After two days of intense discussions, during which the politics of sexuality in Asia were examined from a variety of angles, the chairs of the four sessions were invited to present a synthesis of each panel. Also, professors Rosalind Petchesky and Pan Suiming had the task of briefly exploring cross-cutting themes and challenges running through the various panels.
One critical insight that emerged from the debates was that strategic coalitions must be constructed in order to improve access and use of condoms all around the region. Another key observation was that more research is currently needed to look at how and why non-religious Asian states and political parties are now shifting towards being influenced by religious concerns. In relation, more specifically to the complex domain of the intersection between sexuality and new information technology, questions were raised in respect to whether or not preexisting gender and sexuality stereotypes are being challenged or reiterated on the spirals of the Internet. It was also noted that the immediacy and speed of cyberspace may be acting as a smokescreen that hides deeper and longer term questions and problems such as the reification of gender and sexuality norms or the growing trends towards state political censorship of the web.
The discussions on migration explored questions such as: what types of bodies do states allow or deny to enter their borders? Research findings presented in the dialogue indicate that migrant bodies are ascribed distinct qualities; while some are productive (labor migrants) other are reproductive (female spouses); while some bodies are deeply sexualized (trafficked women), others are supposed to be asexual (workers); but as a whole state preference is always for sanitized bodies (such as those who are not HIV positive). Rules for crossing boundaries are therefore immersed in body politics, some of which are unspoken, while others quite often trigger flares of moral panics. Throughout the debates great emphasis was given to the urgent need to recognize the human rights of migrants, including their sexual and reproductive rights.
In her comments, Rosalind Petchesky examined the paradoxical meaning of sexual products,Viagra and condoms, analyzed in the dialogue. She suggested that a parallel could eventually be made between the failing penis to which Viagra is addressed and economic systems: “Maybe the phallus was endangered of being permanently impotent and Viagra came to resuscitate it. This has a parallel with capitalism itself. Condoms, on the other hand, constitute a product or site where public health and state regimes of governmentality intersect. On the one hand, they are signifiers of danger and non- pleasure, but on the other they inscribe heteronormativity.” In her brief notes she also underlined how the dialogue conversations have, to a large extent, turned around fluidity and instabilities of identities and images, of meanings and even rules. In contrast, professor Pan emphasized that when sexuality issues are examined from an Asian, or more specifically, a Chinese perspective, one key aspect that immediately arises is the question of state control over individual behavior and freedom.
At the end of this session, Sonia Correa presented the new SPW website to the audience.