FunNature & AnimalClimate change could increase domestic violence

Climate change could increase domestic violence


Extreme weather events often increase food insecurity, mental stress, and economic uncertainty for all those affected. They can also lead to a deterioration of security programs for women, including law enforcement.

A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health argues that as our climate becomes more severe due to climate change, with more floods, droughts or extreme heat, women, girls and sexual and gender minorities (members of the LGBTQ+ community ), will be increasingly and disproportionately affected by violence.


Trigger: climate change

Extreme events do not by themselves cause gender-based violence, but instead exacerbate the drivers of violence or create environments that enable this type of behavior,” explains Van Kim Van Daalen, a Gates Cambridge Fellow in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care of the University of Cambridge and co-author of the work.

Researchers analyzed previous studies and found a link between extreme weather and sexual assaults and physical abuse against women, girls, and sexual and gender minorities. The team suggests that the increase in violence during these events is due to factors such as economic crisis, social instability, the environment and stress. Between 2000 and 2019, almost four billion people worldwide were affected by floods, droughts and storms, with more than 300,000 deaths, according to experts.

Considering that climate models predict that these extreme weather events will get even worse as climate change progresses, the situation becomes more than alarming.

Most vulnerable groups

Specifically, the researchers analyzed 41 previous studies that explored extreme events alongside gender-based violence, finding that gender-based violence appears to be exacerbated by extreme weather and climate events. During the last two decades, the occurrence of floods has increased by 134 percent. The frequency of storms has increased by 40 percent and droughts by 29 percent.

“At the root of this behavior are systematic social and patriarchal structures that allow and normalize such violence. Existing social roles and norms, combined with inequalities that lead to marginalization, discrimination and dispossession, make women, girls and sexual and gender minorities disproportionately vulnerable to the adverse impacts of extreme events.” VanDaalen says.


Study cases

Van Daalen pointed to two case studies to lend credibility to his argument. The first case was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in the United States. The researchers found that violence, including sexual violence against women, increased after the hurricane. Additionally, transgender and LGBTQI people experienced physical violence and discrimination in post-disaster shelters. This includes physical injuries, unwanted pregnancies, exposure to HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, fertility issues, internalized stigma, mental health conditions, and ramifications for children.

Also in Bangladesh, early marriages soared after the 1998 and 2004 floods . Researchers believe this was due to increased poverty after the floods because marrying off a daughter reduces the financial burden on a family.

Violence can also further increase vulnerability, according to the researchers, as some women choose to stay home, putting them in additional danger.

“Disaster management must focus on preventing, mitigating and adapting to the drivers of gender-based violence. It is crucial that it is informed by affected women, girls and sexual and gender minorities and that it takes into account local sexual and gender cultures and local social norms, traditions and attitudes,” the authors conclude.

Referencia: Van Daalen, KR. Extreme events and gender-based violence: a mixed-methods systematic review. Lancet Planetary Health; 14 June 2022; DOI: 10.1016/PIIS2542-5196(22)00088-2

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