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Gender and Vulnerable Populations in Benefit Sharing: An Exploration of Conceptual and Contextual Points


Vulnerable populations have been defined as those who face a significant probability of incurring an identifiable harm while substantially lacking ability and/or means to protect themselves. Vulnerabilities within population groups can be differentiated by factors that determine the different probabilities of incurring identifiable harms (risks) people face and the means available to them to protect themselves (their protective capacity). Among these factors is gender.

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2. Mason A, King EM. Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice: A World Bank Policy Research Report, 2001; available at (last accessed 5 June 2008).

3. Lee S. Assessing the Vulnerability of Women Street Traders to HIV/AIDS: A Comparative Analysis of Uganda and South Africa. Durban: Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal; July 2004. For strategies on building women's agentic capacities, see Alvarez-Castillo F, Lucas JC. Fairness and Gender in Benefit Sharing, 2008; available at (last accessed 15 December 2008).

4. United Nations Environment Programme. Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 8j, available at, (last accessed 17 June 2008).

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6. See note 3, Alvarez-Castillo, Lucas 2008.

7. See note 5, Alvarez-Castillo, Feinholz 2006:114.

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11. See note 10, United Nations Population Fund 2005.

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14. See note 3, Lee 2004:17.

15. Warren explains patriarchy as the “systematic domination of women by men through institutions, behaviors, and ways of thinking . . . which assign higher value, privilege, and power to men . . . than to that given to women.” Warren KJ. Ecofeminist Philosophy. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield; 2000:64.

16. For a critical discussion of the literature “revolving around the presumption of primordial gender equality and harmony among the San of southern Africa” see Becker H. The least sexist society? Perspectives on gender, change and violence among southern African San. Journal of Southern African Studies 2003;29(1):5–23.

17. Wessendorf K. Editorial: Indigenous women. Indigenous Affairs 2004;1–2:4–7.

18. See note 16, Becker 2003:8.

19. Hitchcock R, Johnson M, Haney C. Indigenous women in Botswana: Changing roles in the face of dispossession and modernization. In: Hitchcock R, Vinding D, eds. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Southern Africa. Copenhagen: IWGIA; 2004.

20. See note 16, Becker 2003:16.

21. See note 17, Wessendorf 2004.

22. Sylvain R. San women today: Inequality and dependency in a post-foraging world. Indigenous Affairs 2004;1–2:8–13.

23. Andanda P, Lucas JC. Majengo HIV/AIDS Research Case: A Report for GenBenefit, 2007; available at (last accessed 15 May 2008).

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25. See Harding S. The Science Question in Feminism. Milton Keynes: Open University Press; 1986, especially Chapter 6 “From Feminist Empiricism to Feminist Standpoint Epistemologies,” pp. 136–62.

26. See note 23, Andanda and Lucas 2007:18.

27. See note 23, Andanda and Lucas 2007:19.

28. Andanda P. Vulnerability: Sex workers in Nairobi's Majengo slum. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, this issue, 138–146.

29. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). Women's Equal Ownership, Access to and Control Over Land and the Equal Rights to Own Property and to Adequate Housing: Commission on Human Rights Resolution 200/49. Geneva: UNHCHR; 2002.

30. See note 5, Alvarez-Castillo, Feinholz 2006.

31. Squires J. Gender in Political Theory. Cambridge/Oxford: Polity Press; 1999:203, quoted in Sauer B. 2004:9 (see note 8). Also see Phillips A. The Politics of Presence. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1995.

32. Because there were no women candidates for membership of the Committee in the May 2008 election, the Committee appointed two women so that there would be women's representation. Data from a key informant communicated by Sachin Chaturvedi, June 2008.

33. Cited by a woman key informant. The Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute has independently implemented capacity building for women, including an entrepreneurship development program and cooperative society/self-help groups. Data from personal communications with Sachin Chaturvedi, October 2007, June 2008.

34. Maria Rani Centre. Women's Health in Kerala: Issues and Challenges, May 2006; available at (last accessed 19 October 2007).

35. Dillon RS. Self-respect: Moral, emotional, political. Ethics 1997;107(2):226–49, at 244–5.

36. See note 14, Jewkes, Levin, Pen-Kekana 2003.

37. Dreze J, Sen A. Gender inequality and women's agency. In: Mohanty M, ed. Class, Caste and Gender. New Delhi: Sage; 2004.

38. For a fuller discussion, see Alvarez-Castillo, Lucas 2008.

39. Simonelli J, Comment on Rosenthal, J. Politics, Culture, and Governance in the Development of Prior Informed Consent in Indigenous Communities. Current Anthropology 2006;47-1:119–42 at p. 136.

40. The classic example here is “consciousness raising” in feminist politics. Frye M. The possibility of feminist theory. In: Garry A, Pearsall P, eds. Women, Knowledge and Reality, London: Routledge; 1996:34–47 at pp. 34–5.

41. See, for example, Reclaim the Night: A Women's Annual Global March to Protest Men's Sexual Violence, available at (last accessed 30 April 2008).

42. A gender-sensitive partnering approach is distinguished by the integration of gender in all aspects of the project. In research, this is exemplified in feminist and participatory action research approaches. For examples, see Banerjee UD, ed. Lessons Learned from Rights-Based Approaches in the Asia Pacific Region. Bangkok: United Nations Development Programme and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; 2005.

This paper was prepared for GenBenefit, a research project funded by the European Community's Sixth Framework Programme, but reflects only the authors’ views. We are grateful to all the members of the wider GenBenefit group for input into this discussion. The comments of Doris Schroeder on the drafts are gratefully acknowledged.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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