Extreme weather events fuel gender-based violence, adding to socio-economic burden of climate change: Study

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Extreme weather events fuel gender-based violence, adding to socio-economic burden of climate change: Study
Representative image (BCCL)
As the climate crisis fuels frequent extreme weather events, millions of people are displaced while hundreds of thousands lose their lives every year. The world's economy suffers damages worth trillions of dollars, most of which is borne by the low- and middle-income countries that struggle to pull their population out of crippling poverty.
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Ironically, these parts of the world are among the least responsible for global warming due to excessive greenhouse gas emissions. But the climate injustice does not just stop here!
Extreme weather events also exacerbate pre-existing social perils, such as gender-based violence. Frequent forest fires, droughts, floods, and storms intensify the cruelty experienced by females and gender minorities, as per research by the University of Cambridge.
The study shows that the natural calamities claimed over 300,000 lives between 2000 and 2019 and affected nearly 4 billion people worldwide. The frequency of these extreme events has also drastically increased over the past 20 years, with floods increasing by 134%, storms by 40%, and droughts by 29%. As climate change intensifies, these numbers are expected to grow further.
Building on the existing evidence, the study reemphasises that extreme weather conditions are a catalyst for socio-economic instability, lack of healthcare, structural power inequalities, and other significant consequences worldwide. The consequences are not limited to disruptions in the country's socio-economic conditions but also stimulate long-term gender-based violence, particularly physical, sexual, and domestic abuse. During extreme events or disasters, women are far more vulnerable to abuse, and the UN Environment estimated that an overwhelming majority of people displaced by climate change are women.
The study highlights that gender violence is fuelled by forest fires, heatwaves, droughts, and floods, as well as the resulting economic shocks and socio-economic instability. These factors drive sexual violence and harassment, physical violence, 'witch' killing, early or forced marriage, and emotional violence by society on women and gender minorities. And the amplification of such violence is not constrained geographically.
Kim van Daalen, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, says, " Extreme events don't themselves cause gender-based violence, but rather exacerbate the drivers of violence or create environments that enable this type of behaviour."
The extreme weather conditions that inversely create sexual violence/harassment against genders are unrecorded by several factors, including the silencing of victims. This phenomenon is even more pronounced in countries where cultural norms take precedence over individual or human rights.
The empowerment of women and other gender minorities gender can challenge the regressive gender biases and assist in spreading equality among all, leading to reducing violence. Better disaster management at the time of extreme events can also reduce the violence against women and girls and provide security and safety for gender minorities.

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