Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual politics in April 2019


Algeria and Sudan: A revived Arab Spring? –  Almost six years after the Arab Spring waned under the shadows of the Sissi regime, political upheavals revived in the Arab World.  In Algeria, after six weeks of persistent demonstrations, President Bouteflika, in power since 1999, was forced to withdraw from reelection and then to resign. A  transitional government was established to rule until elections scheduled for July 4th. The transition is under strict military oversight. Consequently, popular claims for a deeper political reform whose motto is they all must leave are heavily restrained.

In Sudan, where protests have also erupted in December, dictator Omar al-Bashir — whose rule began in 1989 — was also ousted and arrested on April 11th. A military transitional council is now in power, which is also contested by popular forces. Sudanese women have been at the forefront of the rebellion and were especially targeted by al-Bashir’s ever-growing repressiveness in the last few months. The photo of Alaa Salah, a twenty-two years old student using the traditional dressed in the traditional Nubian warrior garment used during political protests of the 1960s and ’80s became the icon of the Sudanese political spring. SPW prepared a compilation of articles that analyze the events in connection.

Brazil: Abortion rights under attack – On April 16th, 2019, a constitutional amendment (PEC 29/2015) that aims at inserting the right to life from conception into article 5th of the Constitution was presented at the Senate Commission on Constitution and Justice. If approved, it may gradually lead to the complete criminalization of abortion in the country. Check the International Alert (in English, Spanish and French).

Anti-gender politics

In the last week of March, the 2019 edition of the World Congress of Families (WCF) was held in Verona. It counted with the presence of Italian Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini, high-level officials from Hungary, amongst other well-known names from religious and secular conservative circles in Europe and the US. But a large feminist and LGTBI activists march took over the streets of Verona to protest against the event (see a compilation). And, it should be noted, that both the Vatican and members of the Five Star Movement — which run the Italian government in coalition with Salvini’s Lega Nord — have publicly taken distance from the conference. Amongst the many press reports on Verona, we call attention to the remarkable research and analyses published by openDemocracy on the large flow of money — over 50 million euros –, transferred by US religious and secular conservatives to European far-right movements. Another report from openDemocracy examines in depth how the WCF acts as a regular strategic meeting point of highly conservative personalities, members of the European aristocracy and the Catholic hierarchy engaged in anti-gender and anti-abortion politics.

A week later, a similar event was organized in Colombia, the 3rd Transatlantic Summit, promoted by the Political Network for Values. It provided a space for Catholic and Evangelical activists, politicians and legislators from thirty countries — mainly from Latin America, Europe and the US — to trace common strategies towards promoting the “family institution” and “Christian culture”. The general climate of the meeting inevitably reflected the gains made by conservative and right-wing politics in the region in the last two years (see a compilation in Spanish).

In Ukraine, after attacks against an LGBT event in Kyiv, massive anti-gender demonstrations have taken place around International Women’s Day, as it also happened in other countries. Then, in April, the European Lesbian* Conference (see below) became the target of far-right religious forces that spread the event’s site with pepper spray, harassed conference attendees and planted a bomb threat, which led to the canceling of the last day of the conference. Amnesty International issued a call demanding a prompt response from Ukrainian authorities (see a compilation of press articles).

In Hungary, pro-natalist policies enacted by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in February that promote women’s roles as housewives and mothers met resistance.  The ICWRSA reports that a women’s initiative was created in November 2018 to counter these policies frames: Magyar Anyák (Mothers’ Group for Democracy). It launched a campaign named the “Year of disappointed families”, alluding to Orban’s declaration on 2018 being “the year of the family”, in order to denounce that most Hungarian families, especially the poorest, in fact, suffer from lack of childcare facilities and related services.

As this announcement was being finalized, a far-right terrorist act against a synagogue in San Diego (US) was reported on April 27th. The attack emulated in many ways the Christchurch killings. And, it is especially relevant to note that the shooter, in the statement about his motivations, makes reference to “cultural Marxism”, a discourse extensively deployed by anti-gender forces in Latin America.

Abortion and contraception rights

Good news from South Korea, where after 66 years of criminalized abortion (exemptions made for rape, incest, severe genetic disorders or women’s health risk) the Constitutional Court ruled the existing law unconstitutional, and requested the Parliament to amend it.  This is the outcome of a campaign for abortion rights that has been running for a long time and that, in 2017, gathered significant support.

