More frequent seasonal disasters due to climate change create situations in which gender-based violence often increases, according to new research.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, reviewed research from five continents and found an increase in violence against women and girls following floods, droughts, hurricanes and other extreme weather events as the planet warms. The reason is happening more often. The study authors said humanitarian organizations that respond to weather disasters should be aware of this disturbing trend when planning their operations.
“When we think about the impacts of climate change, we tend to think of some very drastic and very visible things, like floods, disruptions to cities, disruptions to supply chains – all of which are very valid and climate change. There are very real risks of cancer,” said study author Sarah Savik Kaleso, a public health researcher at Simon Fraser University in Canada. “But there are also other hidden consequences that are not readily visible or not easily studied. And one of those things is gender-based violence.”
Researchers scoured online databases to find studies on rape, sexual assault, child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence after extreme weather events.
The initial search, based on broad keywords such as “violence,” “women,” and “weather,” yielded more than 20,000 results, each of which Savic Kaleso and his colleagues examined individually to determine whether they were were relevant.
Only 41 studies assessing the relationship between gender-based violence and extreme weather made the cut. The researchers then graded the robustness of each study’s methodology using a standard rubric for grading data quality. Although many of the papers were flawed and some contradicted each other, most studies — especially high quality ones — reported an increase in gender-based violence after extreme weather, Saivic Culso said.
For example, one study found that new moms after Hurricane Katrina were more than eight times more likely to be beaten by their romantic partners if they had suffered hurricane damage than before the hurricane. Five studies in sub-Saharan Africa linked drought of good or fair quality, to an increase in sexual and physical abuse by romantic partners, child marriage, dowry violence and femicide.
And interviews with survivors showed that receiving disaster aid can make women more vulnerable: “Shelters are not safe for us. The young men come from seven or eight villages,” said researchers after Cyclone Roanu hit Bangladesh in 2016. “I am afraid to stay in shelters. I stay at my home instead of taking my teenage daughter to shelters,” she said.
Lindsey Stark, a social epidemiologist at Washington University’s Brown School in St. Louis, said that the pattern is “something that those of us working in human space know intrinsically, because we see it all the time. So So nice to see this distillation of evidence.”
Savić Kallesøe emphasized that climate change itself does not directly lead to gender-based violence. Instead, she and her colleagues found that gender-based violence “is exacerbated by extreme weather events because it is a type of coping strategy at the expense of women, girls, and sexual and gender minorities,” she said.
Extreme weather can put people under tremendous stress, displacing them, taking them to overcrowded relief camps, destroying their livelihoods, and exposing them to strangers who harm them. can deliver. Often layered on gender roles that promote gender-based violence, these risk factors make women particularly vulnerable. For example, a family may marry a daughter early in order to have one less mouth to feed after a flood, or a man may become stressed after a storm and kill his wife.
Researchers widely believe that humanitarian crises, such as conflict or forced migration, expose women and girls to violence. It’s not surprising that climate disasters would have similar consequences, said Lori Heiss, an expert on gender equality at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
However, the exact modes of gender-based violence due to climate disasters are still unclear from the data. Few high-quality studies are available – and almost no data has been collected on the challenges LGBTQ people face after extreme weather events. The new study highlights the need for more and better research and for humanitarian organizations to engage with women and girls in climate-stressed areas about the best way to protect them during disaster strikes, says SAVIK. Calso said.
“Gender-based violence is happening all the time, everywhere,” Stark said. “We need to stop gender-based violence now…and to understand that if we don’t act now, the situation is going to escalate rapidly with the coming climate crisis, which we all know will be upon us. Is.”