HRC46: Statement for the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

March 4, 2021 ARROW’s Intervention (2)

This video statement was broadcasted at the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment on March 4th, 2021. Watch the video here.

Women[1] and girls in all their diversities such as indigenous women, women and girls with disabilities, those with limited financial means, poor education, limited access to technology and other resources, and residing in hazard-prone areas are disproportionately susceptible to adverse impacts of climate change. These disproportionate impacts are a manifestation of gender inequality, which get accentuated by a poor application of gender lens to climate solutions[2].

Climate change is projected to increase health challenges through direct effects of extreme events such as heatwaves, floods and storms, and through more complex pathways of altered infectious disease patterns and negative effects on food and nutrition security and water scarcity, among others. A largely ignored aspect amidst these climate-induced health challenges is the marginalisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women[3]. The disproportionate impacts of climate change towards women and girls include the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, increased cases of early, child and forced marriages, gender-based violence, social and economic marginalisation, and barriers to access education among others[4].

COVID-19 has demonstrated the fragility of our health care systems in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services. The current outlook views sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of climate change with a myopic vision of increasing population as the key contributor to climate change. Having bodily autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive health services are integral to gender equality and health rights, and therefore fundamental to building climate-resilient societies. It is possible to respect bodily autonomy, and meet climate goals without putting the burden on women.

Women as change-makers play a significant role in grassroot action to mitigate and manage climate and disaster risks. We urge the member states to acknowledge the importance of sexual and reproductive health services and its co-benefits in contributing to women’s resilience. Comprehensive provision of health care services including sexual and reproductive health services from the lens of climate change and disaster risk reduction is essential to meet the SDG 3, 5 and 13. This also entails adequate finance allocation, addressing the capacity gaps and advancing on technology frontier in health care provision.

Lastly, given the spectrum of impacts, and the complex interlinkages between climate change, disaster risk reduction, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s resilience, there is an urgent need for a specific climate change and disaster risk reduction focus within the umbrella of environment at the Human Rights Council.

This statement is endorsed by the following NGOs:

  1. Beyond Beijing Committee, Nepal
  2. Gravity Development, Pakistan
  3. Green Circle Organization, Pakistan
  4. Green Lotus Foundation, Myanmar
  5. Health Care Without Harm SOUTHEAST ASIA, Philippines
  6. Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, Philippines
  7. Shelter Participatory Organization, Pakistan

[1] The term “women” used here includes women and girls from “indigenous, racial, ethnic and sexual minority groups, women and girls with disabilities, adolescents, older women, single women, female-headed households, widows, women and girls living in poverty in both rural and urban settings, women in prostitution, and internally displaces, stateless, refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women” (Source: CEDAW, General Recommendation No.37).

[2] Naswa, Prakriti. 2020. “Interlinkages between Gender and Climate Justice: Challenges and Ways Forward.” Forum Asia Working Paper Series 8: Climate Justice – Navigating the Discourse 12-27. Retrieved from https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=33019.

[3] Hwei Mian, Lim. (2017). Women’s Health and Climate Change. Retrieved from https://arrow.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/1RB-WHCC_Corrected_2019-1.pdf

[4] Hwei Mian Lim. (2018). Raising the Bar on Asian Women’s SRHR in the Age of Climate Change. Retrieved from https://arrow.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/AB_HPLF_Final.pdf

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