SNP MSP Ruth Maguire highlights the Scottish Government’s commitment to adopt a feminist foreign policy, the first country in the UK to do so.

Ruth Maguire MSP contributed to the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee debate, on its inquiry into the Scottish Government’s international work, held in the Scottish Parliament 10 May 2022.

During the debate Ruth noted the Scottish Government’s commitment to employing a feminist foreign policy and fulfilling an SNP manifesto policy. Ruth discussed the benefit of a feminist foreign policy which prioritises topics such as peace, gender equality, environmental issues and human rights and gave examples of how Sweden’s feminist foreign policy has contributed positively to the world.

Ruth Maguire MSP said:

“The Scottish Government has stated its commitment to employing a feminist foreign policy, which fulfils an SNP manifesto promise. As the first country in the UK to adopt such a policy, Scotland will join a small number of nations around the world that have done so, including Sweden, which was the first to do so, in 2014.

A feminist foreign policy includes moving away from what might traditionally be considered foreign policy and prioritising topics such as peace, gender equality, environmental issues and human rights. The focus is on the wellbeing of the world’s most marginalised people, including women and girls. The approach involves thinking about foreign policy and international relations from the viewpoint of the world’s most vulnerable groups and thereby taking an intersectional approach to challenging existing power structures such as racism, colonialism and male domination.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the conviction that sustainable peace, security and development can never be achieved if half of the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that still characterise everyday life for countless women and girls all over the world. Feminist foreign policy is an agenda for change to strengthen the rights, representation and resources of women and girls.

There are many examples of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy contributing positively to the world, including new legislation to prohibit the purchase of sexual services in several countries. Sweden has co-operated closely with countries that have been reviewing their legislation on prostitution and, in recent years, Ireland, France and Northern Ireland have adopted legislation that is equivalent to the legislation in Sweden.

Sweden has improved opportunities to combat domestic violence in China by co-financing a study on employee and employer knowledge of China’s legislation prohibiting domestic violence, with the aim of strengthening the private sector’s efforts against violence.

There have also been hundreds of thousands fewer unwanted pregnancies in east Africa because Sweden has intensified its work on sexual and reproductive health and rights. A Sweden-backed programme is estimated to have prevented hundreds of thousands of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions in the region. Sweden has also helped thousands of new midwives per year in Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Zambia and other countries by funding training for them, which has led to perhaps millions of women being able to give birth with the support of trained staff.

I endorse the remarks that my colleague Bill Kidd made on nuclear disarmament, trafficking and sexual exploitation. I understand that the Scottish Government will review its policies and programmes that have an international dimension to ensure that they reflect a feminist approach to foreign policy and that it will seek to learn from other countries on that. In doing that, our Government needs to be alive to our domestic policies as well as international ones.

Although Scotland approaches the matter from a relatively privileged position, with some world-leading legislation and with many sound policies, we have not yet eradicated the discrimination and violence that are everyday realities for far too many women and girls in Scotland. There is still a gap between policy intention and legislative reality in some areas—for example, the equally safe strategy is work in progress that requires some urgency.

Scotland’s international work can create domestic opportunities and attract investment. Being a good global citizen and strengthening relationships with countries and continents can only be of benefit to the people of Scotland.”

The Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee inquiry report into the Scottish Government’s International Work can be found on the Scottish Parliament’s website here.

Watch Ruth’s speech in here: