What does violence against women have to do with the global climate crisis and the failure of governments all over the world in tackling these issues? Well, studies are showing that there is a real connection because gender-based violence and this is hampering the progress in climate change and attempts to solve the climate problem is failing because policies are not taking the gender status quo into account and the repercussions of climate change on women and girls. Global climate organizations are now waking up to the fact that if the climate crisis has to be resolved, gender equality must be considered in the equation.
“Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive but least talked-about barriers that face us in conservation and climate work”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) so far has carried out the biggest and most comprehensive study on this issue over the span of two years and has included more than 1000 sources of research. Cate Owren, a lead author of the report, said, “We found gender-based violence to be pervasive, and there is enough clear evidence to suggest that climate change is increasing gender-based violence.” Furthermore, as the environment degrades and the stress on the ecosystem increases which in turn puts stress on the community, gender-based violence increases where there is environmental pressure. Also, there were was increased violence among female environmental rights defenders and among environmental refugees and the study showed that more than 80 cases proved this to be true. Gender-based violence like domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and child marriage and more forms of the exploitation of women are on the rise in areas where the natural environment is under threat. Owren also added that “Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive but least talked-about barriers that face us in conservation and climate work. We need to take the blinders off, and pay this concerted attention.”
Gender-based violence increases where there is environmental pressure since the burden of fetching water and fuel is upon women
While global warming has put intense pressure on the earth, women have an added disadvantage because they own little to no pieces of land, and second, it is their job to collect water and fuel for their families and sometimes the entire village. As water sources degrade and forest areas clear, women are being abused because they cannot do provide these most vital resources for their families. Grethel Aguilar, acting director-general of the IUCN, said “Environmental degradation now affects our lives in ways that are becoming impossible to ignore, from food to jobs to security. This study shows that the damage humanity is inflicting on nature is also fuelling violence against women around the world – a link that has so far been largely overlooked.” Hence, when the world looks at young women like Greta Thunberg campaigning for a better environmental future, it is vital that world leaders look at how climate change is affecting girls and women in the poorer parts of the world too. “The empowerment of women and girls and their protection from the direct and indirect consequences of climate change must lie at the heart of the just transition to zero-carbon and climate-resilient societies,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment at the London School of Economics. Without the complete inclusion of women in environmental policies, gender equality will not change and neither will the environment.
Image credit: World Vision