Gender-Based Violence and Climate Change

How does global climate change link with gender-based violence?

It may sound odd that both topics are related, but yes, there is a relation, and it is influencing girls’ and women’s well-being particularly, since the effects of climate change are occurring rapidly. 

Over the past years, the topic of climate change has been one of the top discussions at international summits and the core work of government institutions and non-profit organizations. climate change is defined, according to the United Nations, as the “long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns”. The shifts can be natural or caused by human actions such as burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. The constant burning of fossil fuels creates a blanket that covers the Earth, causing the sun’s heat to stay inside, and that is the reason why the temperature rises. Moreover, climate change can affect

food systems, eco-systems, natural resources, socio-economic systems, human health and welfare, and it’s increasingly a driver of conflict and displacement

Gender-Based violence and Climate Changes conducted by Iris Consortium of Gender Based Violence, March 2022. 

according to the study Women and girls are the primary providers of food and water in their communities around the globe. Climate change is igniting those resources, such as water to be scarcer; natural disasters to occur more often and severely, and direct violence toward environmental human rights defenders. All of this affects the livelihood of the communities and exposes women and girls to gender-based violence, such as being forced into marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse, domestic violence, and other ways of gender-based violence. 

For instance, not having water near the community forces girls and women to look for it far away putting them at high risk of violence or pulling them away from school. 

In Bangladesh, 90 % of the water for households is collected by women and girls (United Nations Women, 2020). “Women travel up to 10km daily on foot just to seek out water for their families creating additional risks for women and girls of sexual and physical violence, harassment, incidences or threats of rape” (Iris Consortium of Gender Based Violence, March 2022, p.6).

After natural disasters, women and girls are vulnerable to experiencing increased violence like sexual exploitation and harassment when looking for shelter or other basic needs. This can be perpetuated by humanitarian actors. Also, there exists a high risk of domestic violence by their partner. According to a report by de La Puente, 2014, in 2011, after the floods in Pakistan, a survey showed that 52% of women and girls were exposed to some type of violence. 

The other typical gender-based violence related to climate change is the threats, arbitrary detention, torture, and murder of many female environmental human rights defenders. Global Witness conducted a report which states that in 2020 331 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries. 

As I write this article many women and girls in Somalia are dying or experiencing gender-based violence caused by a severe drought that this African country is having. Not far away, on the same continent, States members of the United Nations and international organizations were present at the Climate Change Conference COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, discussing and lobbying to reach an agreement to manage climate change. The conference ended with a historical agreement of all parties to “support developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” (COP27 website). 

This is a good piece of news to continue the battle against gender-based violence. Women and girls, it is time to take action from your home and communities to reduce the risk of climate change and its relation with gender-based violence. 

Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash

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