Gendered violence in natural disasters: Learning from New Orleans, Haiti and Christchurch
Keywords:canterbury earthquakes, christchurch earthquakes, disaster, women, gender, haiti earthquake, violence, disaster planning,
AbstractWhy are women so vulnerable to violence and death as a result of disaster compared with men? This article investigates how global environmental forces in the form of natural disasters from floods, droughts and famines to earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes affect women and men differently. Disasters are known to have direct and indirect impacts on gender-based violence particularly against women and girls, revealing a pattern of heightened violence and vulnerability in their aftermath. These gendered impacts are directly relevant to social work theory, practice and advocacy, which seek to promote social wellbeing and to prevent violence in homes and communities during and in the aftermath of disasters. The article argues that women’s unequal economic and social status relative to men before a disaster strikes determines the extent of their vulnerability to violence during and after a crisis. If gender-based violence and women’s particular needs are not addressed in disaster preparedness, disaster recovery plans and humanitarian assistance, then women and girls’ vulnerability will increase. The article offers some lessons based on primary research of responses to the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes against the backdrop of what we know about the responses to an earthquake of similar magnitude in Haiti in 2009. It draws implications from this research for social work theory, practice and advocacy, highlighting the importance of ensuring that future disaster planning and decision making is gender-sensitive.
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