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Climate Disasters and Gendered Violence in Asia

Helle Rydström:
Climate Disasters and Gendered Violence in Asia: A Study on the Vulnerability and (In)Security of Women and Girls in the Aftermath of Recent Catastrophes in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam

Introduction

On November 8, 2013, super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) took landfall on the Philippines. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded and climate changes were suspected to have facilitated the extreme weather conditions (PRI, Nov. 25, 2013; reliefweb, OCHA Nov. 15, 2013; UNDP 2013). The typhoon caused the death of more than 6,000 people, displaced around 4 million, and affected at least 12 million Philippines (New York Times, Feb. 9, 2014). While the devastating storm was breaking news, its precarious aftermath has received only little attention in global media (The Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2014).

A climate catastrophe causes tragic deaths, ruins daily life, destroys materials, and disrupts societies. In this sense, no person or item is spared. Yet reports indicate that those who experience the greatest negative impacts after a climate disaster are the people who were already vulnerable and marginalized prior to the destructive event. Climate disasters seem to fuel imbalances due to gender (as intertwined with age, ethnicity, sexuality, and economy) and exacerbate male-to-female violence. In the aftermath of a climate catastrophe, abuse against women and girls thus tends to increase for a number of reasons, such as a lack of safety in resettlement areas and shelters, the collapse of a society’s socio-cultural infrastructure and safety systems, violence perpetrated by a partner or a relative, and the commodification of female bodies (Oxfam 2010; UNDP 2013; UNFPA 2010).

Despite attention from international aid organizations, no substantial research has been carried out on the violence inflicted upon females of particular ages, sexualities, ethnicities, and classes in the aftermath of a climate disaster. This serious lacuna will be addressed directly by this research project. The project, which is both interdisciplinary and ethnographic in character, will conduct a thorough examination of climate change related violence against women and girls. At the core of the project are three carefully selected countries, namely Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, each of which is indicative of certain tendencies in the Asia-Pacific region and which recently have been hit by climate disasters.  Focusing on the complex ways in which gender and climate changes are intimately intertwined, the project will provide new and critical knowledge about an urgent and understudied problem. The results will be of significance for the researched countries, the abused female survivors, their families and networks, as well as for national and international aid organizations focused on the prevention of violence against women and girls in the aftermath of climate catastrophes. The insights will also be of significance outside the Asia-Pacific region. Any country prone to erosion, floods, and earthquakes with a willingness to prevent and combat gender specific violence, will benefit from the results. In all, the project will improve the design and development of gender informed climate coping and mitigation strategies at a local, national, regional, and international level.

 

Partners of Collaboration:

Nguyen Huu Minh, Ph.D. Professor Director, Inst. of Family and Gender Studies Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, Vietnam

Durre Ahmed, Ph.D. Professor Center for Studies of Gender and Culture Lahore University, Pakistan

Nestor Castro, Ph.D. Associate Professor Head, Dept. of Anthropology College of Social Sciences and Philosophy University of the Philippines, Diliman, The Philippines

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