The increasing destruction of the environment is fueling a rise in violence against women, a new study has found.
According to the report, authored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Earth’s dwindling number of natural resources due to environmental crime, extractive industries and the climate crisis are exacerbating “gender inequality and power imbalances in communities and households coping with resource scarcity and societal stress.”
In other words: because there are fewer natural resources, the people in power across the world – who are mostly men – can more easily exploit women. The report cites as one example a “sex-for-fish” scheme in parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, “where fishermen refuse to sell fish to women if they do not engage in sex.” Overfishing has been a problem throughout Africa for years, especially along the western coast of the continent.
“National and customary laws, societal gender norms and traditional gender roles dictate who can access and control natural resources, often resulting in the marginalization of women compared to men,” read the report, titled “Gender-based violence and environment linkages: The violence of inequality.”
The results could have important ramifications as the world grapples with the rising temperatures and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis. Experts have long said that less economically developed and marginalized countries and communities will likely be the most impacted.
The report highlighted case studies examining how climate change may also lead to a rise in gender violence. One example was how droughts affected gender violence among Ugandan and Australian farmers.
“In Uganda, due to the failure of income crops caused by prolonged dry seasons, men were prompted to try to sell the crops grown by women for household consumption. Tensions led to men beating their wives to exercise control over the land, while there were also cases in which women beat men.”
The research in Australia found some evidence of an increase in domestic violence during severe droughts.
“Financial pressures associated with the drought were partly the cause of an increase in alcohol and drug consumption by men as a coping mechanism, which resulted in increased violence against women,” the report read.
The report collates data such as this from more than 1,000 sources on “the extensive direct links between environmental pressures and gender-based violence,” IUCN said in a statement.
The study was completed as part of a 10-year project on gender issues, which is financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a government organization that funds development and humanitarian projects.