Climate Change Worsening Violence Against Women

Climate change disproportionately affects women. In the United States, women have their pregnancies affected by climate change and according to Climate Reality, there’s evidence of how climate change is associated with an increase in asthma in adolescent girls, a higher risk of acquiring lung cancer and heart disease in mid-life, and heart attacks, strokes, and dementia in older women. And in the developing world where climate change is exacerbating poverty, women are suffering the direst consequences.

However now, a new study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows how the effects of climate change are linked to women becoming more vulnerable to sexual violence. In many cases, extreme weather events such as drought further reinforce gender inequality.

About the Study: As Deutsche Welle reported, the report was two-years in the making and is the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on gender-based violence.

Grethel Aguilar, IUCN’s acting director-general said that “This study shows us that the damage humanity is inflicting on nature can also fuel violence against women around the world — a link that has so far been largely overlooked. [It] adds to the urgency of halting environmental degradation alongside action to stop gender-based violence in all its forms, and demonstrates that the two issues often need to be addressed together.”

Dangers of a Warming Planet: Droughts and resulting scarcity around the world are increasing rates of poverty and as a result are forcing many women into arranged marriages for economic purposes. As DW noted in another article, growing resource scarcity also increases the risk that women and girls will be victims of violence.

  • With increasing drought and desertification in the global south, more and more water sources and wells are drying up.
  • Fetching water is often a woman’s job, and if they’re forced to walk farther for that water the risk of sexual assault also increases, especially in regions characterized by armed gangs.

Why This Matters: Climate change is a women’s rights issue and climate justice is social justice. When working for gender equality, we can’t underestimate the role that a healthy planet plays in ensuring that women aren’t bearing an outsized burden. This intersection between women’s rights and climate action is an important one for us to strengthen and support.

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