The study is designed to foster the recognition that gender-based violence (GBV) is a major feature of many conflicts and understanding its occurrence during disasters.

The research addresses three questions: 1. What characterizes GBV in disasters? 2. In what ways should legal and policy frameworks, including disaster risk management, be adapted to address GBV in disasters? 3. How should National Societies and other local actors address GBV in disasters, and what support do they need to fulfil their roles?


The study finds that:

  • In some settings, both domestic violence and sexual violence (assault, sexual abuse, and exploitation) increase following disasters. In other settings, notably where levels of GBV are already high, it is difficult to determine whether violence increased as a result of disaster.
  • Displacement can increase the incidence of GBV, both in initial temporary shelters and when displacement becomes protracted.
  • Disasters cause impoverishment, which can induce some people to adopt negative coping strategies, including transactional sex.
  • Previous studies and news reports detected an increase in child/early marriages and trafficking in disasters, but this was not a major finding of the country studies carried out for this report. Further research may be required, perhaps using different methodologies.
  • Those responding to disasters are not aware that GBV may increase in disasters, and are neither looking nor preparing for it. Lack of data on the prevalence of GBV during disasters contributes to this lack of awareness.
  • Given the stigma and shame associated with GBV, statistics on its incidence are always problematic. This seems to be true of disaster situations too.
  • Reporting and law enforcement mechanisms as well as services for survivors of GBV are often disrupted by disasters. This also hampers the collection of data on GBV’s prevalence in disasters.
  • Several of the country studies noted that police records during disasters were poor or missing. This may indicate disruption of law-enforcement activity during emergencies.
  • While all nine countries studied have national policies on disasters and national legislation on gender, and a few refer to gender in their national disaster policies, none of their disaster plans included arrangements for preventing and responding to GBV. This reflects and may contribute to low awareness of GBV in disasters.
  • With respect to health emergencies, academic research indicates that GBV increases the incidence of HIV/AIDS and that HIV/AIDS can cause a rise in GBV. Anecdotal reports from practitioners and governments indicate that GBV increased during the Ebola crisis.
  • Disasters and conflicts are usually treated as two separate types of humanitarian emergency. The fact that disasters often occur in areas of conflict suggests that the intersections between GBV, conflict and disasters should receive more attention.


Recommendations made by this study include:

  • Assume that GBV is taking place, even if no reliable data are available.
  • Develop and incorporate strategies for preventing and addressing GBV in organizational responses and cultures, by raising awareness, taking measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by disaster responders, building local capacity, and working in partnership with other organizations.
  • Ensure that GBV and the safety of women and children are considered in all disaster preparedness and planning.
  • Recognize the role that livelihood support can play in preventing GBV, and prioritize livelihood projects for those most at risk from it.
  • Research and gather evidence on GBV in disasters; use it to inform policy.
  • Recognize the risks that GBV poses in health emergencies and take appropriate preventive action.
  • Take steps to enable communities to participate in efforts to prevent and address GBV.
  • Explore collaboratively the intersections between GBV, disasters and conflict.

Usage: Policy development

Audience: Gender and diversity practitioners


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