Gendered violence in natural disasters: Learning from New Orleans, Haiti and Christchurch

Jacqui True

Abstract


Why 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.

Keywords


canterbury earthquakes; christchurch earthquakes; disaster; women; gender; haiti earthquake; violence; disaster planning;

Full Text:

PDF

References


minutes with: Nicola Woodward: CEO of Christchurch Women’s Refuge. (2011, July 17). The Star.

Amnesty International. (2011). Aftershocks: Women speak out about sexual violence in Haiti’s camps. London: Amnesty International.

CATAW. (2005). Briefing Note for the UNIFEM Consultation in Colombo. New York, May 13.

Christchurch latest updates. (2011, February 28). The New Zealand Herald.

Christchurch Women’s Refuge. (2011). Media release, 2 March.

Civil Defence adds dealing with family violence to disaster planning. (2006, January 19). The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre Database.

Dixon, T. H. (2006). Upside of down: Catastrophe, creativity and the renewal of civilization. Toronto: Random House.

Domestic violence increases. (2011, March 5). The New Zealand Herald.

Drinking at home fans rise in domestic abuse. (2011, May 19). The Dominion Post.

Elliot, J. R., & Pais, J. (2006). Race, class and Hurricane Katrina: Social differences in human responses to disaster. Social Science Research, 35(2), 295-321. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch. 2006.02.003.

Enarson, E. (2000). Gender and natural disasters: Working paper 1. Geneva: ILO Recovery and Reconstruction Department.

Felson, R. B. (2000). The normative protection of women from violence. Social Forum, 15(1), 15, 91-116. doi: 10.1023/A:1007598204631.

Felten-Biermann, C. (2006). Gender and natural disaster: Sexualised violence and the tsunami. Development, 49(3), 82-86.

Fisher, S. (2010). Violence against women and natural disasters: Findings from post-tsunami Sri Lanka. Violence Against Women, 16(8), 902-918. doi: 10.1177/1077801210377649.

Frey, B., Savage, D. A., & Torgler, B. (2010). Interaction of natural survival instincts and internalized social norms exploring the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 107(11), March 16, 4862-4865. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114360108.

Geller, J. B. (1998). Titanic: Women and children first. New York: Norton.

Homer-Dixon, T. (2006). The end of ingenuity. CONTRIBUTOR, New York Times, Published: November, 29, 2006.

Houghton, R. M. E. (2010). ‘We had to cope with what we had’: Agency perspectives on domestic violence and disasters in New Zealand. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.

Housing and Land Rights Network, Habitat International Coalition. (2005). Post-tsunami relief and rehabilitation: A violation of human rights. Report of a factfinding mission to tsunami affected areas of Tamil-Nadu, India and Sri Lanka. South Asia Regional Programme.

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), et al. (2010). Our bodies are still trembling: Haitian women’s fight against rape. Boston: IJDH, July.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research Briefing Paper. (2005). The women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: Multiple disadvantages and key assets for recovery Part I. Poverty, race, gender and class. Washington: IWPR, October.

Jenkins, P., & Phillips, B. (2008). Battered women, catastrophe and the context of safety after Hurricane Katrina. National Women’s Studies Association Journal, 20(3), 49-68.doi: 10.1353/nwsa.0.0047 10.1353/nwsa.0.0047.

Kiel, D. (1994). Managing chaos and complexity in government. San Francisco: Jossy-Ben Publishers.

Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. (2008). Mass evacuation planning, Director’s guidelines for Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups [DGL 07/08]. Wellington: Author.

Natural disasters from a gendered perspective. (2009, October 16). The Jakarta Post.

Neumayer, E., & Plümper, T. (2007). The gendered nature of natural disasters: The impact of catastrophic events on the gender gap in life expectancy, 1981-2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(3), 551-566. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8306.2007.00563.

Oxfam International. (2005). The tsunami’s impact on women. Briefing Note, (March 4).

Quake stress takes its toll. (2011, August 8). The Star.

Rivers, J. P.W. (1982). Women and children last: An essay on sex discrimination in disasters. Disasters, 6(4): 256-267. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7717.1982.tb00548.x.

Seager, J. (2006). Noticing gender (or not) in disasters. Geoforum, 37(1), 2-3. doi 10.1177/0309132508094079.

Squires, G., & Hartman, C. (Eds.) (2006). There is no such thing as a natural disaster: Race, class and Katrina. New York: Routledge.

True, J. (2012). The political economy of violence against women. New York: Oxford University Press.

United Nations Human Rights Council. (2011). Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, A/66/270 (5 August).

Warren, K., Fath, C. & Streeten, C. (1998). New directions in systems theory: Chaos and complexity. Social Work: Journal of National Association of Social Workers, 43(4), 357-372.doi: 10.1093/sw/43.4.357.

Wiest, R. E., Mocellin, J. S. P., & Motsisi, D. T. (1994). The needs of women in disasters and emergencies. Report prepared for the United Nations Development Programme, Disaster Management Training Programme, and the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator, University of Manitoba, Disaster Research Institute, Winnipeg, Canada.

Wilson, J., Phillips, B. & Neal, D. (1998). Domestic violence after disaster. In E. Enarson & B. H. Morrow (Eds.). The gendered terrain of disaster (pp. 115-123). Geneva: ILO Recovery and Reconstruction Department.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol25iss2id83

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.