This report is part of AGHS Legal Aid Cell’s campaign ‘Report SGBV – Break the Silence’.
July 7, 2023
By Maryam Missal
An international study has found strong links between climate change and incidents of violence against women particularly in South Asian countries.
The research, published in the peer-reviewed general medical journal Jama Psychiatry, evaluated the association of ambient temperature with the prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) among partnered women in low and middle-income countries in South Asia. The study covered data regarding violence reported by 194,871 girls and women aged 15-49 from India, Pakistan and Nepal from October 1, 2010, to April 30, 2018.
The data showed that physical violence had the highest percentage (23.0 per cent), followed by emotional (12.5 per cent) and sexual violence (9.5 per cent). In the fixed time period during which the data was collected, the mean temperature ranged from 20°C and 30°C.
The research concluded that each 1°C increase in the annual mean temperature contributed to a mean increase of 4.49 per cent in the prevalence of violence against women.
According to the projected figure, violence would increase by 21.0 per cent by the end of the 21st century, provided that the rate of increase in carbon emissions is not halted.
By 2090, India is estimated to experience the highest IPV prevalence increase (23.5 per cent), compared with Nepal (14.8 per cent) and Pakistan (5.9 per cent).
GBV in Lahore (2018-2023)
Lahore, Pakistan has ranked among the most polluted countries of the world that have been evidently affected by climate change. Anomalies are noted in the mean temperature of Lahore between 2018 and 2023.
According to data provided by the Lahore Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Cell, the number of registered cases of GBV have nearly doubled since 2018.
In Lahore, 531 cases were registered with the GBV Cell in 2018, while by 2022 the figure ballooned to 1,033 cases. These cases included rape, child abuse and gang rape, registered under sections 377, 376 and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Dissecting the link
According to a separate 2021 study in the Environment International, there is a noted positive association between elevated ambient temperatures and heatwaves, and adverse mental health outcomes including increased anger and frustration.
Elevated temperatures can halt business and day-to-day activities as well. The Guardian reports first-hand experiences of South Asian women who face violence from their partners in extreme heat conditions. One source told the international news agency that her household lost her sole source of income in the May and June heatwave, which made it more difficult for her husband to work in the field. Her husband would therefore become irritable, and behave passive-aggressively with his wife and children.