By Marina Maria
From March 18th to 22th, 2013 Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) organized the Sexuality and change – a new training program, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, gathering participants from Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, United States and Venezuela. This was the first training program offered by SPW and this initiative prompted participants to examine how theory, research and policy can shape meaningful social change.
The SPW training program received hundreds of applications from researchers and activists around the world. The course was coordinated by Richard Parker, Sonia Corrêa, and Rosalind Petchesky, members of the SPW’s Steering Committee, and Mario Pecheny, Professor of Political Science at the Instituto Gino Germani, at the University of Buenos Aires and Associate Researcher at CONICET.
Participants and resource persons exchanged their experiences, challenges and expectations about research and activism regarding sexuality and human rights. The course sessions addressed theoretical aspects of political change in sexuality and also provided some specific analyses of political and legal frontlines. Rosalind Petchesky conceptually examined the emblematic case of the sexual politics scenario in Uganda and Mario Pecheny explored political frameworks and conceptual challenges at work in discourses on rights and sexuality in liberal democracies.
In terms of frontlines of change and resistance, the Brazilian Congressional Representative, Jean Wyllys, shared his analysis of and experience in the current Brazilian political and parliamentarian context characterized by major setbacks resulting from the growth and influence of dogmatic religious forces. He also explored the challenges this implies for theory and research. An other two cases were presented by Vivek Divan, currently the Policy Specialist for Key Populations and Access to Justice at United Nations Development Program (UNDP) HIV, Health and Development Group. The first was an analysis of the process and outcomes of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the second looked in depth into the long juridical trajectory that lead to the Delhi High Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of Article 377 of the India Penal Code that criminalized same sex relations between men. Both cases examined the complexities and pitfalls of constructing consensus within diverse sexuality movements. The Argentinean gender-identity law, approved in 2012 – enabling persons to change their name and gender in official documents such as birth certificates as well as access required health care without a medical diagnosis — was presented by Emiliano Litardo, a lawyer and activist who played a key role in the political process leading to the new law. Debates around transsexual rights at the level of regional and international human rights system were also summarized by Tamara Adrian, a Venezuelan lawyer involved in promoting the recognition and protection of the civil and human rights of LGBTI people.
A second round of the training is scheduled for August in Buenos Aires, Argentina, preceding the Conference organized by the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS).
More information on the first SPW Training experience and outcomes will be disseminated soon, with the publication of a report with more details.