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Placing Women’s Rights ‘Front and Center’ Climate Policy: Bachelet


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Although climate change threatens everyone, women and girls often suffer the harshest and cruelest consequences, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Monday.

“While I welcome international attention to the impact of climate change on women and girls over the past decade, we must also urgently focus on the serious problem of violence against them that has been exacerbated by the climate crisis,” he said. notified UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Countries are reviewing this issue as part of the Council’s annual discussion on women’s rights.

‘Moving away from rhetoric’

Ms. Bachelet talks about how the climate crisis is putting women’s lives at risk, whether they are fleeing disaster or speaking out against a global emergency. He emphasized the critical need for greater action.

“I recognize the need for more in-depth discussion, assessment and analysis of this issue. But unless we move from rhetoric to concrete action – soon – the lives, safety and dignity of millions of women and girls will continue to hang in the balance,” she said.

Women comprise 80 percent of people uprooted by climate change, she said, citing the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Displacement puts them at much greater risk of violence, including sexual violence.

‘tragic reality’

“While they sleep, wash, bathe or dress in emergency shelters, tents or camps, the risk of sexual violence is a tragic reality in their lives as migrants or refugees. This is compounded by the increasing dangers of human trafficking, and child marriage, early and forced, experienced by women and girls on the way,” he said.

The High Commissioner lists examples of where this has happened, such as following Hurricane Katrina, a destructive and deadly hurricane that hit the southern United States in 2005, particularly the city of New Orleans.

The rape rate among women transferred to trailer parks was nearly 54 times the baseline rate in the state of Mississippi for the year. Nepal also witnessed a fourfold increase in human trafficking after the 2015 earthquake.

Environmental activist ‘silenced’

In addition, when climate change affects agriculture, socioeconomic impacts impact women and girls, making them more vulnerable to threats such as domestic violence, early or forced marriage, human trafficking, and forced prostitution.

Female refugees who identify as LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex) are also more likely to be at increased risk of violent harassment.

Meanwhile, thousands of women around the world are also speaking out to fight climate change. These environmental rights defenders, who work to protect land, water, nature and people, do so at great personal risk.

“They are criminalized and silenced. They are threatened and stigmatized. They are at additional risk of gender-based violence. And many were even killed,” said Ms. Bachelets.

She reports that in Mexico and Central America, nearly 1,700 acts of violence were recorded against women environmental rights defenders between 2016 and 2019.

Get to know the link

Ms. Bachelet called for putting the rights of women and girls “front and center” in climate change policies.

She outlines five steps countries can take, starting with acknowledging that climate change and violence against women are intertwined.

Women should also be fully involved in decision-making around climate issues, because their insights, experience and guidance will lead to better protection of rights and more effective climate action.

The government should also strengthen gender-responsive environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

Zero impunity

“This will involve ensuring women’s leadership in disaster risk management, providing sufficient financial resources and putting in place effective monitoring mechanisms,” she said. “And that would imply assurance that, in times of disaster, women have access to health care, sexual and reproductive health, support services, shelter and security.”

The UN rights chief urged countries to increase accountability, as “there should be no impunity for perpetrators of gender-based violence, whether they are spouses, family members, religious leaders, aid workers or government officials.”

Respect your duty

Finally, governments should take urgent steps to respect, protect and fulfill their human rights obligations to women and girls, and in particular to women environmental activists.

“This includes guaranteeing their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and participation in decision-making at all levels,” she said, adding “and they must also provide women with redress and accountability for the threats and harm they experience.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN News.

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Placing Women’s Rights ‘Front and Center’ Climate Policy: Bachelet

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