was quoted as saying in a message UNB received from Geneva.
She said this requires access to affordable, appropriate services and protection measures.
Refuges provide a safe haven, support and a framework to boost victims' self-esteem and help them to reclaim full control of their lives, the Special Rapporteur said, noting that State-owned and operated shelters usually fell short in their delivery of services.
Simonović said the shelters, which offer emergency and temporary accommodation, should reflect cultural and gender issues, and should not be impacted by austerity policies or cuts in public housing budgets.
"States should ensure that criminal and civil remedies are used in cases where the perpetrator in a domestic violence situation poses a dangerous threat to the victim," she said.
She stressed that shelters were necessary alongside protection orders, as not all victims of violence chose to involve the police or judicial systems.
"Violence against women is a human rights violation," the Special Rapporteur stressed. "Women have the right to live free from violence. When that right is denied, the full exercise of their other rights is limited."