Indian Ocean Tsunami Through the Gender Lens: Insights from Tamil Nadu, India

[Cluster Area/SDGs]
[Resourcel URL]

Go to Resource

[Relevance]

This report is relevant for humanitarian and development practitioners because it is one of the first and only lengthy pieces of research that centres the experiences of third-gender people in the wake of environmental disasters. This is an important piece of research for all practitioners in the sector.

In 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused an enormous tsunami, 11 countries, killing more than 225,000 people and injuring hundreds of thousands more. In India, more than 12,000 people were killed, the majority of whom lived in Tamil Nadu. Nearly 75% of fatalities in India were women, and thus a body of work on the gendered impacts of natural disasters emerged. Pincha’s book takes this analysis further, highlighting the differential impacts on women, men and aravanis, a third-gender group in Tamil Nadu. This study seeks to expand ‘the understanding of gender mainstreaming by including Aravanies [sic].’ This study was the first to specifically investigate the experiences of third-gender people in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

More than 150 FGDs were held with different groups of men, women, adolescent girls and aravanis in more than 45 tsunami-affected areas. The report provides a brief history of gender mainstreaming in the development sector before moving into methodology, methods and findings. The findings are organised by general theme.

The first sections cover issues of survival (access to relief, conditions of temporary shelter, livelihoods etc)—these sections reveals that while there were no official deaths of aravanis, five aravanis died in Nagapattinam district. Aravanis were almost entirely excluded from relief processes, and there were significant gaps in attention to the needs of women (i.e. Muslim women were not provided burquas). Aravanis were excluded from temporary shelter and slept in the open.  Subsequent sections cover impacts on health and wellbeing (including the general lack of access to food and nutrition for aravanis; the pressure to undergo reverse-sterilisation for people who had previously had tubal ligation; and gendered occupational health hazards); aravanis (lack of) access to social security; and overall failure of NGOs and response entities to direct interventions towards aravanis.

The report then provides recommendations for addressing some of the greatest challenges and gaps identified earlier in the study. The report highlights that a gendered analysis of roles, norms and behaviours in pre-emergency settings would have revealed the gender roles and norms that later impacted recovery; it would have also made stakeholders—humanitarian actors, government officials—aware of the consequences of the tsunami on the aravani population

[Quote]

“As most Aravanis do not have ration cards, they were unable to have access to housing. Field research high-lighted that the security needs of Aravanis are no less important than that of other vulnerable groups, yet their vulnerabilities worsened in the aftermath of the Tsunami.”

Most Popular Resources

Beginner's Guide

No such thing as neutral: Understanding the implications of COVID-19 for communities with diverse SOGIE in the Global North

This Think Piece is by Kirsty McKellar, one of Edge Effect’s 2020 interns. Kirsty has recently completed her masters of Development Studies...

We deserve human rights: Interview with Emma Yaaka

Emma Yaaka (he/him) is an LGBTIQ+ advocate who has worked to provide medical services and information to LGBTIQ+ refugees in Kenya and...

In 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused an enormous tsunami, 11 countries, killing more than 225,000 people and injuring hundreds of thousands more. In India, more than 12,000 people were killed, the majority of whom lived in Tamil Nadu. Nearly 75% of fatalities in India were women, and thus a body of work on the gendered impacts of natural disasters emerged. Pincha’s book takes this analysis further, highlighting the differential impacts on women, men and aravanis, a third-gender group in Tamil Nadu. This study seeks to expand ‘the understanding of gender mainstreaming by including Aravanies [sic].’ This study was the first to specifically investigate the experiences of third-gender people in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

More than 150 FGDs were held with different groups of men, women, adolescent girls and aravanis in more than 45 tsunami-affected areas. The report provides a brief history of gender mainstreaming in the development sector before moving into methodology, methods and findings. The findings are organised by general theme.

The first sections cover issues of survival (access to relief, conditions of temporary shelter, livelihoods etc)—these sections reveals that while there were no official deaths of aravanis, five aravanis died in Nagapattinam district. Aravanis were almost entirely excluded from relief processes, and there were significant gaps in attention to the needs of women (i.e. Muslim women were not provided burquas). Aravanis were excluded from temporary shelter and slept in the open.  Subsequent sections cover impacts on health and wellbeing (including the general lack of access to food and nutrition for aravanis; the pressure to undergo reverse-sterilisation for people who had previously had tubal ligation; and gendered occupational health hazards); aravanis (lack of) access to social security; and overall failure of NGOs and response entities to direct interventions towards aravanis.

The report then provides recommendations for addressing some of the greatest challenges and gaps identified earlier in the study. The report highlights that a gendered analysis of roles, norms and behaviours in pre-emergency settings would have revealed the gender roles and norms that later impacted recovery; it would have also made stakeholders—humanitarian actors, government officials—aware of the consequences of the tsunami on the aravani population