Nearly 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime. In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters. A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity. Only 1 in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.
While insidious, gender-based violence (GBV) is not inevitable it can and must be prevented. Stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transform harmful social norms, and empower women and girls. With survivor-centered essential services across policing, justice, health, and social sectors, and sufficient financing for the women’s rights agenda, we can end gender-based violence.
Source: UN Women
Last summer, as part of a USD 40 billion commitment to the women and girls of the world, the Generation Equality Forum launched the Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence. The Coalition brings together a wide array of women’s groups and others: youth, civil society, faith-based institutions, philanthropy, private sector, international organizations and UN Member States. There will be concrete financial and policy commitments, and scaled-up initiatives in critical areas: survivor support services, legal frameworks and more resources for grass-roots organizations.
The Generation Equality Forum that concluded in Paris in July 2021 set the momentum for decisive actions and investment to advance gender equality. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to ending and preventing all forms of violence against women, has announced a special fundraising challenge, #Give25forUNTF25, marking 25 years of grant-making to support women’s organizations around the world.
The United Nations and UN Women marked the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from November 25 to December 10, 2021, under the 2021 global theme set by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign: “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”
The sixteen points highlighted were:
Day 1. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV) began on the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and ran until Human Rights Day. The 16 days were used as a global strategy to call for the prevention and elimination of GBV.
Day 2. Gender-Based Violence and Climate Change
The second day focused on the intersection of climate change and GBV as the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) priority theme is: “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.”
Day 3. Gender-Based Violence, Rural Women, and Climate Change
Rural women are primarily responsible for food security, making up around 50% of the agricultural work force, but rarely have control over the land they work on. This power dynamic can result in GBV as an intimidation tactic. At some tea plantations, “male supervisors abuse their positions of power by coercing women into satisfying their sexual needs and punishing those who deny to do it by hindering their work”
Sources: FAO and ICUN
Day 4 Gender-Based Violence and Environmental Human Rights Activists
Women Environmental and Human Rights Activists are at a higher risk of violence than men. This violence can include: rape, kidnapping, torture, intimidation, criminalization and murder. Irma Galindo Barrios, a Mexican Mixtec, an environmental activist was last seen alive October 27, 2021. Since 2018 she has been the victim of harassment, death threats, defamation, intimidation, and arson. These attacks have been committed by both individuals and state officials.
Sources: Common Dreams and ICUN
Day 5. Climate-Caused Infrastructure Losses & Gender-Based Violence
Climate-related disasters, can cause physical damage to health facilities, counseling centers, and other infrastructure created to help women and girls who have experienced GBV. These disasters can also cause supply chain issues and lost records. Pregnant women in the Philippines were left without access to prenatal care for more than a month due to Typhoon Haiyan. A lack of female doctors in Pakistan during flooding prevented many from seeking healthcare due to a fear of sexual harassment from male doctors.
Source: Women Deliver
Day 6. Climate-Related Land Loss and Gender-Based Violence
Land is essential for shelter, income, and food for many. Loss of land due to climate-related disasters leads to increased risk of food insecurity, poverty, and hunger. Land security is critical for the estimated 2.5 billion people who depend on indigenous and community lands to sustain their livelihoods. When these resources are lost, rural women are further exposed to GBV risks when they are forced to seek resources further away.
Day 7. Climate Caused Financial Pressures and Gender-Based Violence
Financial pressures caused by drought, fires, typhoons and other climate-related crises can push women and girls into fields like sex work, leaving them more vulnerable to GBV. Financial insecurity can also lead to an unequal power dynamic in which farmers, landowners, and vendors can exploit resource scarcity and demand sex in exchange for resources.
Source: UN Women
Day 8. Climate Caused Immobility and Gender-Based Violence
Socio-cultural norms can prevent women from migrating or seeking refuge, creating more burdens on women. Climate-related events can force women to stay in abusive relationships or prevent access to resources. Women in Delhi reported that floods and heat waves made it impossible for them to work for months at a time, leaving their families financially insecure. Many husbands, left temporarily unemployed by floods, turned to alcoholism and domestic abuse.
Sources: Urban Institute and UN Women
Day 9. Water, Climate Change, and Gender-Based Violence
In 8 out 10 families where water is not available on the property, women and girls are responsible for retrieving it. Usually, this trip needs to be made several times a day to sustain the household. Lack of access to water on the premises increases the vulnerability to GBV. A study in rural Ethiopia highlighted the ways in which women experienced violence in relation to water, from tensions and domestic violence over the amount of water brought home or the time spent collecting it, to harassment, sexual assault and rape on their way to fetch water
Day 10. Education, Climate Change, and Gender-Based Violence
Not only is girl’s education one of the keys to achieving climate action, it can also be one of the most vulnerable in times of climate crisis. Lack of access to education can lead to cyclical poverty, and seeking out forms of employment that increase risk of GBV. Schools can be extremely difficult to access during climate forced migration. Education can allow girls to learn more about climate change, how to adapt to and combat the changes it brings. Studies show education that includes comprehensive sexual and reproductive health lessons increase girl’s sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes
Sources: ICUN and Brookings
Day 11. Acute Climate Disasters and Gender-Based Violence
In many areas, women’s dependence on natural resources for their livelihoods and their families’ survival, coupled with many gender imbalances makes recovery from acute disasters much more
difficult. In the wake of many acute disasters, rates of GBV greatly increase as conflict and stress increase. After two tropical cyclones hit the Tafe province in Vanuatu in 2011, there was a 300 percent increase of new domestic violence cases
Day 12. Weak Rule of Law in Climate Disasters and Gender-Based Violence
In the wake of many climate disasters, rule of law is weakly enforced as the community is attempting to recover. Weak rule of law enables conditions in which violence flourishes, as documented in numerous case studies of sex trafficking, sexual abuse and child labor in illegal mining, fishing and logging operations around the world.
Day 13. Child & Early Marriage, Climate Change, and Gender-Based Violence
Child marriage is frequently used as a means to relieve financial pressure or scarcity of resources during climate related crises. One case of drought-induced migration in Ethiopia found that there was an increase in the number of girls sold into early marriage in exchange for livestock as families struggled to cope.
Day 14. Climate Migration and Gender-Based Violence
As a direct result of climate disasters, over 20 million people are forced to leave their homes every year. Many of those displaced people are forced into camps that are already unstable environments. Numerous cases note that women experience violence and harassment at higher rates in emergency shelters after disasters due to limited privacy, overcrowded conditions, and a lack of adequate, gender sensitive sanitation facilities. Women and girls’ risk of GBV is amplified by the instability and lack of resources that are present in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
Source: UN Women and UNHCR
Day 15. Human Trafficking, Climate Change and Gender-Based Violence
Human traffickers take advantage of uncertainty and insecurity in the aftermath of disasters, preying on vulnerable groups, especially women and children, and targeting them for sexual exploitation. It is estimated that the Haiyan typhoon, which devastated Thailand in 2013, led to an increase of trafficking rates in the region. Some preliminary research suggests that trafficking may have increased by 20-30% during the crisis.
Source: UN Women and ICUN
Day 16. Intersectionality
During the 16 Days of Activism, the many different areas of concern within the intersection of Climate Change and Gender-Based Violence have been highlighted. The most crucial element to create change in this sector is recognizing that so many of these issues run together, and that more effective solutions can be discovered if we find areas that overlap and break silos. Intersectional solutions are the key to ending GBV.
Natalie Boone is the AIC NGO Representative to UN-NY