Our climate is changing at a never-before-seen rate. Homes are disappearing into the ocean, island nations may vanish altogether, and even the New York City subway system is under siege by the rivers around Manhattan. Temperatures are soaring, weather is unpredictable, and drought threatens foodstuffs. We are now in charted territory on our home planet. And one of the most serious, overlooked, and untenable changes is the state of women and girls in this ever-changing world.
The people of the world, especially women and girls, are experiencing lives they never knew before with an uncertain future ahead of them through it all, despite efforts to manage or reverse climate change. Where once we saw important social improvements, climate change has created a sea change that will resist movement and may turn the clock back on too many people’s lives.
One of the many repercussions of climate change on society is the potential for greater violence against women. Several studies have already identified the connection between climate change and the interaction between the two aspects.
People frequently leave their homes and migrate as a result of natural disasters brought on by climate change, such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts. In these situations, women suffer from displacement disproportionately and they are more likely to be the victims of violence, exploitation, and abuse. According to a UN study, gender-based violence, such as sexual assault against women, might rise as a result of displacement.
And climate change may have an impact on the heavily reliant agriculture systems in rural communities. Studies show that when a woman’s source of income is threatened or removed, it is one factor that may make her more vulnerable and leave her open to violence. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it is then that the economic consequences of climate change could result in a rise in violence against women.
Social repercussions from climate change could include the breakdown of social networks and societal cohesion. Such disruptions increase the risk of violence against women. According to the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, women’s access to safety nets during climate-related crises is essential for their well-being.
Insightful information about how climate change raises the risk of violence against women is essential to acknowledge and tackle these issues in order to advance gender equality, protect women’s rights, and boost resilience in the face of climate change.
Climate change may have a disproportionately negative impact on the mental health of women and girls, which makes them more vulnerable to violence.
Natural disasters, displacement, and resource shortages that are linked to climate change can cause psychological distress and trauma among women and girls. According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to violence after climate-related disasters, including sexual assault.
Extreme weather events and environmental degradation brought on by climate change might lead to or aggravate existing mental health issues in women and girls. They might be less able to defend themselves from harm and to seek help as a result of these disorders, which include despair and anxiety. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change has extensive research on how climate change affects mental health.
Violence and intergenerational trauma can also result be a result of traumatic climate change conditions. Disruptions brought on by climate change can lead to this type of trauma, in which the effects of violence and mental health problems are passed down through generations. This cycle can result in continued violence against women and girls. Pain and violence caused by climate change have received particular attention from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Because climate change puts pressure on the current healthcare system, it can be increasingly difficult to get mental health therapies. Due to their lack of resources and their restricted access to support and treatment for mental health disorders, women and girls may suffer more violence.
Women may be more susceptible to experiencing different types of violence, such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, and exploitation when there are fewer services accessible, there is social instability and resource shortages.
Frequently, women and girls experience specific hazards in post-disaster settings, including forced marriages, human trafficking, and sexual assault. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) underlines the heightened risk of violence women must contend with in light of these changes.
Climate change-related disruptions could lead to financial hardship and the loss of a source of income, which would disproportionately affect women. In these situations, women may be coerced or exploited into engaging in risky and damaging forms of labor, like unpaid domestic work, human trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation. The International Labour Organization, too, stresses the connection between climate change, precarious employment, and increased risks of violence against women.
While seeking justice and aid for abuse occurrences brought on by climate change, women confront other obstacles. Social shame, ignorance of the services offered, and limited access to legal remedies are a few of these obstacles. Discrimination, inadequate response mechanisms, and weak institutions further impede women’s access to justice and support systems. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) underscores the necessity of removing these obstacles in order to increase women’s safety and empowerment.
To combat the violence and mental health pressures that women endure as a result of climate change, comprehensive activities that address gender inequity, build legal institutions, provide access to support services, and enhance women’s empowerment are required.
It is crucial to acknowledge and address the particular regions that climate change is negatively affecting in order to create egalitarian communities. And mental health must not be put on the back burner in these situations.