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NFIW asks G20: You want to promote trade, business between nations, but at what cost?

Counterview Desk 

The well known gender rights organisation, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), has asked heads of state at the G20 summit, to take place in Delhi, to work for building an inclusive, just and equitable society. Pointing out tha the G20 intends to promote trade, business, and commerce between countries, the NFIW letter, signed by Aruna Roy, president, and Annie Raja, general secretary, asks, "At what cost?"
Stating that while democracy in its formal and institutional form remains popular as a method of governance among G20 nations, the letter states, it is also a fact that there is "persecution of religious and sexual minorities, criminalizing dissent and criticality, dispossession from land and other key resources, otherizing sections of the populace, especially those from historically marginalized sections."
Stating that all this has become "the norm in the new world order", it underlines, "Unjust and undemocratic social and economic systems also marginalize women, children and other minorities."


The theme of the 2023 G20 Summit is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One Earth, One Family, One Future). The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), a 70-year-old national women's organization places before this platform our demands for building an inclusive, just and equitable society. We want the world to be one where no one is left behind. We seek social, political and economic empowerment for all sections of society.
We are aware that the G20 grouping intends to promote trade, business, and commerce between countries. This being stated, we put forth a pertinent question: at what cost is business and commerce being pursued? Advancement cannot be at the cost of basic human dignity, human rights and natural resources. Currently in India, people’s lives are marked sharply by extreme precarity. This precarity is strongly present in the economic, political, social as well as cultural domains. With dwindling job security on the one hand and alarming unemployment on the other hand, the young population of India is living through a crisis. Education and healthcare too are being aggressively commodified making it an unrealistic goal that cannot be pursued by the majority of the people.
Corporate loot of natural resources especially land and forest is pushing people into hunger, malnutrition, ill health, and poverty. The situation that prevails in our country, we clearly understand it as being part of the larger global arrangement of State, economy, and polity. In the contemporary world of neo-liberal capitalism, the pursuit of super profit is firmly built over super exploitation.
People world over are being forcefully emptied out of their humanness. Accompanying the super-exploitation is the rise of aggressive xenophobic nationalism that is further aggravating the crisis faced by the people. Persecution of religious and sexual minorities, criminalizing dissent and criticality, dispossession from land and other key resources, otherizing sections of the populace, especially those from historically marginalized sections, have become the norm in the new world order. Violence too, both structural and brute, has become the essence of everyday life for the vast majority of people.
Today, a large section of the world’s population lives in subhuman conditions, with ills such as poverty, under-nourishment, illiteracy, trafficking and bonded labour. They are being denied access to basic government protections and welfare measures.
While democracy in its formal and institutional form remains popular as a method of governance, yet it is precisely here that the quest for democracy seems stagnated. Multiple marginalities in society instead of being remedied is in fact being further entrenched and milked for profits by the powers to be. The essential idea of substantial democracy is unfortunately being set aside.
As in the case with any crisis, in this de-humanized present too, it is the women who are the worst affected. They remain the first casualty in the mechanical pursuit of growth and profit.
We urge the G20 to pledge to uphold social and gender justice; equality, liberty and dignity for all
G20 represents 20 governments, who believe in the principles of democracy, and it therefore becomes their responsibility to foster and promote democratic human rights and a rights based approach to policy and development.
We urge all the participating G20 countries to consider the following demands:
  1. As the foundation of any democracy lies in non-discrimination, on grounds such as religion, caste, class, creed, ethnicity, color, gender or any other form of vulnerability, we hope the leaders will work towards strengthening inclusive and substantial democracy rather than turning it into an electoral or majoritarian autocracy. We also ask you to consider ensuring proportional and equitable representation in all policy making processes.
  2. Women constitute half the world’s population but continue to be discriminated against and excluded in all spheres of life. Our primary demands remain: socio-economic-political equality for all women, right to life with dignity, food security, end to violence, and universal health care, which was part of the goals outlined in the last G20 summit. We would appreciate a template to secure political representation for women and marginalized communities.
  3. Unjust and un-democratic social and economic systems also marginalize women, children and other minorities. An example of this can be seen in the low labour force participation of women, rise in child labor, bonded labor, and human trafficking. As women, we want systems that lead to more equality and equity at home and work. Women should be paid the same as men in the same jobs, and get social security net and welfare. Most importantly, care work & home-based work should be recognized as work. We also demand that women should be delinked from male identities for official purposes.
  4. Every human being has a right to freedom of speech, expression, dissent and association. Classifying political opponents, human rights defenders, social activists and groups as seditionists or criminals is antithetical to the concept of democracy. We want the governments to ensure that political opposition is not criminalized or repressed and that all 1political prisoners are released.
  5. All participating countries today are witnessing social strife fomented by partisan media, including news channels and social media, which propagate misinformation, hatred and violence towards the ‘other’. Such media justify lynching, rapes, torture and assault of the weak, which in the long run creates conditions for the entrenchment of not only deep intense social and economic segregation but can also genocide. It is up to the governments to ensure that no media house becomes a mouthpiece for insidious ideological interests. Leaders and media that promote violence need to be firmly held accountable.
  6. We urge all participating countries to sign and ratify UN Conventions and Resolutions and ensure their accountability, as they act as the guiding principles and guidelines for the betterment of humanity. Accordingly, we urge the G20 platform to design and set up mechanisms that will monitor, assess and pressurize each participating country to be transparent about their human rights records, human development index and other similar indices.
  7. We especially urge the governments to sign, ratify and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Also, as governments who understand the gravity of climate change, we demand that the transition from polluting to non-polluting fuels, as agreed upon in the Paris Agreement, will not be a cause for further destruction of lives, such as the potential impact on food security caused by switch-over to agro-based fuels.
In view of the above, the NFIW urges you to take up and strongly consider our submission to proactively ensure dignity and equality for all. Recognition, representation and redistribution should be taken up as a collective mission to be pursued with utmost political will and honesty. We urge the G20 to pledge itself to uphold social and gender justice. The principles of equality, liberty, and dignity for all should be the core kernel in the imagination of a just society.



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