From Umoja, Kenya to India, climate change has led to domestic violence – The Washington Post

by | Jan 3, 2023 | Climate Change

Comment on this storyCommentGift ArticleUMOJA, Kenya — Pilot Lenaigwanai covers her mouth as she speaks. She is trying to hide her broken tooth, a bitter reminder of all she endured before finding refuge at a shelter for abuse survivors in northern Kenya.The mother of three arrived here in July after being forced from her home by escalating violence. Her husband was abusive even before the drought that’s now ravaging Kenya’s arid north, the worst in decades. When the family’s 68 cattle — their only means of survival — died, the abuse became impossible to bear.“He was visibly frustrated and turned the heat on me and my children,” she says. “I just think he wanted us out, because he could not provide for us anymore.”Lenaigwanai is one of the dozens of women who have arrived at the Umoja refuge in recent months fleeing violence that they say got worse as each successive year of low rainfall plunged their families deeper into poverty. Her semi-nomadic Samburu community of pastoralists are particularly vulnerable to drought because they depend on the livestock whose emaciated corpses litter the barren lands that once provided plentiful grazing.For these and many other women around the world, the threat of violence could become more common as climate change makes extreme weather events more intense and frequent.Scientists have long warned that climate change disproportionately impacts the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, and negotiators from wealthy countries at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt pledged to do more to help poorer countries already grappling with its devastating effects.AdvertisementUntil recently, relatively little attention has been paid to its disproportionate impact on women and girls. But this year the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified a link between climate change and violence, citing the growing evidence that extreme weather events are driving domestic violence, with global implications for public health and gender equality.A 2021 study of extreme weather events in Kenya by researchers at St. Catherine University in Minnesota found the economic stresses caused by flooding and drought or extreme heat exacerbated violence against women in their homes. The research, which used satellite and national health survey data, showed that domestic violence rose by 60 percent in areas that experienced extreme weather.That analysis, and 40 others published this year as part of a global review in the journal The Lancet, found a rise in gender-based violence during or after extreme weather events.Kenya’s vanishing glaciers signal what’s to come in a warmer worldTerry McGovern who heads the department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, called the scientific evidence for this connection “overwhelming.”Advertisement“Heat waves, floods, climate-induced disasters increase sexual harassment, mental and physical abuse, femicide, reduce economic and educational opportunity and increase the risk of trafficking due to forced migration,” said McGovern, who added that the data remains limited on some fronts, including on psychological and emotional violence and attacks against minority groups.Several academics, activists and humanitarian workers said the links between violence against women and extreme weather events need more research. Unlike the hard science of climate change, they said, the complex drivers of violence cannot easily be captured in numbers.“The climate discourse is all about the numbers, but the evidence on violence and changes in power dynamics cannot be cap …

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