WE thought we had put slavery, holocausts and apartheid behind us
- that humanity would never again allow dehumanizing and violent
systems to shape the rules by which we live and die. Yet
globalization is giving rise to new slavery, new holocausts, new
apartheid. It is a war against nature, women, children and the
poor. A war which is transforming every community and home into a
war zone. It is a war of monocultures against diversity, of big
against small, of war time technologies against nature.
Technologies of war are becoming the basis of production in
peacetime. Agent Orange, which was sprayed on Vietnam, is now
being sprayed on our farms as herbicide along with Round up and
other poisons. Plants and animals are being genetically
engineered, thus making our fields sites of biological warfare.
And perverse intelligence is being applied to terminate life's
cycles of renewal by engineering "Terminator" seeds to be
As the violence grows, the stress on societies, ecosystems and
living beings is reaching levels of breakdown. We are surrounded
by processes of ecological and social breakdown.
Witness the events of our times which are now front page news.
Cows in Europe being subject to bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), millions of animals being burnt as foot and mouth disease
spreads due to increased trade, farmers in India committing
suicide in thousands, the Taliban destroying their heritage by
vandalizing the Bamiyan Buddhas, a 15-year-old boy Charles Andrew
Williams shooting his classmates in a Californian high school,
All these are wars of peacetime, occurring in our daily lives and
the last expression of violence in a system which has put profit
above life, commerce above justice, ethics and ecology as violent
Cows are herbivores, they are not meant to eat their own
carcasses. But, in an industrial system of factory farming
globalized under free trade rules of agriculture, it was
"efficient" to grind up the meat of infected sheep and cows and
turn it into cattle feed. This has spread BSE among cattle - a
disease that can be transmitted to humans.
Children should be playing with their friends. Schools are not
supposed to be war zones. But a culture of guns and violence,
combined with one that has focussed so exclusively on commerce
and economic growth and material accumulation, has left future
generations uprooted and unanchored, afraid and violent. Our
children are robbed of childhood. In Iraq, 12 children die every
hour because of a trade embargo. In other regions, children are
being pushed into prostitution or warfare - the only options for
survival when societies break down. Across the Third World,
hunger and malnutrition has grown as a result of structural
adjustment and trade liberalization policies.
During 1979-81 and 1992-93, calorie intake declined by three per
cent in Mexico, 4.1 per cent in Argentina, 10.9 per cent in
Kenya, 10.0 per cent in Tanzania, 9.9 per cent in Ethiopia. In
India, the per capita cereal consumption declined by 12.2 per
cent for rural areas and 5.4 per cent for urban areas. Denying
food to the hungry and feeding the markets is one of the
genocidal aspects of globalization Countries cannot ensure that
the hungry are fed because this involves laws, policies and
financial commitments which are "protectionist" - the ultimate
crime in the globalization regime.
Denying medicine to the ill so that the global pharmaceutical
industry can make profits is another aspect of genocide. Under
the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement of the World
Trade Organization, countries have to implement patent laws
granting exclusive, monopolistic rights to the pharmaceutical and
biotech industry. This prevents countries from producing low cost
generic drugs. Patented HIV/AIDS medicine costs $15,000, while
generic drugs made by India and Brazil cost $250-300 for one
year's treatment. Patents are, therefore, literally robbing AIDS
victims of their lives.
However, in the world order of globalization dictated by
commerce, greed and profits, it is providing cures through
affordable medicine that is illegal. India, Brazil and South
Africa have been taken to the WTO Court (the Dispute Settlement
Mechanism) because they have laws that allow low cost medicine to
At the World Court of Women, we declare that laws that force a
government to deny citizens the right to food and the right to
medicine are genocidal.
Globalization is a violent system, imposed and maintained through
use of violence. As trade is elevated above human needs, the
insatiable appetite of global markets for resources is met by
unleashing new wars over resources. The war over diamonds in
Sierra Leonne, over oil in Nigeria has killed thousands of women
The transfer of people's resources to global corporations also
makes states more militaristic as they arm themselves on behalf
of commercial interests, and start wars against their own people.
Violence has been used by the government against tribal people in
areas where Bauxite is mined in Orissa and in Koel Karo, where
the building of a large dam was stopped.
But it is not just non-renewable resources like diamonds, oil and
minerals which global corporations want to own. They want to own
our biodiversity and water. They want to transform the very
fabric and basis of life into private property. Intellectual
Property Rights (IPRs) on seeds and plants, animals and human
genes are aimed at transforming life into the property of
corporations. While falsely claiming to have "invented" life
forms and living organisms, corporations also claim patents on
knowledge pirated from the Third World. The knowledge of our
mothers and grandmothers is now being claimed as inventions of
western corporations and scientists. The use of neem (Azarichta
Indica) as pesticide and fungicide, was claimed to be an
invention by the U.S.D.A. and W.R. Grace. India challenged it and
got the patent revoked. The seeds and plants of basmati have been
claimed as inventions by a U.S. corporation called Ricetec. And
these are only some examples of biopiracy which will lead to the
absurd situation where the Third World pays for knowledge that
evolved cumulatively and collectively.
From the Women's Court, we declare that patents on life and
patents based on biopiracy are immoral and illegal. They should
not be respected because they violate universal principles for
reverence for life and the integrity of a culture's knowledge
We will not live by rules that are robbing millions of their
lives and medicines, their seeds, plants and knowledge, their
sustenance and dignity and their food. We will not allow greed
and violence to be treated as the only values to shape our
cultures and our lives. We will take back our lives, as we took
back the right. We know that violence begets violence, fear
begets fear, peace begets peace and love begets love. We will
reweave the world as a place of sharing and caring, of peace and
justice, not a market place where sharing and caring and giving
protection are crimes and peace and justice are unthinkable. We
will shape new universals through solidarity, not hegemony.
Women's worlds are worlds based on protection - of our dignity
and self respect, the well - being of our children, of the earth,
of her diverse beings of those who are hungry and those who are
ill. To protect is the best expression of humanity. Those who
have tried to transform "protection" into a dirty word, the worst
crime of the global market place, see the protection of health,
nutrition, livelihoods all call for trade sanctions and
"punishment" by the W.T.O. and the World Bank.
To those who have tried to make the protection of life a crime we
say echoing Archbishop Tutu: "You have already lost. You need to
get out of the way so that we can protect each other, our
children and life on this planet." The future does not belong to
the Merchants of Death - it belongs to the Protectors of Life.
Excerpts from Vandana Shiva's testimony at the Women's Court, South Africa, on March 8, 2001.
The author is director, Research Foundation for Science,
Technology and Ecology, New Delhi.
Copyrights © 2001 The Hindu & indiaserver.com, Inc.