THE AUSTRALIAN FEMINIST LAW JOURNAL 2010 VOLUME 32
with the women or surviving women-only households. After the disaster there was also a
large increase in documented cases of physical abuse, rape, forced and early marriage.
Women and girls displaced by conflict and by natural disasters have been subject to rape, sexual
abuse, early and forced marriage, and trafficking.
What is less known is the long term impact of
this violence against women on women and girls’ wellbeing welfare in the post-crisis phase. The
stigmatisation, and sometimes even forced displacement, of women who have been raped, for
instance, often results in their impoverishment and in further violence against them.
In the Darfur region of western Sudan, there are reports that thousands of women were
raped and tortured, and have lost their husbands and livelihoods as a result of the conflict.
These women and their families have become internally displaced persons vulnerable to ongoing
violence in camps and resettlement zones.
In both conflict and disaster situations, men may feel
themselves powerless and unable to fulfill their duty to protect their families.
As in the case of
unemployment, this can arouse men’s resentment and erupt in violence against women family
members, especially if women are the economic providers.
Indeed, women often become heads
of households during times of conflict or in the aftermath of a disaster, as men may be out
fighting, be killed, or elect to leave the affected area in order to look for work elsewhere. Women
who are left behind thus become primarily responsible for their family’s survival. Even when a
political settlement has been achieved, organised crime may perpetuate political and gender-based
Failure to address women’s social and economic needs and opportunities in post-crisis
situations contributes to their poverty, material insecurity and vulnerability to violence as a result.
Begging and prostitution, which may be resorted to as a means of redressing poverty, create
further vulnerability to violence and trafficking.
The invisibility of violence against women both
during and after the conflict/disaster is over, exacerbates gender inequalities and marginalises
women in reconstruction and state-building processes despite UN Security Council Resolution
Housing and Land Rights Network Habitat International Coalition Post-Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation: A Violation of
Human Rights Report of a Fact-finding Mission to Tsunami Affected Areas of Tamil-Nadu, India and Sri Lanka South Asia
Regional Programme (August 8 2005) p 14.
Felten-Biermann Claudia ‘Gender and Natural Disaster: Sexualized violence and the tsunami’ (2006) 49(3) Development 82.
See El Jack Amani above note 73. Women’s economic position also suffers as a result of natural disasters, making them
more vulnerable to violence. See Ikeda Keiko ‘Gender differences in human loss and vulnerability in natural disasters’
(1995) 2(2) Indian Journal of Gender Studies 171.
See Human Rights Watch Five Years On, No Justice for Sexual Violence in Darfur Human Rights Watch New York
2008; Hampton Tracy ‘Agencies Speak out on Rape in Darfur’ (2005) 294 Journal of American Medical Associations 542.
United Nations Population Fund Dispatches from Darfur UNFPA New York 2007.
Insufficient economic opportunities for men to provide for their families and as such live up to expectations of successful
masculinity may encourage conflict in the first place. See Dolan Chris ‘Collapsing Masculinities and Weak States’ in
Cleaver Francis (ed) Masculinities Matter! Men, Gender and Development Zed Books New York 2002 p 57.
As above at 7; United Nations Population Fund The State of the World Population: Culture, Gender, and Human Rights UNFPA
New York 2008.
Chinkin above note 44; Enarson Elaine Gender and Natural Disaster Report: ICCPR Working Paper No. 1 ILO Recovery and
Reconstruction Department 2000 p 14.