6.5 Explicit Protection for Women
In our examination of the five cases, we found that the actual - though frequently
invisible - dynamics of power relations between men and women often obstruct
the process of women's inclusion in formal negotiations and decision-making on
benefit sharing. Women were marginalized in community consultations among the
San and in Iceland. In the Kani case, women did not actually get their 'fair share'
of the benefits accruing to the community in general. This indicates that, in fact,
the benefit-sharing arrangements were not fair and equitable at all.
It seems, therefore, that generalized provisions on free prior informed consent,
fairness, mutuality and benefit sharing (such as we find in HUGO, CIOMS, the
DOH and the Bonn Guidelines) often fail in practice to ensure that women are
treated fairly. There are three core reasons for this:
• Where the vulnerability of a group or community is homogenized (as in the
existing guidelines), the hidden or invisible structures and practices in com-
munities that create further vulnerabilities specific to women might be ignored.
For example: 'Women bear a disproportionate burden of the world's poverty.
Statistics indicate that women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of
hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health
care, employment and control of assets. Poverty implications are widespread for
women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drink-
ing water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can
also mean they have little protection from violence and have no role in decision
making' (UN Women 2008 ). While there is a growing awareness of the vulner-
ability of poor communities to exploitation in research, the additional and spe-
cific vulnerability to exploitation of women within those communities will be
missed until it is simultaneously recognized that poverty is also gendered.
• There is an assumption that prior discussion with the community automatically
includes the women, but this is not borne out by empirical research.
• The expectation that when a community shares in the beneits, women will get
their fair share, is unrealistic in many cases.
There is a clear danger that a gender-blind approach to decision-making for
benefit sharing can reinforce existing discrimination against women in community
6.6 Gender Justice: Interrogating Free Prior Informed
Consent, Justice and Fairness
It is clear that all the major international guidelines have used the concepts of free
prior informed consent, justice and fairness without adequate attention to their
implications for women. We argue that an understanding of justice and fairness