Climate Change is Putting Women & Girls in Malawi at Greater Risk of Sexual Violence — Global Issues

  • Idea by Tsitsi Matekaire, Tara Carey (London)
  • Associated Press Service

Climate change is exacerbating gender and sex-based violence in many ways, pushing people further into poverty, sparking conflicts over depleting natural resources, forcing migration. and increased pre-existing gender discrimination. All of these and many other forces conspire to expose vulnerable women and girls to greater risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Recently Cambridge University research Analysis of the scientific literature on extreme weather events shows that gender-based violence – such as sexual assault, intimate partner violence or human trafficking, both during and after disasters – are The problem frequently occurs in studies worldwide.

In Malawi, the climate crisis has caused more erratic and extreme weather, resulting in chronic water, food and financial losses for millions. During the past twenty years, droughts and floods have increased in intensity, frequency and scale, causing environmental, social and economic damage.

Around 9 out of 10 people in Malawi depend on agriculture using rainwater, and more than half of the population is food insecure. Rising temperatures, unnecessary rain and extreme weather events such as tornadoes affect food production and costs.

The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has disrupted global grain and fertilizer supplies, has push the price even higher.

Based on World Bank data82% of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas and women make up 65% of smallholder farmers, making them particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Women are often dependent on natural resources, and many earn their living in the informal sector, making them less resilient to economic and environmental shocks.

Climate change is a multiplier threat

Climate change is not just an environmental problem – it acts as a “threat multiplier” that interacts with social systems to exacerbate systemic inequality. So, although everyone is affected by the ravages of the climate crisis, individuals’ vulnerabilities vary depending on gender, geography, class, ethnicity and their age.

Global warming and environmental damage are gender driven because women’s ability to adapt is hampered by their limited social status and income, education and resources. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men and generally have less ability to attend school, decision-making power, and access to finance.

As crop yields fall, this leaves farmers with little or no surplus produce to sell to earn money to buy basic things like medicine, clothing, hygiene products, schools and agricultural inputs to promote agricultural production.

The inability to produce enough food to feed a family or pay for other necessities puts women under great pressure to find alternative sources of income. This makes them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, which can take various forms such as trading sex for goods and being trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

The family’s financial difficulties also affect girls, who are often pressured to drop out of school to do household chores and find paid work. This increases their vulnerability to exploitation, including by traffickers’ false promises of employment and further education.

In addition, girls have higher rates of child marriage and forced marriage, as parents may see marriage as a coping strategy to ease financial hardship and protect daughters from violence. sex. It is estimated that about 1.5 million girls in Malawi are at risk of becoming child brides as a direct consequence of climate change.

There are other ways that gender roles now interact with climate change and sexual violence. In Malawi and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, collecting water and firewood is seen by many as the responsibility of women and girls. Lack of clean water and depletion of natural resources due to environmental degradation make them often have to travel further to obtain scarce resources.

Not only does this use up precious unpaid time that could be spent on beneficial activities like generating income or attending school, but it also increases their risk of rape and sexual assault. . And in some cases, women and girls face exploitation and sexual abuse by those who control access to limited natural resources, such as at collection points. country.

The system does not fall victim to sexual and gender-based violence

For the vast majority of victims of human trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation, justice is not guaranteed. Caleb Ng’ombo runs The Servant of the Girl at Risk (PSGR)a front organization in Malawi that works to end human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, prostitution and child marriage.

Caleb explains, “Victims are being defeated by Malawi’s criminal justice system. Very few cases go to court. Those actions are hampered by numerous delays, and perpetrators are rarely punished. “

“Child marriage, sexual exploitation and human trafficking have devastated the lives of thousands of women and girls across Malawi, and the deepening climate crisis is putting many at risk. . Governments should not turn a blind eye to gender-based human rights abuses. Addressing these issues must be at the heart of climate response, including disaster and adaptation planning.”

Malawi is a hub, transit and destination country for sex trafficking, and the climate crisis is driving it. PSGR and international women’s rights group Equality Has now filed a joint complaint with the African Expert Committee on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACERWC) stating the poor implementation of the Malawi anti-trafficking law by the Government of Malawi. leaving girls unprotected against sex. smuggle.

Malawi’s criminal justice system needs to better respond to the realities and needs of survivors, including protecting them from further exploitation and ensuring support services are available.

Effectively addressing this crisis requires a human rights-based, gender-responsive approach, one that targets the root causes of gender discrimination.

Climate change also requires action from the wealthy industrialized nations who are most responsible for global warming due to their high emissions, both historically and now.

Around the world, growing more and more climate justice movement is calling on global northern governments to provide countries like Malawi with international financing for climate adaptation, reparation for damage done, and forgiveness of national debt so that money can be redirected. support those in need, especially women and girls and other disadvantaged groups.

As global temperatures continue to rise, it is important that legislation, policy and funding address the vulnerabilities and unique requirements of women and girls in order for them to be protected. protect against gender-based violence and be better able to cope with future climate shocks.

Tsitsi Matekaire is a global leader in ending sexual exploitation at today’s level and Tara Carey Communications Manager.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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