As 2018 begins, SPW highlights the main events and trends as well as tensions and challenges traversing sexual politics worldwide.
Trends and Facts
In January 2017, an avalanche of draconian and regressive policy measures was adopted in the first two weeks of the Trump administration. SPW compiled a preliminary assessment of these policy trends date and recommended the reading of the first SPW Working Paper – The Global Implications of US Domestic and International Policies (Girard, 2004) – as a roadmap to guide the future charting of measures now being adopted.
While the intense and chaotic policy process continued, the streets were taken by massive feminist protests that, coalescing around the January 21st March on Washington DC, erupted across the US and worldwide. Magaly Marques shared with us her perceptions on the March and SPW has made a compilation of articles and analyses on the demonstration and its rippling effects.
February and early March
Relevant events were reported in regard to abortion rights struggle. In Brazil, on March 7th, a petition was filed at the Supreme Court by the Socialist and Freedom Party (PSOL) and the feminist NGO ANIS, which contests the constitutionality of the criminalization of abortion enshrined in the 1940 Penal Code. The petition’s core argument is that the criminalization of abortion violates women’s rights to dignity, citizenship, non-discrimination and health, protected by the Federal Constitution of 1988. In Uruguay, where an abortion law was approved in 2012, a female judge suspended an abortion procedure already scheduled in response to a judicial request on the part of her ex-partner. The International Campaign for Women’s Rights to Safe Abortion (ICWRSA) reported on the case.
At the global level, the good news was that, in response to the reinstatement of Global Gag Rule by the Trump Administration, 50 governments plus 350 participants representing private donors and civil society feminist organizations gathered at the She Decides Summit in Brussels. The main outcome of the conference was a pledge of € 181 million to globally support reproductive health services, including abortion. Right after the Summit, the Canadian government has also made a pledge of 650 million dollars to counter the Gag Rule.
March and early April
Once again, the Latin America abortion front line was being remarkably eventful. In Bolivia, the proposed revision of abortion law, which is part of the broader reform of the country’s Penal Code, ignited an intense public debate. In El Salvador, where the criminalization of abortion is absolute, a debate has also begun at Congress level to reform this draconian legislation. In Argentina, the Belén case — a woman convicted and sentenced to 8 years in jail after having a miscarriage — has also achieved a positive outcome.
In contrast, the Trump administration formally announced that would suspend the financing to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). This decision predicted since then was severely criticized by the International Women’s Health Coalition and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Two grave crackdowns against women’s rights thinkers and activists were also registered in the course of the month. In Jamaica, activist Latoya Nugent was detained and charged with cybercrime under an anti-terrorist law, an action widely condemned by human rights groups and organizations. In Uganda, the feminist scholar Stella Nyanzi was arrested also on the basis of a cybercrime law after criticizing the Ugandan President and his wife on Facebook.
April and May
In late April, in Bangkok, researchers and activists gathered in a Conference — sponsored by UNDP–Asia and the Asia and Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions — to remember 10 years of the Yogyakarta Principles. A preliminary report of the conference is accessible here and the Global Forum on MSM & HIV has also reported on the event, underlining the relevance of the Principles for effective HIV prevention. On May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Bi-phobia (IDAHOT) was celebrated worldwide and SPW organized a compilation of events that have taken place worldwide.
Concurrently, however, the Chechnya campaign of terror against LGBT people continued to stir worldwide outrage. And, in Bangladesh, the anniversary of the murder of Bengali LGBT activists, a tragic case that has not been until today properly investigated, was remembered.
June is the month of LGBTIQ Pride events. In 2017, SPW highlighted parades and other demonstrations that are not captured by mainstream radars. Thanks to our collaborator Matthew Waites we also reported on the second Queer Asia Conference and Film Festival titled Desire, Decolonization & Decriminalization, which was held at the School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS) and at the Birbeck College in London.
In Germany, the Parliament has finally approved a marriage equality law (check here for a compilation of articles on the matter). Shifting to Latin America, our partner Maria Amélia Viteri co-authored with Gabriel Ocampo an assessment of Ecuadorian sexual politics with a special focus on LGTBIQ rights. In South Africa, the government has launched the First National LGBTI HIV Plan. Also from Africa, Wendy Isaacs, from HRW, reported on groundbreaking steps forward in regard to LGBTIQ rights taken by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
In the domain of intersex rights, GATE issued a statement to remember UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture recalling the violence perpetrated against intersex and trans people as a result of biomedical pathologizing assumptions. In the US, three past General Surgeons have called for the end of surgeries to fix the gender of intersex infants and, in Mexico, the Ministry of Health has launched a groundbreaking protocol to ensure access to health services to intersex persons that strictly prohibit coercive and non-voluntary medical interventions. (In Spanish – here and here)
However, June is also the month of Sex Workers Rights International Day (June 2nd). In Brazil, the date now named Puta Dei has gained increasing visibility in recent years (check here in Portuguese). And to mark the date, SPW brought attention to Laura Agustín’s superb short chronicles on how sex work and sex workers lives are addressed in literary fiction.
