International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 29: Economic sanctions and women’s status in target countries
States, either unilaterally or multilaterally, frequently resort to economic sanctions to pursue a range of foreign policy goals. The use of sanctions often involves such policy objectives as advancing human rights, ending or deterring military offensives, bringing about a cessation in civil wars, preventing nuclear proliferation, punishing state sponsors of terrorism, and resolving trade disputes. Foreign economic measures used by sanctioning countries include trade restrictions (embargoes and boycotts), financial asset freezes, bans on investment, and reduction or suspension of economic and military assistance. Despite the frequent use of economic sanctions, they are generally considered ineffective in coercing the target country to comply with the sanctioning country’s demands (Hufbauer et al., 2007). Research on the consequences of economic coercion, on the other hand, suggests that sanctions not only frequently fail to achieve their policy objective but also incur significant socio-economic and political damage within the target societies. Sanctions, conditional on the severity of the coercion and the wealth of the target country, can worsen public health conditions, democratic freedoms, and human rights conditions in targeted countries (see, for example, Weiss et al., 1997; Peksen, 2009; Peksen and Drury, 2010). While the scholarship on sanctions has been helpful in advancing cumulative knowledge on the effectiveness and consequences of sanctions, scholars mostly neglect the possible effect that sanctions have on disadvantaged groups in society—the groups that would most likely be worst hurt by the sanctions.
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