The Influence of Natural Disasters on Violence Against Women
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Violence against women is a critical public health issue, affecting women daily worldwide. Similarly, natural disasters (e.g., droughts, earthquakes, floods, typhoons, hurricanes, landslides) take a devastating toll on the communities they affect, not only due to loss of life, property, and community, but also due to increased risk of psychological and health problems following disaster. Previous research has identified a relationship between natural disasters and a rise in violence against women; however, limited research has investigated this phenomenon on a global scale. The goal of the present review is to highlight the effect of natural disasters on violence against women, the associated health outcomes with this trauma, and suggest gender-focused policy to improve disaster-response and reduce violence against women in a post-disaster setting. After reviewing the literature, it was found that across various cultures, gender-based violence (e.g. violence against women, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault) spikes immediately before, during, and after natural disasters. Negative mental health outcomes after gender-based violence following disaster can include PTSD, depression, anxiety, elevated stress levels, low self-esteem, elevated suicide rates, sleep problems and drug use as well as negative physical and reproductive health outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, shortness of breath, palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, asthma, hyperventilation, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, etc. Gender-focused policy suggestions amid disaster includes collection of age- and sex- disaggregated data, women being involved in relief planning, accommodation centers focused on protection of women, and assistance being granted to individuals as opposed to heads of households.
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