Social cleansing: What is it and how does it affect people experiencing homelessness?

Social cleansing: What is it and how does it affect people experiencing homelessness?

By María Cristina Pérez Venegas

The Mexican press reports numerous cases of “social cleansing” of homeless people in recent years. With these words, they refer to practices aimed at removing those who live in public spaces. The methods used range from harassing them to move from one place to another where they won’t “bother,” to forced relocation to state-run shelters, or even worse, disappearances.

These practices stem from a culture marked by distance and prejudice against those whose lifestyles do not conform to the norm. People who inhabit public spaces are often stigmatized without anyone bothering to understand why they are there. Furthermore, highly inefficient measures are promoted to address homelessness: harassing and reprimanding them does not address their lack of access to housing or support networks to improve their situations.

In our city, authorities employ various mechanisms to carry out social cleansing actions against this group of people. One well-known approach is to resort to detentions based on the Civic Culture Law of Mexico City, which penalizes various situations and activities related to street life.

Articles 27, 28, and 29 of this law prohibit “obstructing the use of roads and public spaces in any way,” “providing a service without being requested,” “urinating or defecating… in public places or common use spaces,” and “placing… elements intended for the sale of products or provision of services without authorization.”

These provisions penalize the way of life of those who have been forced to live without homes. As a result of these provisions, individuals are subjected to police detentions when engaging in typical survival activities on the street, such as cleaning windshields or selling products to passersby.

It’s worth noting that the government’s mechanism for obtaining authorization to conduct street vending involves a series of requirements, including proof of address, which homeless individuals obviously lack. Additionally, official identification and a Unique Population Registry Key (CURP) are required. It’s common for those living on the streets not to have identification documents, further hindering their ability to obtain a permit for street vending activities.

The fight against social cleansing begins with raising awareness. To do this, we need to alert people to the dangers of sustaining laws and policies based solely on disgust, as seems to be the case with the Civic Culture Law: it criminalizes a form of survival because it appears unpleasant to those looking at the problem from the outside (without going deeper).

In this regard, we recall what philosopher Martha Nussbaum discusses in her book “Upheavals of Thought,” where she expresses her concerns about using disgust as a justification for the illegality of certain acts because it “has been the source of grave evils throughout history, including misogyny and anti-Semitism,” as well as homophobia and even racial mixing.

In “The Anatomy of Disgust,” William I. Miller argued that “the degree of civilization of a society can be adequately measured by the legal barriers it has managed to place between itself and the repugnant.” To this, we should respond, along with the great English writer G.K. Chesterton, that “if civilization really cannot stand democracy, worse for civilization, not for democracy.”

Therefore, in the face of social cleansing practices maintained by authorities, we must seek mechanisms to remind them of the essence of the democracy they are responsible for, one in which everyone matters.

María Cristina Pérez Venegas

María Cristina Pérez Venegas

Licenciada en Derecho y Maestra en Teoría Política. Es voluntaria en Mi Valedor @cristinaperezve

Leave a comment



¿Quieres hacer un donativo?
Copyright © 2020 Mi Valedor
Centro Creativo y de Reinserción Mi Valedor, A.C.
Atenas 32, Int. 11. Colonia Juárez, CDMX
Somos parte de
INSP international network of street papers
  • facebook mi valedor
  • instagram mi valedor
  • twitter mi valedor
  • youtube mi valedor
  • contacto mi valedor
  • spotify mi valedor
Sitio web desarrollado por Soto Comunicación
Revista Mi Valedor

Mi Valedor es la primera revista callejera de México que ofrece un modelo de autoempleo para poblaciones vulnerables (personas en situación de calle, migrantes, madres solteras, personas con capacidades especiales, entre otros). Apoya al proyecto haciendo un donativo.

dudas, envianos un whatsapp