Not less importantly, Vatican sex scandals have once reached the headlines. The Australian Cardinal George Pell was denounced of multiple sexual offenses and a bit later, tabloids reported on a sexual orgy in an apartment used by the Vatican task force on sexual abuse. SPW has also called attention to the almost unnoticed Pope Francis´ visit to the sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal. In a short article titled The mountain has delivered a pope, SPW collaborator João Manuel de Oliveira analyzes why this has been the case.
Finally, SPW celebrated the Ugandan court decision that released scholar Stella Nyanzi from a mental health procedure that was required when she was arrested in April.
In July, Donald Trump’s twitted the decision that trans people will be banned and barred from the armed forces. SPW offered a compilation of reactions to this contorted policy announcement calling particular attention to Jack Halberstam’s article. Meanwhile, in Europe, Malta legalized same-sex marriage. And, in the Muslim world, the Tunisia Parliament approved a new law to tackle domestic violence.
At the United Nations, the CEDAW Committee has released its General Recommendation 35 on violence against women that calls for criminalization of all forms of gender-based violence against women, but also strongly recommends the repeal of “legislation that criminalizes abortion, being lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, women in prostitution, adultery or any other criminal provisions that affects women disproportionally”. A Joint United Nations Agencies Statement on Ending Discrimination in Health Care Settings has been released that also calls for the review of laws that criminalize or otherwise prohibit gender expression, same-sex conduct, adultery and other sexual behaviors between consenting adults; adult consensual sex work; drug use or possession of drugs for personal use; sexual and reproductive health care services.
The UNAIDS annual report was also released informing that the number of people living with the virus that have access to antiretroviral therapy has increased and the number of deaths has decreased. Nevertheless, as underlined by ABIA, roughly 50 percent of people living with HIV (17,2 million who mostly live in the global South) still do not have access to ARVs (to read ABIA’s note in Portuguese).
SPW expressed its sadness for the departure of Barbara Hau’ofa, feminist, writer and a superb editor from the Pacific Region who, with Seona Smiles, has copy-edited the two-volume e-books on Sexuality and Politics: Regional Dialogues from the Global South (published in 2014). And the Global HIV-aids movement has deeply mourned the departure of Prudence Mabele the South African activist.
In India, the Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision on the right to privacy. According to Vivek Divan the decision does not automatically change the effects of the 2013 judgment that stroke down the 2009 Delhi Court Decision on Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, but it positively expands the interpretation of the right to privacy in ways that may enhance LGBTQI rights.
In Chile, the Constitutional Court approved a new abortion law that leaves behind the draconian prohibition of pregnancy termination established during the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1980’s. After being approved by the Senate the bill was reviewed by the Constitutional Court, which concluded that it does not infringe constitutional premises. The Court, however, recognized the right of individual and institutional conscientious objection that, as exemplified by the Uruguayan experience can create many obstacles to abortion rights. Right after, the Bachelet government tabled a proposal (here and here ) aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
In the Middle East, the parliaments of Jordan and Lebanon repealed articles of existing penal codes that allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims. And, in Nepal, after serious repercussions about the deaths of three girls due to the chaupadi practice, a new law has been decided in order to set penalties for those who still practice it.
Good news has finally been also reported in Brazil: the Draft Provision No 198 – defining the transmission of HIV as a heinous crime has been archived. According to ABIA, this an important victory of the Brazilian AIDS movement and its partners.
September 28th marks the International Safe Abortion Day worldwide. This year’s initiatives were better articulated globally, as illustrated by the Joint Statement on Access to Safe and Legal Abortion Globally, signed by 285 organizations presented to the Human Rights Council on September 22nd. This is a positive sign of revitalization of transnational abortion rights and a move vital to contain regressions underway worldwide, in particular, the negative impact of the Gag Rule re-instated by the Trump administration.
