Women in developing countries are particularly at risk to property grabbing, especially in contexts in which they are viewed as less valuable, subordinate or even as property themselves.
In Africa, property grabbing often happens after the death of a husband or father, when widows and orphans are particularly vulnerable. Relatives or neighbours quickly divide up the home or land, and the surviving widow or orphans are left homeless and stripped of their belongings.
If a widow refuses to leave, she and her children may be chased out violently. Women and children we have represented report being menaced, threatened with machetes and physically assaulted; some have had their homes destroyed by perpetrators intent on making their property uninhabitable.
The perpetrators of property grabbing are often related to their victims, so police may dismiss cases as a “family matter.” Law enforcement agencies lack the training and resources to meet the overwhelming need.
With no help from the justice system, survival itself becomes a struggle for a victim of property grabbing. Homeless, she may be forced to relocate somewhere dangerous, or be extremely vulnerable to exploitation as she searches for a home. She may not be able to afford or access food, medical care or other vital needs for herself or her children.