Vulnerability to Gender-Based Violence: Socio-Cultural-Political (DE)Construction through Feminist Lenses

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Mieko YOSHIHAMA, University of Michigan, USA
Following the 2011 Great East Japan Disasters, a national network of women’s organizations conducted a research project on post-disaster gender-based violence.  This represents a first systematic empirical study of this kind, and was carried out by a collaboration between university-based researchers and activists through the feminist perspective.  Predicated on the promotion of gender sensitivity—a guiding principle of the nation’s gender policies, governmental agencies have addressed gender-based violence following the disaster.  Through the analysis of the survey research and the governmental responses, this paper examines the social construction of vulnerability to post-disaster gender-based violence, and seeks to identify pathways and mechanisms that need to be disrupted in order to de-construct such vulnerability.  

Using informant survey/interview, data were collected on the type and nature of 83 unduplicated cases that took place following the disaster.  The content analysis of these cases identified various societal factors associated with women’s vulnerability to the risk of gender-based violence following the disaster, including economic/financial insecurity, gendered division of labor in both the public and domestic spheres, gender norms, and the objectification of women.  Further analysis pointed to the various pathways through which the pre-disaster gender inequity predisposes women to the risk of gender-based violence in and after the disaster.  Also identified are various socio-cultural-political mechanisms that exacerbated women’s vulnerability to post-disaster gender-based violence, including certain provisions of social policies in general, and those specific to disaster response/relief.  On the other hand, the content analysis of the governmental notices and reports elucidated a different conceptualization of women’s vulnerability to post-disaster gender-based violence; these documents focused on individual and interpersonal strategies, calling women to take preventive measures such as not going out alone and avoid dark places.  The paper concludes with an exploration of promising approaches to deconstruct women’s vulnerability to gender-based violence in and after disasters.