Women and girls: Victims of climate change
Climate change brings dangerous consequences, especially for women and girls. Scarce resources and natural disasters are leading to more domestic violence, child marriages and sexual assault, according to a new study.
As places around the world become more arid and suffer from increasing drought and deforestation, wooded areas are disappearing. According to a new study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), women, particularly those living in the global south, are being forced to walk farther and farther to find firewood for cooking — and are increasingly at risk of being raped.
Natural disasters lead to child marriages
By taking a close look at more than 1,000 case studies in developing countries, the IUCN revealed that the number of child marriages increases during periods of drought and major flooding. When food becomes scarce, families will often try to marry off their daughters — either in exchange for cattle, or simply to have one less mouth to feed.
Violence over failed harvests
In places where women are responsible for agriculture, a sudden natural disaster or extreme weather event can have a dramatic effect on their social and family standing. If harvests are threatened or wiped out altogether, this can lead to violence — often from within their own families. Helping women diversify their sources of income is one of the most important ways of avoiding this outcome.
Many men are forced to leave their homelands because climate change makes it hard to find a job. The women who stay behind have to deal with the consequences of a changing natural world alone.
Women are more vulnerable
Stereotypical societal roles for men and women can mean the death rate is significantly higher for women during natural disasters. It often falls to women to take care of old people and children. This ties them to the home, where they can be more vulnerable to hurricanes or floods.
Dangerous lack of infrastructure
Women and girls remain at risk even after natural disasters have ended. Just one example: If emergency accommodation doesn't offer protected rooms, they can be vulnerable to violence by men when they use the shower or toilet facilities.
Sexual assault as a deterrent
Women who fight for environmental causes are particularly in danger. According to the IUCN study, men will threaten or even commit sexual violence in order to undermine a woman's status within the community, and to prevent other women from supporting environmental causes. This is often the case in South America, where women have spoken out against new dam or mine projects.