Trade needs to play a part in addressing women's rights

Posted on March 08, 2023
Two Indian women carrying baskets

On International Women’s Day we raise concerns about the impact trade has on women and why this needs to be a central part of the ongoing trade negotiations with India. The next round of UK-India trade negotiations will happen at the end of the month, with the aim to conclude a trade deal by the end of this year.

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement, said:

“Women experience greater impact than men by the provisions set in trade agreements and action is urgently needed.

“Unfortunately, the UK’s approach to gender is currently out of step with the reality for women in India. The assumption is that trade rules will stimulate economic growth and that women, uniformly, will automatically benefit. This lacks the necessary understanding of the specific challenges faced by women in India.

“Women in India are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of trade if the deal doesn't take their experiences into account. This is most likely to be the case if the agreement contributes to a squeeze on workers’ rights, disadvantages small-scale farmers, reinforces the privatisation of public services and reduces access to affordable medicines. This can all exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce gender biases within the economy, increasing women’s unpaid domestic and care work, reducing their access to decent employment, and worsening their financial insecurity and poverty. All these risks are significant for the negotiation of an UK-India trade deal.

“As the UK is about to re-enter trade negotiations with India, it has the capacity to rethink its approach and ensure its trade policy is compatible with gender equality obligations. It is critical that the government undertakes an analysis of the impacts that trade and investment rules have on women as workers, producers, consumers and the principal providers of unpaid care.

“Action to address the gendered impacts of trade policy is urgent. Trade agreements need to play a part in addressing the economic disadvantages that women continue to face worldwide.”

Find out more about the links between trade and gender.

Read our report on the UK-India trade negotiations which has a dedicated chapter on gender.


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