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A stand against the climate crisis means a stand against gender violence
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A stand against the climate crisis means a stand against gender violence

Salvador Zuniga Caceres, son of activist Berta Caceres, holding a sign saying Justice for Berta.


Gender-based violence is being fueled by the climate crisis, environmental degradation, and the current climate crisis. Gender minorities and women at the forefront of environmental resistance movements are prime targets of violence. They are often threatened, intimidated and attacked while protecting their homes, communities and land. We recognize this scourge on the International Day Against Violence Against Women and Gender Minorities and want to stress once again that climate justice cannot be achieved without gender justice.

Fikile Ntshangase, Berta Cáceres, Marielle Franco, Nora Apique.

These courageous women shared two things: they spent a lot of their lives fighting for justice and were brutally killed for it.

Violence against land and environmental defenders is a global phenomenon

Salvador Zuniga Caceres, son of activist Berta Caceres, holding a sign saying Justice for Berta.
Salvador Zuniga Caceres is the son of Berta Caceres and represents the COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), in front of the Embassy of Honduras. He was there to demand justice for his mother’s murder. © Martin Katz / Greenpeace

The climate crisis has never seemed so alarming as it is now. According to recent research published in Nature Climate Change, 85% of all human beings have already felt the impact of climate change – due to floods, droughts, forest fires, extreme heat, or even unusual cold spells. The resistance to extractivism and pollution is stronger than ever. Assassinations and violent attacks against environmental and land right defenders have increased.

The most recent report by Global WitnessRecord number of reportedAssassinations against those defenders in 2020, 227 official discoveries. The victims’ profiles vary from farmers, lawyers, journalists, activists, doctors and nonprofit staff to concerned civilians who mobilise their local community against intensive agriculture, drilling, logging, or mining industries destroying their homes.

One third of the attacks were targeted people from Indigenous communities worldwideEven though they represent only 5% of the human population, Communities from MAPA (Most Affected Persons and Areas), are in fact more vulnerable to systemic violence that is caused by extractivism or neoliberal colonialism. Active Indigenous resistance movements play a pivotal roleHistorical in the protection of earth and land and their mobilization.

Global Witness’ research shows that these lethal attacks are met with blatant impunity in 95% of the cases. Not only is this unacceptable, powerful industries and politicians not held accountableThey are also protected by law because of the damage they do to biodiversity and climate. This creates a vicious cycle of violence that is both horrific and permanent.

Climate crisis is fuelling violence against women, and gender minorities

The same report also shows that 90% of lethal victims are males. violence against womenGender minorities actively resisting environmental destruction are on the rise. In fact, climate change is leading to an increase in violence against girls and womenAll over the globe. Other than murder, other common repressive methods used to intimidate female environmental advocates include rape or imprisonment, and extorsion. A growing body of evidenceShe stresses that gender-based violence is not the same as environmental destruction.

Patriarchal societies have a tendency to ignore, minimize, and dismiss. silencing the voices of women and gender minorities. Their active resistance against extractivist and polluting projects represents a double threat. Not only are they publicly challenging the power dynamics, but the act of speaking out is itself a rebellion, thus tackling patriarchal systems at their core. However, this is happening all over the globe. women and gender minorities remain at the frontline of environmental resistance.

Social justice is essential for climate justice.

Staff member of Greenpeace Seoul office joining the International Women's Day march held in Gwanghwamun, Seoul and holding a sign reading Climate Justice Gender Justice (March 2019).
Staff and volunteers of Greenpeace Seoul office joining the International Women’s Day march held in Gwanghwamun, Seoul (March 2019). © Soojung Do / Greenpeace

There are many to choose from evidenceSupports the disproportionate responsibility of the Global NorthTheir colonial history as a reason for the climate crisis. It is our responsibility as citizens to hold those in high positions accountable for the violence they continue to inflict on marginalised communities and prevent it from getting worse.

According to a recent World Health Organisation studyOne in three girls and women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. In most cases, this is done by an intimate partner. This violence often starts before women reach their 20s. Climate shocks, such as droughts and floods or locust swarms force women and young girls further into vulnerability This can affect their ability to provide for their families as well as their own needs. They are often forced into dangerous and violent situations in order to survive.

All over the globe, in Africa, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia,  feminist and allied movements are increasingly denouncing violence against women, girls and gender minorities, inequalities between genders and asking for the protection of women environmental defenders.

Today, the world is awash with activism and science, from local communities to policy positions to boardrooms. women everywhere are using their voices to take leadership and call for action on climate change.

To fight for a peaceful and healthy planet, it is essential to have equity and respect for all those who live there. It is impossible to fight environmental destruction without fighting sexism, violence, and other forms of sexism. two sides of the same coin.

We need an ecofeminist revolution.

Heleni Smuha is Movement Mobiliser at Greenpeace Belgium


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