Climate Justice and Reproductive Related Issues/Challenges; Why you should Care as a Feminist
Sustainable Development Goals: 5, 7, 12, 13
- SDG 5 - Gender Equality
- SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
- SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
- SDG 13 - Climate Action
Climate Justice and Reproductive Related Issues by Ifechukwu Juliet
Climate justice is a term used to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. This is done by relating the causes and effects of climate change to concepts of justice, particularly environmental justice and social justice.
Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. It is about advocating for women’s lives and improving women’s lives.
Climate change affects all humans, equally, however, this is debatable. Imagine what the future looks like in the face of climate emergency, without recognizing that inequality is at the heart of it and all solutions to address it have to take into account and address those inequalities.
In addressing climate justice, one must consider it not merely as an environmental problem, but as a complex social justice problem, placing at the center, populations that are particularly vulnerable to its impacts. This means tackling the root causes of the climate crisis, including unsustainable production, consumption and trade, while making progress towards equity and the protection and realization of human rights. Approaching climate justice as a feminist means, to address the issue of climate change as a complex social issue through an intersectional analysis that challenges unequal power relations based on gender and other characteristics, such as socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, sexual orientation and age, thus, addressing root causes of inequality, transforming power relations to promote women’s rights.
Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable social groups, women and girls in particular, because of the roles and tasks that they are assigned (caring for children and the family) and discrimination such as restricted access to resources and to education. The risk of violence and sexual assaults also increases for women and girls during displacement caused by extreme climate events. And the impacts of climate change have disastrous consequences on their health (food insecurity, exhaustion, heat, and waterborne diseases). Women are at the forefront of climate change adaptation strategies. They are not merely victims of climate change: they are also important agents of change and the bearers of solutions. Women can play good roles when integrated in climate change responses due to their knowledge of social networks, which allows them to identify faster the potential victims, their location, and the specific needs of each group.
From a climate justice perspective, addressing the root causes of the climate crisis also requires tackling social inequalities and eradicating forms of oppression including gender inequalities. This means honoring the fact that the frontlines inhabited by women around the world are not just lines of crisis, but also frontlines of change. Women and girls in the world’s poorest countries will be disproportionately affected by climate change more. This is because, they do not have as much money or mobility as men, they have more family responsibilities, they have little or no political power, and in many cultures, they do not have any say in family decision making, including decisions about their own reproductive health and choices. This is a bad situation that will become even worse when women are caught in floods, droughts, and other climate disasters. In a landscape altered by climate change, a longer walk to water or a new food source may increase a teenager’s vulnerability to rape and subsequent unwanted pregnancy; a crop failure due to drought may prevent the head of household from being able to afford contraception; a family facing severe hunger may sacrifice their young daughter for transactional sex or early forced marriage.
Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is fundamental to increasing equality. Humanitarian crisis, conflict situations, and displacement exacerbate preexisting vulnerabilities and lack of access and rights, and women are often the first to suffer the consequences of jeopardized infrastructure and systems. The current pandemic has led to restructuring of healthcare services to meet the demands of the infection with disruptions of reproductive health services. Lockdown measures taken to limit the spread of the virus have implications for human rights, acutely so for many women are at risk of domestic violence.
Finally, reproductive and climate justices are intertwined and cannot be realized without the other. Just like how their goals are very much alike, their objectives to getting there are also extremely similar. For sustainable change, the foundations that climate and reproductive oppression have been built on, must be cut off so new grass can grow. Neither the reproductive justice nor climate justice asks for something impossible. Instead, climate and reproductive justice wants the ability for everyone to live in a safe environment, free to make decisions about their own bodies and health.