Gender dimensions of intellectual property and traditional medical knowledge

Gender dimensions of intellectual property and traditional medical knowledge

Gender concerns in intellectual property rights

This paper examines the discussion on intellectual property rights (IP) for traditional knowledge (TK) in medicine from a gender perspective. It argues that a gender analysis of these issues adds to the understanding of how trade decisions can have important and unintended impacts on the lives of disempowered people.

The author recommends that both developed and developing countries orientate the focus of their discussion on IP and TK more closely to health concerns. It is further argued that policy measures should be more consistent with the Doha directive, by adopting a rights-based approach in order to better address gender concerns than current trade models do. The author argues that this would require a more bottom-up approach to international rule-making, in which traditional and community governance mechanisms are better reflected in national and international IP regimes.

The paper concludes that a rights-based approach would create more space to mainstream gender concerns in IP policy. This would include a space for women to participate in and shape decisions at international forums. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) process is noticeably more inclusive of indigenous and tribal peoples than the WTO. Women's full participation in international policy forums, however, depends on access to resources, training and capacity-building. The author suggests that trade-related capacity-building initiatives could target indigenous groups and women’s organisations for “train the trainer” programmes that offer culturally relevant information and strategies.

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