While marriage before age 18 was outlawed in Malawi last year, nearly 50 percent of girls in the country got married earlier. This is simply a survival strategy for most families: to get rid of their young girls through early marriage to relieve the pressure on families, and also to generate income. This is a lived reality for the majority of young women in the global south.
Malawi and South Africa aren't is the only places where minors are being married against their will to help their families survive climate disasters. Even in Ethiopia and South Sudan, young girls are also being sold off into marriage during extreme droughts, in exchange for cattle. Violence against women is not limited to developing countries.
Research conducted into natural disasters, such as bushfires and droughts, in one developed country, found that they have increased the risk of domestic violence in rural regions. One of the reasons for this is the social and psychological pressure arising from the loss of income resulting from the growing impact of climate change on the agricultural sector.
Currently, Africa's rate of sexual violence is among the highest in the world. Women, girls, LGBTQI, and gender non-conforming people were among the hardest hit in the climate change fallout. These groups are facing increased sexual violence, unsafe labor, and an inability to reach medical centers.
We are living in times where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war against women and young girls, specially when climate-related disasters occur.
Let's just look at what has been happening in Democratic Republic of Congo: Women and girls were held as sexual slaves for up to 18 months, often subjected to repeated rape by multiple men. Girls as young as 12 years suffered physical injury and illness, including HIV, because of rape, as well as the loss of livelihoods and access to education.
This is a clear indication of what would soon be our lived reality globally because of climate change.