Today the Business Day published an op-ed by, SERI researchers, Tiffany Ebrahim and Edward Molopi, and Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) attorney, Zeenat Sujee, regarding the Constitutional Court's momentous decision to declare the City of Johannesburg (the City)'s emergency shelter rules unconstitutional.
In 2010, in accordance with an order of the Constitutional Court, the City provided unlawful occupiers living in a commercial building on Saratoga Avenue in Johannesburg’s inner-city alternative accommodation at Ekuthuleni, a homeless shelter managed by Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES). The accommodation at the shelter was conditional on a number controversial and degrading house rules, including a day-time lock out rule (residents were locked out of the shelter during the day and were only allowed to re-enter between 5:30 in the afternoon and 8 o’clock at night), rules that meant that families could not live together (residents lived in gender segregated dormitory style rooms, which meant that married couples and life partners were separated from each other) and rules that limited the privacy of residents. The City intended on rolling out the shelter model as a preferred model for providing emergency shelter to occupiers who were rendered homeless as a result of evictions or other emergencies.
The Constitutional Court declared the shelter rules "cruel, condescending and degrading" and found that the rules infringed the residents' rights to dignity, freedom and security of the person and privacy.
Ebrahim, Molopi and Sujee write that the shelter rules had a disproportionately negative effect on women. They state that:
"Segregated living spaces run the risk of limiting female access to information and decision-making processes. Information sharing that remains between men disadvantages women from making an equal contribution."
They conclude that although the Constitutional Court did not not reference the gendered dimensions of housing or, indeed, the resident’s housing rights, there is a possibility that the outcome will have a positive impact on women, children and families living in shelters.