DISASTER Revisiting Traditional Gender Identities in Disaster Response

It is now widely acknowledged that when disasters occur, not all members of the ‘affected community’ are affected the same way. The earlier literature on gender and disasters over-emphasized women’s vulnerabilities in the aftermath of a disaster due to their care-giving roles. It did not consider the differential vulnerabilities of diverse groups of women based on their class, caste, race, age, occupation or sexual orientations. Similarly, men’s differential vulnerabilities were seldom discussed in the early literature on this subject. After disasters like the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 Hurricane Katrina however, the importance of the intersectionality of gender with race, occupation and class and other axes of social identity became more visible and discussed in the literature. This paper provides an overview of the literature on gender and disasters and calls for the need to nuance identity categories based on their intersectionality and multiplicity to achieve more sensitive and effective disaster responses.

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