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The climate crisis is putting women in danger, study finds

Imagine being a mom of seven children in a small village with little to no economic opportunities and resources. The only job a woman can get is to sell fish in the market — but in order to get the fish to sell, you have to have sex with fishermen as a form of payment.

This is the reality for many women in parts of East Africa, where economic opportunities are divided by gender. Traditionally, men own boats and go out fishing in lakes, while women buy fish from the men to sell at the market. But fish stocks are dwindling in East Africa, as they are across the globe, in part due to climate change. When men don’t catch enough fish to supply all the buyers, they negotiate sex in exchange for a guaranteed catch.

“Sex for fish” is just one of many examples described in a new study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature about the ways in which climate change and environmental destruction are fueling violence against women.

The researchers of the study conducted a survey of environmental policymakers, advocates, activists, and academics and collected 80 case studies that drew connections between environmental catastrophe and gender-based violence and exploitation. Fifty-nine percent of those who took the survey said they have observed sexual assault and coercion, rape, trafficking, child marriage, or other forms of violence against women in the wake of environmental crises or conflicts.

In countries with high gender inequality, like those in East Africa, laws and gender norms determine who has access to and control over natural resources. The study authors write that men often engage in violence against women to maintain these power imbalances. Indigenous women, for instance, sometimes face sexual violence and assault when male authorities demand sexual favors in exchange for land rights.

It’s not just struggles over natural resources that contribute to violence against women. In rural Australia, researchers found an uptick in domestic violence during severe droughts, which the researchers attributed to an increase in men’s alcohol and drug consumption to help them cope with drought-related financial pressures. And climate change–induced migration can also exacerbate gender-based violence, with women who flee to overcrowded temporary shelters after a climate disaster particularly vulnerable.

The jaboya system, as the sex-for-fish practice is called in western Kenya, has made women vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, which are four to 14 times more prevalent in fishing communities than elsewhere in developing countries. Overfishing and warming temperatures have made it more difficult for fishermen to find fish. Climate change-fueled floods and droughts can severely impact inland waters such as lakes and ponds, resulting in a decline in water quality, longer dry seasons, the emergence of new pathogens, and accelerating fish mortality.

Despite environmental pressures, East African women have been exploring ways to resist sexual exploitation. In 2011, a women’s cooperative called “No Sex For Fish” launched, in an attempt to eliminate the jaboya practice. Thanks to grants from various nonprofits, such as World Connect, the women in the cooperative have bought boats and hired men to catch fish for them. Some boats, however, weren’t strong enough to take the strong wave currents, and eventually broke down. Although the jaboya system has not been fully eradicated, the cooperative continues to fight for women’s autonomy.

The IUCN study also provides examples of solutions and proposals for policymakers to consider when addressing gender-based violence and environmental rights. Uganda’s government, for instance, has integrated gender issues into a wetlands restoration project. Research shows that child marriage tends to increase during droughts, famines, and water shortages because it allows a family to receive “bride wealth” and to reduce the number of people to feed in a household. The restoration project is designed to mitigate such climate disasters, and as a result reduce child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence. The study also suggests ways to address gender-based violence by creating consortiums to spread awareness. In Nepal, for example, women who do forest conservation work were particularly vulnerable to violence from illegal loggers. USAID then expanded its Hariyo Ban Program, a consortium that aims to reduce threats to biodiversity and climate vulnerablities, to incorporate trainings to prevent violence against women.

“A powerful ingredient for change is knowledge,” Cate Owren, one of the study’s authors and the IUCN senior gender program manager, told Grist in an email. “We hope innovation and creative partnerships are on the horizon.”

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The climate crisis is putting women in danger, study finds

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A Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill?

Mother Jones

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Has the moon turned blue? Has Hell frozen over? Could there actually be a bipartisan campaign finance reform bill in this of all years?

OK, it’s far from the kind of sweeping change that backers of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United want. And it’s a long way from public financing for congressional elections. But supporters of Rep. Paul Gosar’s Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act are billing it as an important sign that Democrats and Republicans can find ways to work together on an issue that has long been hyper-partisan.

Gosar, an Arizonan who belongs to the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, has rounded up 81 co-sponsors for his bill, including 30 Democrats. They run the political gamut from political giant-killer Dave Brat, who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) by running to his right in a primary, to Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), whom the nonpartisan GovTrack ranks among the most liberal members of the US House. Two Democrats who are running for Senate in their respective states, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, also have signed on.

The bill is also supported by all nine members of the House Administration Committee, which is charged with clearing the legislation for floor action. “I work it,”grins Gosar, a loose-limbed 57-year-old with a boyish fetlock, explaining how a lawmaker of his strong ideological bent (he made headlines for boycotting Pope Francis’ speech to Congress) managed to put together such a diverse coalition. He’s hoping for a House vote soon.

What Gosar describes as a “commonsense bill”would require federal candidates who accept political donations by credit card to verify the donor’s identity by obtaining the credit card verification code (the three- or four-digit number that most commercial vendors already insist on having with a purchase), as well as the card’s billing address.

Because that information currently is not required, “it leaves the door wide open”to violations of campaign law, including illegal contributions from foreign donors, according to John Pudner, a former Republican political consultant whose last gig was managing the Brat campaign that unseated Cantor. He has since started a conservative campaign finance reform group called Take Back Our Republic.

At a forum this summer sponsored by Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, Pudner described a scenario that would enable donors to violate both the federal limits on campaign donations and the prohibition on foreign donors by using the same credit card over and over to make contributions under the $200 limit above which the FEC requires names and addresses of the donors.

“If I was an unscrupulous political consultant and didn’t care about foreign law, I’d set up a room full of people, retype over and over the credit card number, $200 a pop,”Pudner said. “That avenue is there and so easy.”Does Pudner actually believe it’s happening? “The longer you have a loophole like this, the more likely it is to be abused,”he said.

Part of the appeal of Gosar’s bill for some Republicans is that it can be cast as a poke at President Barack Obama, whose 2008 and 2012 campaigns pulled in millions in small donations, some from unverified credit cards. Pudner, who says he has spoken with Obama campaign veterans about the measure, doesn’t think the president’s team was trying to violate the law, calling the loophole an “unintended consequence”of Obama’s aggressive fundraising strategy.

This year, Pudner said, both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns are verifying the identities of credit card donors but Bernie Sanders — whose spokesman scoffed at Gosar’s bill as “a solution in search of a problem”— did not. A 2012 report by the conservative Government Accountability Institute found nearly half the members of Congress are not verifying credit card donations.

Longtime campaign finance advocates have pointed out that there are many other ways for illegal foreign contributions to find their ways into the political system, either through the “dark money”groups that, because of their 501(c)4 status, don’t report donors, or legally, through the US subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies.

But Pudner — who says his group gets financial backing from both conservative activists and foundations, such as the Stuart Family Fund, as well as more traditional campaign finance reform funders such as the Rockefeller Brothers and the Democracy Fund — argues that the Gosar measure represents an important first step to recognizing that, as he said at the FEC forum, “there’s real grounds for agreement”between conservatives and liberals on some campaign finance reform measures.

Though Gosar hardly sounds ready to jump aboard the get-big-money-out-of-politics bandwagon (“a well-educated electorate is very important,”he said), the congressman doesn’t disagree.

“Who knows? I mean start on the things you agree on and go from there,”he said. “To be honest, you take baby steps. You crawl before you walk and you walk before you run.”

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A Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill?

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