The Effect of IMF Programs on Women’s Economic and Political Rights


Though much research has been devoted to the socioeconomic and political consequences of International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs for recipient countries, little is known about the impacts of these programs on the level of respect for women’s rights. We postulate that IMF-induced policy reforms of privatization and public spending cuts, and the growing political repression and instability following the implementation of IMF programs, undermine the government’s ability and willingness to protect women’s economic and political rights. To substantiate the theoretical claims, we combine data on women’s political and economic rights with data on IMF programs for the years 1981–2004. Our findings suggest that IMF involvement is likely to deteriorate the level of respect for women’s economic rights while having no discernible effect on women’s political rights. The results further indicate that the effect of these programs is not conditioned by political regime type and economic wealth of recipient countries. One major policy implication of our findings is that the IMF should start to recognize that the conditions attached to lending programs might be implemented at the expense of women’s economic rights and that more explicit protections of women’s rights need to be included in program negotiations.

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International Interactions