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FEATURE: Disasters and violence against women and girls


ODI and CARE have released new research that reviews how gender discrimination may get worse after disasters, writes Virginie le Masson.

Post-disaster contexts are often characterised by the aggravation of discriminatory norms, social inequalities and gender-based violence, particularly against women and girls. Disasters cause suffering and damage but they also provide opportunities for those affected to transform the way they live, from assuming new responsibilities to voicing their rights and interests. This working paper explores the impacts of disasters on power relations and gendered norms and discusses how resulting changes in social relations affect people’s resilience.

The new paper Disasters and violence against women and girls by Virginie Le Masson, Sheri Lim, Mirianna Budimir, Jasna Selih Podboj explores if and where disasters can provide windows of opportunity for marginalised people to rebuild their lives taking on new roles, voicing their rights and advocating their interests. However, it also stresses that pervasive violence against women and girls is still overlooked and not adequately addressed by disaster response and resilience programming in both ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ contexts. By highlighting knowledge gaps, our author team aims to better understand why and how resilience programming can integrate social dimensions of vulnerability, including the risk of violence, and foster more equal power relations.

The key messages are:

  • Despite the ‘window of opportunity’ created by disasters to change societal structures, the current literature suggests that people’s traditional roles are re-emphasised and gender inequalities often worsen after an emergency.
  • Studies document the harmful impacts of disasters on social relations across every contexts, however, it is the combination of disaster impacts and the failure of protective systems (often unavailable in the first place) which aggravate gender inequalities such as violence against women and girls.
  • It is widely recognised that data on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is under-reported, although research shows that violence increases after a disaster. Pre- and post-disaster vulnerability and capacity assessments should systematically consider the many dimensions of violence – not just sexual and physical violence, but verbal and emotional abuse, intimate-partner violence, trafficking, child marriage and female genital mutilation, for emergency responses to really support those most affected.
  • More qualitative, comparative and longitudinal research is needed to document how households and communities’ adaptive risk strategies have the potential to transform gender relations and social norms, in which contexts and under which circumstances.
  • Disaster-induced displacement and migration are likely to impact those left behind in terms of their roles, network support and opportunities. The implications of migration for potential shifts in power structures in places of origin and the overall resilience of households and communities needs further attention.

Read the full report: Disasters and violence against women and girls.

 

Image: Bangladesh support network against violence against women, courtesy DFID

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