Why Indian Women Face Heightened Vulnerability to Disasters?

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Image credit: Project Syndicate

India witnesses frequent floods due to its vast flood-prone areas and concentrated rainfall. Rising temperatures worsen these disasters, especially for women. Floods in India have grown deadlier and more destructive, resulting in the country having the highest number of flood-related fatalities in Asia, causing economic damage to spike from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $11.5 billion in 2020. Women, particularly those engaged in agriculture, bear the brunt.

Many factors contribute to the disproportionate impact on women. A significant portion of India’s female workforce, around 57.3%, works in agriculture, unable to transition to non-agricultural sectors due to limited resources and cultural constraints. Lack of land ownership further hinders their adaptation to climate change. Cultural norms and traditional roles confine women to households, making them more susceptible to flooding, with higher mortality rates and limited access to relief.

Natural disasters also escalate gender-based violence, including rape, assault, and trafficking. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, intimate partner violence surged in Mississippi. Research based on National Family Health Surveys reveals a significant increase in violence in four Indian states following the 2004 tsunami. Floods create unsafe environments, particularly for adolescent girls who face sexual abuse and exploitation, further exacerbating the problem.

The long-term consequences are dire, causing negative economic growth for socially and economically disadvantaged women. To mitigate this, the government must enact laws against gender-based violence, improve police responsiveness, and provide alternative employment opportunities in sectors like dairy farming. Women should be involved in disaster planning and running evacuation shelters. International organizations can empower women through direct relief fund transfers.

Addressing gender inequalities and violence is crucial in disaster management to bolster resilience in societies, ultimately reducing displacement and migration risks.

Re-reported from the article originally published in Project Syndicate

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Why Indian Women Face Heightened Vulnerability to Disasters?

Image credit: Project Syndicate

India witnesses frequent floods due to its vast flood-prone areas and concentrated rainfall. Rising temperatures worsen these disasters, especially for women. Floods in India have grown deadlier and more destructive, resulting in the country having the highest number of flood-related fatalities in Asia, causing economic damage to spike from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $11.5 billion in 2020. Women, particularly those engaged in agriculture, bear the brunt.

Many factors contribute to the disproportionate impact on women. A significant portion of India’s female workforce, around 57.3%, works in agriculture, unable to transition to non-agricultural sectors due to limited resources and cultural constraints. Lack of land ownership further hinders their adaptation to climate change. Cultural norms and traditional roles confine women to households, making them more susceptible to flooding, with higher mortality rates and limited access to relief.

Natural disasters also escalate gender-based violence, including rape, assault, and trafficking. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, intimate partner violence surged in Mississippi. Research based on National Family Health Surveys reveals a significant increase in violence in four Indian states following the 2004 tsunami. Floods create unsafe environments, particularly for adolescent girls who face sexual abuse and exploitation, further exacerbating the problem.

The long-term consequences are dire, causing negative economic growth for socially and economically disadvantaged women. To mitigate this, the government must enact laws against gender-based violence, improve police responsiveness, and provide alternative employment opportunities in sectors like dairy farming. Women should be involved in disaster planning and running evacuation shelters. International organizations can empower women through direct relief fund transfers.

Addressing gender inequalities and violence is crucial in disaster management to bolster resilience in societies, ultimately reducing displacement and migration risks.

Re-reported from the article originally published in Project Syndicate