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Gender-Inclusive Legislative Framework and Laws to Strengthen Women’s Resilience to Climate Change and Disasters

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Executive Summary

Disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change laws are part of a national framework of laws which need to work together to support women’s resilience. This report focuses on laws and policies, which are an essential foundations to build equality, prohibit discrimination, and empower women to participate in DRM and action on climate change. While the specific laws relating to disasters and climate change are an important focus area, good laws to support women’s resilience need to extend much further. This report develops and applies a National Good Practice Legislative Framework (hereinafter, “the Framework”) as an analytical tool to present a range of different laws across constitutional and national laws. It then provides individual country laws as examples.

This report can also be used as a good practice guide on developing laws that support women’s resilience to climate change and disaster risk. It draws on international norms, national laws, and research to create a tool for policy makers.

The Framework used in this report builds on research into the differential impacts of disasters and climate change on women. Women suffer disproportionate impacts from disasters, including higher mortality rates, injuries, loss of property, increased gender-based violence, loss of income and limited access to the means for recovery. This is not because women are inherently vulnerable, but because they collectively start from a position of disadvantage relative to men. Disaster impacts also vary greatly between national contexts, types of disasters, and different communities, but gender inequality and differentiated gender roles in work and family are important risk factors. The process of DRM itself can also further women’s vulnerability if systems and processes are not gender-sensitive and inclusive of women’s differentiated needs and priorities.

Climate change also adds to overall disaster risk through increased weather extremes such as storms, floods, and droughts. Slower-onset effects of global warming are seen in agriculture, forestry, water, and fisheries, through changes in weather patterns and temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification, as well as disease vectors such as malarial mosquitoes and crop pests moving into newly warmer regions. All of these require adaptation responses as they impact livelihoods and well-being, and may force people to move away from high-risk areas or inundated islands and shores. Unless women are empowered as equal participants and decision-makers, government actions to respond to these changes through adaptation and mitigation can also reinforce existing gender inequalities and limit women’s access to emerging opportunities.

Too often, laws and policies on climate change and disasters fail to include women, and when they do, they are described as a vulnerable group or recognized only in relation to women’s reproductive role such as childbearing. While it is essential to meet women’s sexual and reproductive health needs in disasters and prevent and respond to gender-based violence in disaster-affected, climate-stressed, and displaced communities, there is an overarching need to address underlying gender inequalities and the need for women’s empowerment.

Countries need to fulfill their economic and social rights obligations and adopt proactive measures to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to address gender inequality in relation to disasters and climate change. These include women’s rights to participate equally in lawmaking and governance; be free from violence and sexual harassment; receive equal remuneration for work of equal value; equality in access to inheritance, land, and assets; decent employment and business opportunities; all of which contribute to women’s resilience to shocks and climate-related disasters.

The report provides a Framework and is a resource for law and policy makers in developing laws that support women’s resilience to climate change and disaster risk. It is structured by topic, each of which:

(i) explains the context and challenges;

(ii) identifies the relevant international norms and guidance;

(iii) defines “key elements” of good law for the topic. These elements are distilled from the international norms and legal research and are effectively a checklist for lawmakers to ensure that each type of law supports women’s empowerment and resilience;

(iv) provides examples of “good laws”* or legal provisions as practical illustrations, drawn from Asia and the Pacific and beyond; and

(v) includes additional notes for lawmakers tasked with drafting or amending laws.

Part 1 of the report provides an overview of the research documenting the ways in which women are differentially impacted by disasters and climate change. Part 2 provides an overview of women’s human rights in international law and their implementation in domestic law through constitutional provisions, national laws on gender equality, and laws that support gender mainstreaming in the lawmaking processes.

Parts 3 and 4 consider the elements of good gender-sensitive laws on disasters and climate change. This includes environmental laws, environmental impacts assessments, and regulation of planned relocations.
Using international norms and guidance, the report sets out the key elements needed to make such laws gender-sensitive and identifies some good law examples. Finding that most laws and institutions for disaster, climate, and the environment are not gender sensitive, it also explores how these systems can be strengthened through improved links to constitutional rights and gender equality laws. This also demonstrates that DRM and climate change laws are part of a national framework of laws, which need to work together to support women’s resilience. A section on the interpretation of these laws by judges in litigated cases sheds light on likely future directions in enforcement of the positive obligations of governments to protect resident populations from climate change, including attention to the differential impacts on women.

Part 5 of the report focuses on laws that underpin a range of other important rights and opportunities that support women’s overall resilience in the face of climate and disaster risk. The selected topics include the essential ingredients for strengthening women’s socioeconomic status and opportunities, including the need for good laws to:

(i) combat violence against women, which is a form of gender discrimination that reduces women’s health and well-being, impacts their livelihoods through lost time in work or education, and increases their vulnerability to shocks due to diminished personal and economic resources;

(ii) protect the right to decent work and income, by prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and underpinning equal remuneration for work of equal value, minimum wage setting, and monitoring working conditions; and

(iii) establish and enforce women’s legal rights to assets and resources, including gender equality in access to and control over land, inheritance, and housing. It also includes opportunities to own and manage businesses, especially accessing micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises development.

Part 6 makes concluding observations and highlights the different ways in which the National Good Practice Legislative Framework can be used.

Asian Development Bank
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