Barbara Lee: Climate Change Could Lead to Prostitution

House Concurrent Resolution 36 is Representative Barbara Lee’s (D-Oakland) second attempt to convince Congress to take gender into account when dealing with the effects of climate change. The crux of her argument can be summed up in an excerpt from the resolution:

“… women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change, particularly in poor and developing nations where women regularly assume increased responsibility for growing the family’s food and collecting water, fuel, and other resources …” 

By 2050, the amount of people living in extreme poverty is expected by increase by upwards of 3 million. This is largely a consequence of increased environmental disasters, such as drought, making subsistence farming impossible in certain regions. Currently, female farmers grow between 60-80% of the food in developing countries.

According to the Resolution women are already marginalized in many developing countries by “lack of economic freedom, property and inheritance rights, as well as access to financial resources, education, family planning and reproductive heath, and new tools, equipment, and technology …”

This means that women will have less opportunity to adapt and may have to turn to extreme measures, such as sex work or early marriage, to ensure survival for themselves and their families. Especially in countries dealing with high unemployment and financial woes, many women are tricked into sex slavery by persons claiming to offer them decent jobs in other regions.

The resolution also reported that many women in the United States are vulnerable to climate change in different ways. It was noted that Hurricane Katrina displaced over 83% of low income, single mothers.

If adopted, the Resolution would force Congress to acknowledge the disparate effects that climate change will have on women, build gender into a framework for combating climate-related issues, and take steps to reverse this disparity. Women would be empowered by increased education as well as more involvement in planning, implementing, and evaluating strategies for combating climate change.

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Laura Merli

Laura Merli is a first year Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management student at the New School.

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