Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual politics in May 2018


Nicaragua:  SPW calls attention to the violent political crisis sweeping through this small Central American country and expresses its solidarity with the Nicaraguan society that continues to resist the brutal violence perpetrated by the Ortega–Murillo regime. The deep and brutal political crisis that began in April, has not gained the deserved visibility amongst progressive sectors or the left wing international press that, a few decades ago, portrayed Nicaragua as a socialist model country. In addressing the current political erosion, it is vital to remind that feminist activists – particularly those working for abortion rights – have been, since the mid-2000’s, the main targets of the Ortega regime, as well as the main voices of resistance to its various forms of political coercion. Check out a compilation of articles (in various languages).

Trump, Israel and Brazilian sexual politics: On May 14, as the most violent episode of the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2014 began unfolding in Gaza, Trump fulfilled his promise to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The religious ceremony of the inauguration was led by two North American Evangelical pastors known for their extremism. This imbrication is not, however, exclusively North-American (read in the New York Times). In Latin America, the conservative Paraguayan and Guatemalan governments have declared they will also transfer their diplomatic representations to Jerusalem and, in Brazil, evangelical leaders have called the government to do the same. Then, an episode erupted in one of the federal universities in Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area that illustrates in a striking fashion how these trends are also intertwined with local sexual politics: the anti-abortion activist Sarah Winter showed up for a debate, convened by a conservative professor, wrapped-up in the Israeli flag. Winter, who is an ex-Femen reborn dogmatic Catholic, is the new icon of the Brazilian anti-abortion movement and has been traveling worldwide to spread messages against feminism and against sexual and reproductive autonomy.

Anti-gender politics

Two new articles have been published on anti-gender trends worldwide. A new article on gender politics in Europe and Latin America, authored by Sonia Corrêa, David Patternote and Roman Kuhar — The Globalization of Anti-gender campaigns — was published by the online journal International Politics and Society. The World Weekly has also addressed these formations in an article examining the potential impacts of  ‘gender ideology’ fears on existing gender-based violence policies in Europe.

Latin America

In Costa Rica, a conservative lawyer filed a lawsuit to challenge a new High Electoral Court (TSE) measure that —  in compliance with the general comment issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights sustaining the right to gender identity — proposes the elimination of sex identification of the national identity cards (read more in Spanish).

In Uruguay,  the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement rejecting the new law provision on trans rights that is titled Comprehensive Trans Persons Act and is now being processed by the Parliament (read in Spanish).

In Peru, a governmental decree was signed to withdraw the words ‘woman’ and ‘gender’ from the ‘Guidelines for the Management of School Cohabitation, Prevention and Attention to Violence against Girls, Boys and Adolescents’.

In Brazil, the Lawyer’s Bar Association (OAB) chapter of the State of Goiás organized a second course on ‘Law, Society and Ideology and Gender’.  The initiative was severely criticized by progressive lawyers and feminists. At the Federal Congress, the  “school without party” draft bill that, amongst other negative measures, deletes gender and sexuality from the national curriculum, was approved by a Congress Special Commission on May 8 and, in principle, will move to plenary voting (read in Portuguese). Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, the State Assembly called a voting to also delete this language from the state level plan of education.

The abortion frontline


On May 25, Irish women living outside their country returned home to voice their positions in the referendum that overthrew the Eighth Amendment, which established the right to life from conception in the country’s Constitution since 1983. As a result, Ireland ceases to be one of the few Western European countries where the right to abortion is restricted. The campaign for the referendum has a long history, but was intensified after the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2015, issuing Ireland to the list of one of the countries able to repeal its religious roots to comply with the Human Rights framework. We recommend the International Campaign on Women’s Rights to Safe Abortion assessment of global impacts of this outcome and offer a compilation of articles from other sources.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, the congressional debate on the Voluntary Interruption Law (LIV in Spanish) is expected to reach its conclusion on June 13. In a national atmosphere of fierce public debate, two minor girls were raped by their stepfathers in Salta and Mendoza. These events triggered wide public indignation that positively fueled the arguments raised by the abortion rights movement in the reform debate. On May 28, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, large demonstrations were convened by the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, which has also launched a YouTube campaign with the participation of renowned artists.  As insightfully examined in a short article by trans activist Blas Radis, the Argentinean law reform process has also enhanced a debate on the need to expand reproductive autonomy beyond gender binary frames.

In Angola, in the context of the Penal Code reform, the ruling party (MPLA) declared on March 14 that will favor the amendments to insert exceptions on the penal convictions for abortion. This announcement was not, however, exempt from political ambiguities.

In the US, Planned Parenthood and the Iowa branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Fetal Heart Beat Law, promulgated on May 4 – the strictest abortion law in the country.

Regressive trends and responses

A trail of regressive trends in relation to conscientious objection (CO) has been registered in Latin American countries. In Chile, President Piñera amplified the scope of the CO Protocol for abortion procedures, a measure that will negatively affect the implementation of the recently approved abortion law. A similar initiative is being promoted in Mexico, which aims at introducing conscientious objection language in the text of the General Health Law now being reformed. In Uruguay, on May 15th, the Uruguayan Christian Association of Health Professionals (ACUPS) met with the Senate Commission on Population, Development and Inclusion to request the inclusion of conscientious objection language to health professionals in regards to the Comprehensive Trans Person Act still in processing (read in Spanish).