In Rwanda, on April 4th, President Paul Kagame pardoned 367 women who had undergone self-performed abortion procedures and other persons who assisted them. Then, on April 8th, the Ministry of Health issued Ministerial Order N°002/MoH/2019 that defines the protocol newly adopted less strict rules for abortion provisions in the cases allowed by law.

In Costa Rica, the Ministry of Health approved the registration of emergency contraception (EC) pills. SPW thanks feminist human rights lawyer Larissa Arroyo Navarrete, who has prepared a brief essay on this long-awaited victory, won against a heavy defamatory campaign against EC promoted by the Catholic Church.

Also in Honduras, one of the Central American where abortion restrictions are draconian, a campaign was launched to ban the lift on emergency contraception. Check the site of the campaign #HablemosLoQueEs(Read on The Guardian)

Abortion rights: transnational trends

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that North American funding to the Organization of American States (OAS) would be trimmed down in retaliation for “ OAS support to abortion rights”. This move, as insightful noted by Rewire, must be read as a push towards widening the scope of the global gag rule.

On April 11th, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay, without mentioning abortion, have taken a step that mirrors the US initiative. The four countries sent a note to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in which they underline the primacy of “state autonomy” (sovereignty) over the universality of human rights promoted by the Latin American Human Rights System. This position was sharply criticized by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and CEJIL.

At the UN Security Council, a resolution aimed at establishing a new body to monitor and respond to sexual violence at times of war was blocked by an “unholy alliance”  between the US, Russia, the Holy See, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. On April 22nd, the US threatened to veto the resolution if the language on “sexual and reproductive rights” was kept intact, alleging that it interpreted it as an open road towards legalizing abortion. Regrettably, the language of the text was watered down to accommodate the US anti-abortion claims.


The 2nd European Lesbian* Conference was held in Kyiv from April 11th to 14th, gathering over 350 activists and scholars. Despite the attacks above mentioned, the conference outcome was positive (see a compilation). Amongst others, the results of a survey on lesbians rights across Europe will be released soon.

The Malaysian LGBT activist Numan Afifi became the target of a police investigation in retaliation for giving a speech (supported by forty-five civil society organizations) at the Universal Periodical Review of the country at the UN Human Rights Council, in which he denounced state-sponsored discrimination against LGBTs persons, such as “rehabilitation and conversion” therapy.

Security forces have been engaged in a crackdown on LGBTTIQ+ people in Lebanon over the last few months. In contrast, the country’s Military Tribunal issued a landmark ruling that can pave the way to decriminalizing homosexuality in the military and security institutions. Judge Peter Germanos declined to criminally prosecute a case against four soldiers under Article 534 of the Penal Code that evokes “relations against nature”. Similar rulings have been issued on Civilian Courts but this is the first for the military. (Read more)

In Costa Rica, the Social Security’s Therapeutic Protocol for Trans People, approved in 2017, has been finally enacted. Hormonal and psychological procedures and care will be delivered through the public health system.

In Brazil, a bench of the Supreme Court has preliminarily suspended a State Court order preventing psychologists who offer conversion therapy to homosexuals from suffering ethical penalties by the Federal Council of Psychology. The case is yet to be decided by the Court plenary. (Read in Portuguese)

The CAS decision on Caster Semenya

As this briefing was being finalized, the Switzerland Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS)  ruled against the appeal made by South African runner Caster Semenya and established that women who have high levels of testosterone in their bloodstream (hyperandrogenism) must reduce these levels to compete. The decision was considered unacceptably discriminatory by a wide range of voices (see a compilation). As underlined by GATE’s director, trans and intersex activist Mauro Cabral Grinspan, this international outrage reflects the energy and capabilities of intersex activists and their allies, which will make it possible for this regressive tide to be turned.

Sex work

April marks one year since the FOSTA-SESTA legislation was signed by President Trump. A study that surveyed 262 prostitutes informs that, since then, personal safety measures have sharply decreased amongst these professionals:  if 92 percent screened customers beforehand, now only 60 percent does it. The law’s original goal of curbing sex trafficking is not being attained and anecdotal reports suggest that trafficking may have increased.


