Register Now: SRI Conversations: 27 October: Coercive and punitive economic measures & Sexual Rights

Published on October 09, 2023
Event date

Join us for this exciting series of conversations hosted by the Sexual Rights Initiative on the political economy of sexual rights. These engaging discussions explore how macroeconomics profoundly affects sexual rights and share ideas on effective strategies to address these challenges within social justice activism, including advocacy in UN human rights spaces. By bringing together a diverse group of activists, scholars, and advocates, this virtual conversation series aims to build cross-movement collaboration and global partnerships.

Our second conversation will be on the following theme: Coercive and punitive economic measures and their impact on sexual and reproductive rights.

Join us for this exciting online event on 27 October 2023 from 15:00 to 16:30 CET.

Moderator: Dipika Nath


  • Nana Abuelsoud, EIPR and Programs and Advocacy Coordinator, RESURJ:
  • María Luisa Peralta, Akãhatã
  • Niyanthini Kadirgamar, Feminist Collective for Economic Justice, Sri Lanka

Interpretation in Spanish and in French will be available.

Register now for this event using the form below.


From 2001 to 2021, the United States increased its use of sanctions by 933%. By its own admission, economic and financial sanctions are the US’s tool of “first resort” in pursuit of its foreign policy and national security goals. The US government is one of the most egregious culprits in using economic coercion to maintain global dominance (and it has imposed two-thirds of all sanctions since the 1990s), but it is far from the only state to do so; the European Union and the United Kingdom also rely on their economic power for coercive leverage through sanctions and other means.

States are not the only entities that impose sanctions; in addition to the EU, other multinational bodies such as the UN and the OSCE also use coercive measures to punish individuals, groups, and entire states (almost exclusively in the Global South) and secure benefits for themselves.

In addition to economic sanctions (which are often defended by concerns about human rights, terrorism, or nuclear threat), coercive economic practices include trade embargoes, predatory debt mechanisms, austerity measures, structural adjustment and privatisation, extractivism, ‘soft coups’, unfair bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, OECD-imposed international taxation rules that enable tax abuse, and aid conditionality.

The use of coercive mechanisms to punish or discipline a state that is considered to be failing on its human rights scorecard has particularly pernicious effects, as it pits groups within the targeted country against each other. Sexual orientation and gender identity, for example, are increasingly issues on which there’s a liberal consensus in much of the Global North, and certain countries in the Global South routinely face censure and coercion when they fail to live up to their promises to LGBT populations. However, the funding cuts that follow almost always end up harming not only other vulnerable groups, such as women seeking SRHR services, but also socially and economically marginalised members of the very groups ostensibly being defended; further, and predictably, the identity politics-driven rationale of this kind of targeted coercion also undermines domestic efforts at cross-movement solidarity and activism. Sanctions also further existing inequality in targeted countries by making the poor poorer and the few elites richer, as in Iran.

The replacement of the postcolonial aspiration to social mobilisation and collective welfare in much of the Global South by individual human rights discourse and mechanisms has helped to obscure the harms done by economic warfare, as social and economic rights are still not recognised or enforceable as rights, as the plight of Venezuela’s attempt to take the US to the ICC shows.

The lack of investment in public goods and services in countries in the grip of neoliberal policies and the increasing immiseration and consequent crackdown on protests and uprisings have a direct impact on all rights and entitlements, including sexual rights. Women and girls face the worst effects of poverty, direct and indirect gender-based violence increases, unemployment and disenfranchisement fuel regressive social attitudes, and healthcare spending vanishes. Even when sexual and gender rights are not seen as a convenient proxy for undesirable and neocolonial foreign intervention, states may still be forced to sacrifice them because of limited resources. Predictably, gender and sexuality rights are then used by wealthy countries to further chastise and punish countries too poor to fund these rights.