Positively enough, however,  the UN has issued a joint agency press statement — signed by UN Women, UNPA and the Mexican UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights — to guide the application and limit the scope of the conscientious objection norms in relation to sexual and reproductive health policies and services.


The country was visited by the French Socialist Senator Laurence Rossignol, former Minister of Families, Childhood and Women’s Right. She was invited by the 4D Feminist Collective to engage with Brazilian feminists and, most importantly, to bring to the Congress authorities a petition signed by 1,400 women from various countries around the world calling for the reform of the country’s law that criminalizes abortion. While her public lecture at the French consulate in Rio was very successful, regrettably enough, the next day in Brasilia, she was not received by the president of the House, Rep. Rodrigo Maia, as originally planned. The petition was delivered to the Commission for the Defense of Women’s Rights though.

In São Paulo, the coordinator of an internationally acknowledged service responding to sexual violence — Hospital Pérola Byington –, which performs abortions allowed under the law (rape, anencephaly and life risk), has resigned. His decision appears to have been the effect of conservative political pressures and it is quite worrying in a context where the number of similar legal abortion services has significantly declined in the last ten years to the insufficient figure of 37 offices.


On the occasion of the International Day of Families, GATE issued a note on the importance of welcoming intersex people and their right to form a family, complying to the Principle 24 of the Yogyakarta +10 International Declaration. In Brazil, on the same date, the Brazilian  National Transvestite and Transgender Pride Day is celebrated under the motto “Resist for (Re)exist.”  SPW uses this opportunity to once again share the document on the diversity of Brazilian families, elaborated in 2015, by national academic institutions as a contribution to the consultation on family formations called by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

May 17th marks the International Day against LGBTphobia and a wide number of events have taken place worldwide.  The UN launched the hashtag #BeThere convoking the international community to become and take a stand as an ally to LGBT communities and their rights claims. Check out a compilation of events worldwide and a global event map charter developed by the International Day Against Homophobia organization.

The Colombian Ministry of Interior used the date to enact the National Public LGBTI Population Rights Policy. This is not a minor development when considering the virulent anti-gender and anti-LGBT rights frays that erupted during the 2016 Peace Agreement referendum and contributed to its defeat  (read the analysis then performed by Mara Viveros).

Attorney Mia Mottley, of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP), was elected on May 25 as the first female Prime Minister of the Caribbean country. During the campaign, Motley was viciously targetted, after announcing that she plans to hold a referendum to reject the colonial sodomy law still crafted in the country’s Penal Code.

Gender identity

In Chile, as predicted after the election of Piñera ‘s conservative administration, the processing of the newly proposed Gender Identity Law reached a  deadlock due to controversies around gender identity in childhood. The Iguales Foundation held performative urban interventions to express its concern. On May 13th, right before the bill began being processed a dogmatic Evangelical man set fire to an LGBTI nightclub in the city of Chillán. This gesture has been interpreted as a repudiation of the law.

Sex work

After the SESTA-FOSTA law approval in the US, a new bill targeting sex work has been proposed in the Senate by the same authors of SESTA/FOSTA. Under the premise that it will further prevent trafficking for sexual purposes, the new bill aims at closing down sex workers bank accounts (read more here).

In Portugal, a new social organization Labuta – which means work in Portuguese – was created to advocate for the rights of sex workers and against the profession’s criminalization.

Sexuality & art

‘Art and feminism in Brazil’, by Rosana Paulino, revisited in the occasion of the Slavery Abolition Day in Brazil.

Painted bodies, by Carola Cardenas.

We recommend


Vernacular Sovereignties: Indigenous Women Challenging World Politics – Manuela Lavinas Picq

Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography – Richa Kaul Padt

Papers and articles

Conservative restoration 

The Criminalization of Knowledge – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Gender Ideology: tracking its origins and meanings in current gender politics – SPW

The Secret Cohesion of White Supremacists – Slate

Gender politics

The Mandate of the UN Independent Expert on SOGI: What has been achieved, what can we expect and how can it be useful? – Arc International

Feminisms and women’s rights

Is sex-work reproductive labour? Swati Ghosh’s latest book tries to identify – The Print

Reproductive (In)justice – Revisiting Shulamith Firestone in the Era of Trump – Discover Society

Women are leading the way in Strikes in America: here’s why – The Guardian

Women Behind Bars – The World Weekly


Thinking in Alliance: An Interview with Judith Butler – Verso

Publications and resources

Report on Human Rights of Intersex People in South Africa – SPW

Contraception Atlas – European Parliamentary Forum


International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

28 May 2018–3 June 2018

21 May 2018–27 May 2018

14 May 2018–20 May 2018


May 4-24, 2018

April 20 – May 3, 2018

Equal Eyes on Our World

May 18, 2018

April 26, 2018

Click here to access SPW’s website.

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