Climate change-related migration and gender-specific consequences. Addressing the legal gap.


Climate Change is a modification in the state of the climate that can be identified by transformations in the average conditions and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period.[1] It may be due to natural internal processes or external forcing, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.[2] However, climate change changes more than just the weather patterns in a region: the effect of physical modifications due to global warming is also likely to affect human migrations and intensify associated human challenges. More frequent extreme events may, indeed, force people to migrate when traditional adaptation and coping mechanisms are not enough. Climate change therefore adds new complexities to human mobility and settlement.



When whole regions are affected and environmental resources can no longer support the livelihoods of local populations, the traditional risk-sharing mechanisms, which are based on families and social groups, may no longer be sufficient for populations to adapt to the changed conditions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, people who are already most vulnerable and marginalized will also experience the greatest impacts. Both women and men working in natural resource sectors, such as farming, are likely to be affected.[3] However, women and girls are more vulnerable primarily as their livelihoods are more dependent on natural resources threatened by climate change[4] than men’s are. They also face social, economic, and political barriers that limit their coping capacity.


Worldwide, women face more difficulties than men to access resources and opportunities such as land, credit, agricultural inputs, decision-making structures, technology, training, and services that would enhance their capacity to adapt to climate change. Women and girls also face, inter alia, a higher exposure to violence from strangers. Natural disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes, or cyclones can wipe out homes and neighborhoods; as a result, women may be forced to move to camps for displaced people and live in temporary shelters where they are at a higher risk of experiencing physical and sexual violence. Moreover, when a disaster strikes, girls can be more at risk of child marriage than usual; families in serious economic distress due to consequences of a natural calamity may see child marriage as a way out of poverty, or, at least, a way to reduce it. Additionally, in times of crisis, girls are often forced to drop out of school or miss classes to take care of family members, or to help with domestic duties. Finally, women and girls are more vulnerable to death and injury when facing devastating natural events: due to their traditional roles as caretakers, women and girls often stay back to protect their children or adults in their care while men are more able to flee.[5]


Women facing unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, limited mobility, discrimination, and violence may therefore decide to relocate. Migration can be an important method of adaptation and may offer many individuals and families the opportunity to ensure better homes, livelihoods, and access to resources. However, there are serious risks associated with migration, especially for women. As climate change impacts physical and social environments, and natural disasters become more frequent, more people will migrate and may be at risk of being trafficked. On their way to the destination countries, many migrants endure dangerous routes and are forced to rely on smugglers and traffickers. Women and girls may be forced to trade sex with border guards and others in return for permiss