In regard to LGBTQI rights, two relevant developments were registered at the United Nations. Due to health and family reasons, Professor Vivit Muntarbhorn resigned from the role of UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for family and health issues (read his own statement here), opening a new process for the post to be fulfilled. And, UNDP Asia Pacific has launched a series of nine country case studies on gender identity recognition laws policies and practices.
In Europe, the growth of the right wing continued to raise great concern as in the German legislative elections the extreme right (AfD) has won 100 Parliamentarian seats. This electoral result gave much visibility to the AfD lesbian leader, triggering perplexity amongst political analysts who are not acquainted with the growing affinity between right-leaning trends and homonationalism.
Elsewhere, a series of LGBT and sexuality-related human rights violations have been reported. In Russia, while the QueerFest festival was being held in Saint Petersburg without any state interference, Evdokia Romanova, who is a member of the Youth Coalition was arrested and criminally charged for homosexual propaganda on social media.
In Nigeria, 70 minor boys were arrested for allegedly disrespecting Islam teachings and a woman was arrested after being accused by her ex-husband of having an affair with another woman. In Zanzibar, the police has imprisoned a group attending an NGO workshop on HIV and AIDS prevention (read their press statement here).
In Egpyt, where as reported by Scott Long at The Nation, the young heroes of Arab Spring continue to be caught by the draconian grips of the authoritarian regime, the raising of a rainbow flag during the show of Lebanese rock band triggered a major crackdown on the LGBT community (read a compilation here).
And, as reported by Sonia Correa, Rajnia de Vito and Angela Freitas, a sequence of censorship episodes and legislative and judicial backlashes have swept over the Brazilian sexual politics landscape.
Sexual harassment was the main issue on the month. Triggered by the denounces against Harvey Weinstein this trail has not yet ended. You can follow up on our compilation of articles and analysis. The #MeToo campaign rapidly went viral reaching beyond feminist circuits and the younger generation as it is illustrated by these three inspiring testimonies collected by SPW.
In the US, the Trump Administration continuing attacks on the Affordable Care Act may lead hundreds of thousands of women to loose birth control benefits. Concurrently, a high-profile legal case was fought around the right of an underage migrant in custody in the state of Texas to access abortion procedures.
As reported by The Guardian, three US-based Catholic organizations have poured significant resources to train anti-abortion groups in various countries to promote draconian laws to restrict abortion. In that respect, it is worth checking the October update of the Brazilian sexual politics environment that once again looks closely into regression in relation to abortion rights.
Regrettably enough, LGBT rights violations continued to be reported in Africa. As reported by EIPR, In Egypt, the state repression against LGBT persons triggered by the September rainbow flag episode has continued. In Tanzania, 12 human rights activists, among them the feminist lawyer Sibongile Ndashe — who attended a consultation on HIV-aids policy regressions — were arrested in a clear violation of the right to assembly and freedom of expression. Under internal and international pressure the activists were released after a week or so.
One good news was, however, that the international press finally began reporting on the accusation of sexual abuse case against Monsignor Anatrella who is one of the intellectual mentors of anti-gender campaigns currently at work worldwide. SPW invited Rogério Diniz Junqueira to critically comment on Mgr. Anatrella trajectory and the political meanings of this episode.
Brazil was one main stage of global sexual politics in November, first and foremost because of the vicious attack against Judith Butler. In late October, a petition signed by an array of conservative sectors called for her planned visit to the country to be canceled. Then on November 7th, while the colloquium evolved, a street demonstration was organized during which the effigy of Butler as a witch was burned. A few days later when embarking to Rio, Judith Butler and Wendy Brown were once again aggressed. We offer a short briefing on these events and a compilation of news, articles and video covering this regrettable episode.
Right after a series of relevant facts erupted at the abortion frontline. On November 24, as reported by Angela Freitas e Rania Rodrigues, the Amendment PEC 181 aimed at enshrining the right to life form conception in the Constitution was approved by a Special Committee. The voting triggered a wide pro-abortion rights reaction across the country and this was followed by the ground-breaking case of Rebeca Mendes. This young black woman from São Paulo requested the Supreme Court an authorization to perform a legal abortion. The request was denied on technical grounds and she traveled to Colombia where she has undergone a safe and legal medical abortion procedure.
At the end of November, the Latin American feminist Gathering (EFLAC) took place in Montevideo, Uruguay. Under the motto Diverse but not to be dispersed, the event congregated feminist from all over the region to discuss a wide range of issues, including abortion, sexuality, HIV/AIDS and especially sex work. We offer you a compilation of pieces on the event and its meaning to the regional feminist debate.
