Climate Change, Disability, Gender and Abuse: Making A Case for Disaggregated Data

The Sangyan
6 min readJan 20, 2024

Context Setting

Data is the new currency. It forms the basis for the fifth-generation algorithm-based warfare and, thus, is not just important for our development journey but also a concern of the National Security paradigm.

Data-driven and evidence-based decision-making are not just about the number of persons with disabilities and their respective disabilities but also about intersectionalities and interdisciplinary areas like health, employment, education, climate change and disaster management, and other walks of life — without whose integration the decision-making would never be comprehensive that genuinely improves the quality of life and tackles challenges of disability-adjusted life years.

Thus, there’s a strong case for the democratisation (Access to Data/Right to Information) of credible data for legislative functioning, policy-making, academic research, evidence-based advocacy, and review/assessment to ensure the process of sustainable change that ensures our strategies are politically acceptable, socially desirable, technology feasible, financially viable, administratively doable and judicially tenable (for instance, case in point being the Maratha Reservation Case).

Climate Change, Disasters, and Need for Real-Time Data

Climate change and disasters act as a threat multiplier, having a disproportionate effect on women and girls with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are especially more vulnerable in disaster and other emergency situations because of their capability deprivation; increased cost of living; exploitation, violence, and abuse; menstrual health and period poverty; loss and damage of their assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices; trauma and mental health concerns (climate-anxiety); water and sanitation; accessible shelter, toilets, education, and other facilities; environmental migration and displacement; habitat, housing, and privacy; disability-adjusted life years (DALYs); etc.

These are some news headlines that highlight the grave threat climate change and its induced disaster poses for women and girls with disabilities — “Increase in disasters leads to spike in intentional homicides of women: UN Report”, “Lured by free ration, Hindu minor girl gang raped amid floods in Pak’s Sindh”, “Heatwave and the risk of intimate partner violence”, and “The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19”.

Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states concerning women and girls with disabilities:- “1. States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. 2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present Convention.”

Similarly, Section 4 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provides for “Women and children with disabilities. — (1) The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall take measures to ensure that the women and children with disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others.

Given the above context, it is evident that planetary crises like climate change seriously undermine all our sustainable development goals, and thus, in order to reduce the heightened vulnerability of the marginalised communities, including children, women, old adults, and persons with disabilities, given their greater exposure, higher sensitivity, and lower ability to adapt and mitigate, having a domino effect across all aspects of life, data-driven decision making becomes all the more relevant in tackling the challenges posed by climate change and its associated threat multiplications.

From the Field

In a field visit carried out in February 2023 in Ranchi and Lohardaga districts of Jharkhand (India/Bharat), the researcher (author) explored ‘Sakshi One Stop Centre’ and Mahila Thana. During the conversations with the concerned officials, important perspectives that came across were that there are lived experiences based on anecdotal evidence about climate change-induced disasters and other emergency situations disproportionately impacting women and girls with disabilities with respect to abuse, discrimination, exploitation, and violence.

As no such record is maintained, such narratives and following policy measures are not there in the imagination to be formulated in order to deal with such evolving situations. No action is being taken because of the lack of data despite understanding the fact that absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

