Women in developing countries and benefit sharing
Developing World Bioethics 2006 December; 6(3): 113-121
The aim of this paper is to show that any process of benefit sharing that does not guarantee the representation and participation of women in the decision-making process, as well as in the distribution of benefits, contravenes a central demand of social justice. It is argued that women, particularly in developing countries, can be excluded from benefits derived from genetic research because of existing social structures that promote and maintain discrimination. The paper describes how the structural problem of gender-based inequity can impact on benefit sharing processes. At the same time, examples are given of poor women's ability to organise themselves and to achieve social benefits for entire communities. Relevant international guidelines (e.g. the Convention on Biodiversity) recognise the importance of women's contributions to the protection of biodiversity and thereby, implicitly, their right to a share of the benefits, but no mechanism is outlined on how to bring this about. The authors make a clear recommendation to ensure women's participation in benefit sharing negotiations by demanding seats at the negotiation table.
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