In India, #MeToo expanded further its trail, now targeting a new range of high-rank state officials, but also the Catholic Church. The recently appointed Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexually harassing a former employee. The Chief Justice has convened a bench meeting to take a position on the case.  While the news reached the international press with great visibility, the Indian press was much more cautious and local voices raised concerns on how the case may blemish the image of the Court whose role is so critical today (read here and here). In Kerala, rape charges against Bishop Mulakkal for abusing a nun over a two-year period between 2014 and 2015 have finally been filed. This outcome resulted from ongoing demonstrations by nuns,  despite the Church’s and police authorities reluctance to admit the facts.

South African Feminist Outrage

As the parliamentarian general elections approach (May, 8th, 2019), South African feminists drafted and launched a Statement expressing outrage in relation to the patriarchal features of  political parties’ structures, representation and modes of operation. Further efforts to expose the poor leadership on women’s rights and social justice in general are being planned by these feminist groups.

Vatican politics

Strong and contradictory signs have been reported in April in regard to Vatican internal politics. This wave began when Cardinal Ratzinger, former Pope Benedict XVI, broke his silence in a letter that attributes the Church long trajectory of sexual abuse to the 1960s sexual revolution. While the press informs that pope Francis assented with the publication, Ratzinger argument sharply contrast with the pope’s analyses of the problem that emphasizes the absence of institutional oversight. The letter, however, rapidly spread across Catholic extremists channels,  provoking further initiatives, such as the open call for the pope’s resignation made a group of nineteen bishops and intellectuals from Canada, Chile, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. For the meantime, SPW has prepared a compilation of articles.

A note on Brazil

In addition to potential regressions in the realm of abortion rights, sexual politics has been once again quite intense in Brazil. But we decide to reserve this information and analyses for the assessment of 120 days of the administration that will be published in May. Wait for it!

Sexuality & Art

In times of incessant pessimistic news and attacks on our rights, SPW features the work of choreographer Elizabeth Streb Art, risk and deconstruction, in the hopes of evoking the fearlessness of resisting.

We recommend

SPW pleasantly announces the publication of Volume 2 of the collection SexPolitics: Trends and Tensions in the 21st Century – Contextual Undercurrents, which comprises seven chapters chartering main trends and debates at work in sexual politics in Africa, the English speaking Caribbean region, Europe, Latin America, post-Soviet Countries, China and India.

The main highlights of the Feminist Re-Conference, organized by CREA, in Nepal, in which Sonia Corrêa participated remotely (watch here the recording) sharing a brief overview of anti-gender politics worldwide.

Papers and articles

Anti-gender politics

The New Authoritarians are Waging War on Women – The Atlantic

Eva Von Redecker: Symbolic Glue – Radical Philosophy

How Being a Woman Helped Marine Le Pen – The Atlantic

Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism – La Civilta

The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right – The Guardian


‘Stigma does not go away’: Mumbai’s dedicated LGBT health clinic – The Guardian

India’s elections could seal the fate of its LGBT community—for better or for worse – Quartz

No Equity Without Everyone – Philanthropy Project

The dread of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on LGBT rights – The New Yorker

Feminisms and gender

Feminism, Gender Politics and Resistance in Indian Democracy – Pluto Press – The Wire

Series ‘Revisiting Gendered States: Feminist Imaginings of the State in International Relations’ – The Disorder of Things

Swami Vivekananda and the ‘Woman Question’ – The Wire

Tarana Burke: #MeToo is not a women’s movement – HuffPost


Mozambique: Cyclone victims forced to trade sex for food – HRW

How governments use big data to violate human rights – The Wire

Volume 50 Issue 2 – Latin America Studies Association


Argentina abortion laws: Legal abortions obstructed – Al Jazeera

Sonia Corrêa on “Gender Ideology” for 2019 CREA Conference



29 April 2019–5 May 2019
22 April 2019–28 April 2019
15 April 2019–21 April 2019
8 April 2019–14 April 2019

Resurj’s Reflections on our countries

February, 2019

April, 2019


Gender Identity and Reproductive Autonomy: Deconstructing sex, gender and roles – GATE

Human Rights of Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Women in Ukraine – UN Women

Legal Gender Recognition and the Best Interest of the Child – a TGEU policy brief


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