•  
  •  
 

Abstract

The catastrophic dimensions of humanitarian emergencies are increasingly understood and more visible to states and international institutions. There is greater appreciation for the social, economic and political effects that follow in the short to long term from the devastating consequences of humanitarian emergencies. There is also recognition of the gendered dimensions of humanitarian emergencies in policy and institutional contexts. It is generally acknowledged that women are overrepresented in the refugee and internally displaced communities that typically result from many humanitarian crises. Women bear acute care responsibilities in most societies and also disproportionately bear familial and communal care responsibilities in communities affected by disaster, war and natural emergencies. Given their disparate social and legal status in many jurisdictions, women may have less access to capital, social goods, and other legal means to protect themselves when crises arise. Across jurisdictions, women possess differential legal capacity to contract, face systematic discrimination in their access to employment, receive differential payment once employed, and cannot own or transfer property. These myriad and interlocking discriminations and the need to combat them are articulated in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. While tacit acknowledgement of this reality increasingly permeates academic and political discourses, the depth of the descriptive often fails to capture and fully grasp the extent of gender harms and gender insecurity. Moreover, as experts and policymakers calculate how best national and international communities should respond to such emergencies, women are frequently substantively and procedurally sidelined. This follows from the dual effects of a dearth of women decision makers in the relevant high-level fora and the failure of these bodies to meaningfully imagine and include solutions to the particular issues affecting women in communities and societies emerging from emergencies. As other scholars have noted, disaster-related research suffers from considerable prejudices, revealing an asymmetrical distribution of gender themes, an absence of data on women's lives and a male bias in identifying the channels from which information is sought. With that background, this Article offers some preliminary assessment of the intersection of women's experiences with situations of humanitarian crisis, probing the causality and patterns that have been identified across a range of interdisciplinary scholarly research and policy-oriented analyses. It advances understanding by a survey of three important but frequently marginalized issues, namely vulnerability, masculinities, and security in situations of crisis. The goal is, in part, to give greater traction to a feminist analysis of women's experiences in situations of extreme crisis. Some preliminary observations are made to help frame the way in which legal and policy solutions are articulated in such crisis contexts.