Image Description: A whiteboard table providing the following tables: SAKHI ONE STOP CENTRE — RINPAS KANKE, RANCHI dated 14th December 2016 to 2023 (284 cases) — Picture dated 28th February 2023. CRIME CLASSIFICATION (Total Cases): 1. Domestic Violence (91) 2. Fraud & Cheating (37) 3. Property Dispute (17) 4. Sexual Harassment at Work Place (08) 5. Quarrel (39) 6. Dowry Related (04) 7. Shelter Case (15) 8. Kidnapping (06) 9. Extra Marital Affair (06) 10. Child Sexual Abuse (Posco) (-), etc.
Image Description: A whiteboard table providing the following tables: SAKHI ONE STOP CENTRE — RINPAS KANKE, RANCHI dated 14th December 2016 to 2023 (284 cases) — Picture dated 28th February 2023. CRIME CLASSIFICATION (Total Cases): 1. Domestic Violence (91) 2. Fraud & Cheating (37) 3. Property Dispute (17) 4. Sexual Harassment at Work Place (08) 5. Quarrel (39) 6. Dowry Related (04) 7. Shelter Case (15) 8. Kidnapping (06) 9. Extra Marital Affair (06) 10. Child Sexual Abuse (Posco) (-) 11. Mental Torture (03) 12. Missing Person (03) 13. Divorce (05) 14. Acid Attack (-) 15. Child Labour (-) 16. Child Marriage (-) 17. Crime Against Old (-) 18. Cyber Crime (03) 19. Witch Craft (Tonahi Pratarna) (2) 20. Dangerous Attack (-) 21. Education Related (-) 22. Health Related (-) 23. Murder (2) 24. Obscene Calls (-) 25. Other Existing Categories (32) 26. Rape & Sexual Assault (01) 27. Men in Distress (07) 28. Run Away Couples (-) 29. Eve Teasing (03) 30. Trafficking (-) 31. Romance Gone BAD (-) and 32. Stalking (-).

Supreme Court’s Guidelines

In Patan Jamal Vali vs State of Andhra Pradesh [Cr. App №452 of 2021], the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India stated that “While changes in the law on the books mark a significant step forward, much work still needs to be done in order to ensure that their fruits are realized by those for whose benefit they were brought. In this regard, we set out below some guidelines to make our criminal justice system more disabled-friendly.

(i) The National Judicial Academy and state judicial academies are requested to sensitize trial and appellate judges to deal with cases involving survivors of sexual abuse. This training should acquaint judges with the special provisions, concerning such survivors, such as those outlined above. It should also cover guidance on the legal weight to be attached to the testimony of such witnesses/survivors, consistent with our holding above. Public prosecutors and standing counsel should also undergo similar training in this regard. The Bar Council of India can consider introducing courses in the LL.B program that cover these topics and the intersectional nature of violence more generally;

(ii) Trained special educators and interpreters must be appointed to ensure the effective realization of the reasonable accommodations embodied in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. All police stations should maintain a database of such educators, interpreters and legal aid providers, in order to facilitate easy access and coordination;

(iii) The National Crimes Record Bureau should seriously consider the possibility of maintaining disaggregated data on gender-based violence. Disability must be one of the variables on the basis of which such data must be maintained so that the scale of the problem can be mapped out and tailored remedial action can be taken;

(iv) Police officers should be provided sensitization, on a regular basis, to deal with cases of sexual violence against women with disabilities, in an appropriate way. The training should cover the full life cycle of a case involving a disabled survivor, from enabling them to register complaints, obtain necessary accommodations, medical attention and suitable legal representation. This training should emphasize the importance of interacting directly with the disabled person concerned, as opposed to their care-taker or helper, in recognition of their agency; and

(v) Awareness-raising campaigns must be conducted, in accessible formats, to inform women and girls with disabilities, about their rights when they are at the receiving end of any form of sexual abuse.

These guidelines need further expansion to their scope and stricter implementation (including law and policy formulation by the legislature and executive body of the state).

Concluding Remarks

We just don’t need data but actionable data that triggers positive policy formulation and implementation. The mere process of collection of data without putting them into the right effect, viz., decision making, won’t serve the intended and logical objective. As we approach the dilemma around data, we must ensure that the whole chain, starting from data collection to decision-making based upon the actionable data, needs to be in accordance with today’s realities and challenges.

There’s a need for Real-Time Data, especially during climate change-induced disasters and other emergency situations, while integrating the changing landscape of data collection, processing, interpretation, and actionable intelligence with the advent of Data Science, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, among other intersectionalities and interdisciplinary factors.

Authored by —

Adv. Abhishek Kumar, Founder and Curator, The Sangyan

NCPEDP-Javed Abidi Fellow on Disability [2021–24].



The Sangyan

Law. Environment. Disability | Curator ~ Adv. Abhishek Kumar | Working on the 'Impact of Climate Change on Persons with Disabilities' | | 🇮🇳 |