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Women Feminism in the Environment

Women Feminism in the Environment

Environmental law and women

By Natalia Jiménez, legal advisor, AIDA

The role of environmental law is weak on gender. This can be seen in Latin America where there is constant approval of economic and development plans affecting the female view of the world, and that could lead to new ways of violating our rights.

Just like with ethnic communities, there are social groups with unique values of environmental protection, and to protect these ways of thinking is to protect the environment.

Women play a decisive role in the protection of the environment in a distinct and particular way.  While not the same for all and while many women may not feel the need for this recognition, the way of understanding nature or creation on the one side and environmental damage on the other is different between men and women. This is a reason why we promote a variety of proposals for environmental management. 

There are a lot of good books on this in Spanish.  Here are three:

a) “Abrazar la vida. Mujer, ecología y desarrollo,” by Vandana Shiva, published in Uruguay,

b) “Desarrollo y feminización de la pobreza” and “Ecofeminismo: hacia una redefinición filosófico-política de ‘Naturaleza’ y ‘Ser humano,’” both by Alicia Puleo and published in Spain.

>The experience of Ecuador in protecting the moor ecosystems> is >a beautiful and inspiring example of a female environmental fight in Latin America. It also is proof of what has been said, such as that >women are the best defenders in negotiations on climate change> and that >their ideas are even more effective and sustainable when it comes to fighting hunger and poverty>.

But while ethnic groups have gained a good degree of legal defense through prior consent, numerous social groups are still waiting for creative lawyers with the capacity to defend their visions in the courts.

Prior consent allows ethnic groups to make decisions about plans or legislative initiatives that affect their territories in order to protect their cultural, social, and economic integrity. It is a right that has been >recognized> in countries like Colombia.

In Latin America, the social aspect that comes up most in big legal battles for environmental protection is the right of ethnic groups to prior consent over a development project that could damage their existence and culture.  But little to nothing has been said in the courts on the illegality and social inconvenience of such a project violating women’s rights and their vision of the world.

We need legal tools as jurisprudential precedents to make it possible to litigate and determine, for example, that a development plan is or could represent discriminatory action against women.

I am not talking about multiplying the number of existing mechanisms for participation in decision-making or the number of women involved or making decisions.  We need laws that set precedents to protect the environment based on the female view of the world.  We need more creative legal tools that, like prior consent, can incorporate the environmental values of women into local and global environmental practices in a real and efficient way.

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