At the global level and regional level, as shown in this compilation a series of crackdowns were reported in relation to LGTBQI rights and activism. But good news was also registered. On November 27th, the Additional Principles and State Obligations on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics were launched to mark the 10th anniversary of Yogyakarta Principles. On December 4th, the new UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Costa-Rican Victor Madrigal-Bolos, was also appointed by the Human Rights Council.
SEXUALITY & ART
When Japan Had a Third Gender – New York Times
THE (CONSERVATIVE ) POLITICS OF GENDER
Papers and articles
The Phantom of Gender: Reflections on Freedom and Violence – Judith Butler, Supplement Ilustríssima of Folha de São Paulo
Judith Butler Twice in Brazil, by Carla Rodrigues
Gender Ideology: tracking its origins and meanings in current gender politics – Sonia Corrêa LSE Blog Engendering
Latin America’s Gender Ideology Explosion – Anthropology News
Gender-just laws versus “Divine” law in Sri Lanka – openDemocracy
Habemus Gender! The Catholic Church and ‘Gender Ideology’ – Volume 6 – Religion and Gender
SEXUAL POLITICS AND CONSERVATISM
Papers and articles
Queering Islamophobia – The Homonationalism of the Muslim Ban – Aqdas Aftab – Bitch Media
Right-Wing Populism, Anti-Genderism, And Real US Americans In The Age Of Trump – The Disorder of Things
What is ‘femonationalism’? – openDemocracy
As if: On Allaa Abd el Fattah – Paper Bird
Rights at risk – Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs)
GENDER AND SEXUALITY
Books and articles
Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions, by Sandeep Bakshi, Suhraiya Jivraj, and Silvia Posocco. Foreword by Walter Mignolo
Characteristics and Mental Health of Gender Nonconforming Adolescents in California – Williams Institute
Caste and Sexuality – InPlainSpeak October Issue
Osunality: sex lessons from Africa – OpenDemocracy
TRANSEXUALITY AND INTERSEXUALITY
Papers and articles
Ensuring an inclusive global health agenda for transgender people – by Rebekah Thomas, Frank Pega, Rajat Khosla, Annette Verster,Tommy Hanaa & Lale Sayc. Published by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Gender is not an illness – GATE
Papers and articles
“Not dancing to their music”: report on LGBTQ people in Nigeria, by Bisi Alimi Foundation
Then and now: Finding love during the Khmer Rouge – Al Jazeera
Publications and resources
Yogyakarta Principles +10 – Additional Principles and State Obligations on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics to Complement the Yogyakarta Principles.
Report of the APF-UNDP Conference on Yogyakarta Principles: What have we learnt and where to now? held in Bangkok from 25-26 April 2017, accompanied two short videos: ‘Turning Principles into Passion’ and ‘Building Partnerships for Equality‘.
FEMINISMS AND WOMEN´S RIGHTS
Papers and articles
‘You are fired!’ Towards the Hegemony of Neoliberal Hypermasculinity – The disorder of things
The wonder of imperial feminism – AlJazerra
Herstory: Soweto uprising and the erasure of Black women – Pambazuka News
Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man – Brain Pickings
Is North America’s opioid epidemic a crisis of masculinity? – The Guardian
Papers and articles
After the Olympics: stories from Rio’s sex workers – The Conversation
The False Promise of “End Demand” Laws – Open Society
Ukraine: sex work in times of war – openDemocracy
Publications and resources
The Smart Sex Worker’s Guide to Addressing the Failure of Anti-Sex Work Organisations – Global Network of Sex Work Projects
Papers and articles
The increasingly polarised debate on abortion imperils women – Sonia Sodha – The Guardian
Abortion incidence and unintended pregnancy in Nepal – by Mahesh Puri, Susheela Singh, Aparna Sundaram, Rubina Hussain, Anand Tamang, Marjorie Crowell
Abortion stories: from backstreet to legalization – The Guardian
Publications and resources
Global Abortion Policies Database – World Health Organization
Abortion and Human Rights – Health and Human Rights Journal
Punitive laws, key population size estimates, and Global AIDS Response Progress Reports: an ecological study of 154 countries – Sara LM Davis, William C Goedel, John Emerson, Brooke Skartvedt Guven
From a global crisis to the ‘end of AIDS’: New epidemics of signification by ABIA’s Richard Parker and Matthew Thomann, Global Public Health Journal
GETTING ON THE FAST TRACK: Advocacy Priorities for the Global HIV and Human Rights Responses with Gay & Bisexual Men – The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF)
#PleasureOnPrEP: Words & Intimacy – Sexuality Observer