What India can take away from Mexico’s Feminist Foreign Policy

A foreign policy with a political framework focused on the security and safety of the marginalised community can be defined as a Feminist Foreign Policy. It rethinks the traditional approach of foreign policy that only focuses on military, violence and domination. A new thought of security from the perspective of the vulnerable is introduced in FFP. The multidimensional policy aims to uplift the experiences of women and the marginalised. It also focuses on changing the negative forces of patriarchy, militarism, imperialism, racism, colonisation and heteronormativity. FFP creates a uniform framework by integrating gender equality across departments. It also promotes equal representation of women in diplomatic and policy leadership.

Taking a quick look at the history of Feminist Foreign Policy, Sweden was the first country to introduce FFP in 2014. Canada announced its Feminist International Assistance Policy in 2017, followed by Mexico in early 2020, becoming the first country in the global south to adopt an FFP. In 2021, Spain introduced the Strategy for External Action that actively promotes gender equality in its foreign policy. Countries like Luxemburg and Malaysia are also incorporating gender equality in their national and international policy frameworks.

In international and regional affairs, India is growing as a powerful country and has a vital role to play in responsibly shaping the future.  India was elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term and is also a non-permanent member of the UNSC and now has the chance to institutionalize women empowerment. India can be seen committed to gender equality through gender empowerment programmes at the United Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association and India-Brazil-South Africa Trilateral Cooperation Forum , which have to make women take up essential roles for inclusive and sustainable growth. The foreign policy of India has gendered considerations in the area of development assistance. The gendered lens in India’s foreign policy needs to be widened in other sectors such as security and defense and incorporate gender mainstreaming with an impact that lasts longer.  An FFP approach can give India a great opportunity to create an environment that promotes peace and helps in building lasting bilateral relationships. However, the FFP framework must be customized for the Indian context, which would also help in shifting the focus on gender domestically.

Mexico’s approach to FFP would make an interesting study for India because India and Mexico are countries that have similarities in a variety of aspects such as cultural and traditional values, people and features and biodiversity. Historically both countries have rich civilizational heritage. However, both countries face social disparities. When it comes to gender equality in both countries, there is a wide discrepancy. There are social disadvantages that are persistent and various forms of discrimination due to consequences of marginalization in the vast section of the population.  Gender-based violence is a continuing crisis in both countries, which is risking the lives of many women.

Mexico is recognized for its commitment to multilateralism and nuclear nonproliferation that are in line with the Feminist Foreign Policy approach. Similarly, India has consistently worked to strengthen multilateralism by looking to bring reform at the UN, the Bretton Woods System and the WTO.  Mexico’s FFP is focused on addressing the structural causes and identifying and protecting the already existing rights in gender equality that have been incorporated in national and global legal instruments. It will aim to incorporate human rights into treaty law, resolutions, agreements and more.

A core objective of Mexico’s FFP is to remove all types of gender inequality in the Foreign Ministry. Within the first year, training, workshops, working groups, and manuals were designed and implemented. By 2024, the government wants full employment equity, equal pay, and a gender lens applied to every foreign policy stance, decision, and directive. India must adopt a similar objective, as only 16% of women account in the Indian Foreign Service, and only about 18% of women have leadership positions in embassies around the world. Out of 33 Foreign Secretaries, only 3 of them have been women.

Domestic policies need to have a gendered lens that can protect the marginalized. Without having a balance internally, a feminist foreign policy will not sustain. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, the gender gap has increased to 62.5% in India. This is primarily due to the lack of political representation, absence of technical and leadership roles, inequal income, reducing women labour force participation rate, lack of proper health care and the literacy ratio gap between men and women.

The National Development Plan (2013 -2018) was mpleneted in Mexico in 2013. It incorporates gender mainstreaming and focused on women’s empowerment in all its areas for the first time. These initiatives might lead to reducing the gender gap in the country. Even though India is part of the Women Peace and Security (WPS), it has yet to adopt a National Action plan. India needs to implement the National Policy for Women – 2016  that commits to achieve national and international commitments as given in the draft particularly aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals with the emphasis on poverty, inequality, and violence against women. While there are many gender mainstreaming policies already in place to empower and uplift the status of women in the country, the implementation is poor.

Even though there is a long way to go in achieving gender equality in Mexico internally, it had achieved gender parity in the parliament in 2018. The federal congress in 2002 passed a gender quota law in 2002, then in 2004 and 2014. In 2014, parity was mandated as a statutory obligation to register candidates. In June 2021, a mandate for “gender parity in everything” was implemented. Mexico was the first country in the world that made it a requirement that political parties should nominate women for governor races. India needs to develop a similar law that allows equal representation of women in parliament. It can start with passing the women’s reservation bill that allots 33% reservation seats for women in the parliament, which eventually can be replicated in the Foreign Service.

India has to make certain changes to its internal policy. It might begin with legislation similar to Mexico’s, which would allow an equal number of women to serve in government. Women bring specific traits to the table as leaders, such as the capacity to listen, persevere, and find a middle ground. Especially in peacebuilding, reconstruction, and rebuilding, it is critical for women to determine the outcomes and not merely be receptacles. In the Ministry of External Affairs, India needs to move toward gender equity. There are more women joining the Indian Foreign Service, but the Ministry has to make sure that they are promoted up to the highest position. The notion that women are incapable of dealing with difficult situations must be disproved. When creating laws to guarantee that there is no gender disparity, a gendered lens should be used.

Innocentia Atchaya
Innocentia Atchaya
Feminist scholar advocating for the recognition of gender in geopolitics and international relations.