Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual Politics in October 2017


October began with the International Day of the Girl on the 11th when the media attention was towards highlighting how access to education, especially in some countries, is one of the main causes of the gender gap between men and women. The occasion has also given space for the circulation of updated information on child marriage.

Sexual harassment was, however, the issue most talked about both in the mainstream news and on social media during October. Triggered by the denounces against Harvey Weinstein, this trail has not yet ended. While the wave began in Hollywood, its impact quickly expanded to the arts, politics and societies. The #MeToo was created and rapidly went viral beyond feminist circuits and the younger generation,  as exemplified by these three testimonies collected by SPW. In France, an anti-harassment hotline was introduced, which significantly enough was quickly shut down by a violent attack of from internet trolls. Marlène Schiappa, the French Equality Minister,  seized the opportunity to praise her project of fighting gender-based violence (ranging from wolf-whistling to rape).

On the abortion front, however, October started with very bad news in the US.  The Trump Administration has targeted the Affordable Care Act with measures that seek to undermine it and two menacing norms were also issued. Under the new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services,  hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Act and any employer or insurer that objects to covering contraceptive services “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs” can be exempted (read “The Doubtful Science behind Arguments to Restrict Birth Control Access”).  A notorious case also made the headlines as an underage unidentified migrant, known as Jane Doe, was put in the center of a high-profile legal fight over abortion between the Texas Republican Administration Office, who argued she did not have the same rights as citizens, and the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the Texas law should be followed through. For the good news, she was able to go through the procedure, but it is a signal of the intensification of efforts against abortion and immigration.

As it is well known, the new version of the US Gag Rule affects not just reproductive rights worldwide, but also HIV/AIDS programmes. To assess this impact,  HRW performed a survey of organizations working with HIV in Kenya and Uganda. The report shows that their programs will be jeopardized and that women and girls will be pushed towards seeking unsafe and life-threatening procedures to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, as reported in The Guardian, three Catholic organizations based in the United States have poured significant resources, training and guidelines for anti-abortion groups in Latin America to promote the adoption of draconian laws to restrict abortion. We recommend Angela Freitas and Rajnia Rodrigues report on new developments underway in Brazil in what concerns abortion rights.

But there is also good news to report on this front. In Ireland, one of the strictest abortion law in Europe, the worker’s unions sponsored a survey in order to push for a Constitutional Amendment that can eventually make abortion legal in the country. Positively, the Joint Parliamentary Committee has welcomed this proposal and has decided to hold a referendum on the matter in 2018. Then,  Madagascar,  where the family planning law is a 1920’s  inheritance from the French colony, is set to modernize its jurisprudence, making access to reproductive health services a universal right, regardless of age, which can face up to the high rate of youth pregnancies.

There is also good news to report in relation to transgender rights. In Greece,  despite a long and close relationship with the Orthodox Church and in Florida a new law granted the X-marker on official documents, without the requirement of medical diagnosis or procedures, a historical breakthrough according to Amnesty International. Kosovo held its first Gay Pride Parade, which was joined by the president. In Uruguay, the first transgender senator, Michelle Suarez (Communist Party), was seat and vowed to accomplish and guarantee trans rights in the country, such as the grant of legal identity without a judge’s permission, the reserve of 1 percent of government jobs to trans people and the establishment of pension for compensating the dictatorship persecutions.

However, the good news does not go far for LGBT rights more broadly. In the context of claims and actions by President Trump and Vice President Michael Pence over the LGBT community, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued recently a decision, that states that the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which ensures rights against discrimination in the workplace, does not entail gender identity, but rather men and women.  This decision is a major setback in the trans civil rights movement, who see themselves uncovered of another end.

In Tanzania, 12 human rights activists, among them Sibongile Ndashe, were detained by the police, had their rights revoked and two were later deported. They were gathered for a consultation about a lawsuit against the Tanzanian government due to its ban on a number of key HIV-related health services. It was a clear threat to rights of assembly and expression, but they were accused of “promoting homosexuality”. Indonesian police in Jakarta raided a popular sauna with gay men on Friday night, arresting 51 people. It is the latest in a slew of actions targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the country, which leads us to the many LGBT arrests that occurred around the world last month in Egypt, Azerbaijan and Indonesia and which have been continued. The UN responded with a public statement expressing its concern over the arrest of LGBT individuals. Scott Long and Ahmed El Hady analyze the international response to the Egypt crisis.

A recently released research by ILGA-Riwi on the occasion of the Intersex Awareness Day reveals that, around the world, around 20% agree with the criminalization of same-sex marriage. This figure is even more striking when we consider countries which have already legal norms allowing same-sex marriage. According to Aengus Carroll, lead researcher of the Minorities Report 2017, this was partly due to the continued prevalence of a “traditional values matrix” and a cohort of people who mistakenly equate homosexuality to “darker things like paedophilia”. On the same issue, HRW and InterACT released a report demanding the termination of unnecessary surgeries for intersex children. And AJWS, Astraea and GATE released the findings of their global surveys of intersex and trans organizations in 107 countries in two new reports, The State of Intersex Organizing (2nd edition) and The State of Trans Organizing (2nd edition). More than 450 trans groups and 50 intersex groups participated in the surveys, and the report emphasizes the funding gap these organizations face.

In Australia, a new state  strategy introduced:  the Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships (RRRR)  program designed to tackle domestic and gender-based violence and it was targeted by anti – “gender ideology” propaganda.  This happens within the context of the same-sex marriage referendum, which was also targeted by conservative sectors supported by the former Prime Minister who has recently visited an extreme right group in the USA for the second time.

In light of the rapid expansion of anti-gender campaigns worldwide we recommend the article by Rogério Diniz Junqueira on the accusations of sexual against Monsignor Anatrella, one of the intellectual propellers of these campaigns and we thank the author for his welcomed collaboration.

We recommend

Papers and articles

How anti-abortion extremists are exploiting #BlackLivesMatter to vilify African American Women – openDemocracy

Abortion stories: from backstreet to legalization – The Guardian

Frenchmen need educating not fines – The Guardian

Young feminists: the future belongs to us, not transnational corporations – openDemocracy

Statement Condemning BJP Appropriation of Muslim Women Voices – Kafila

A row over transgender rights erupts between Greece’s politicians and its clerics – The Economist

As if: On Allaa Abd el Fattah – Paper Bird

Gay and in love at an Evangelical College – The New York Times

Trans teens are being killed while we debate nonexistent problems – The Guardian

Social media brings Pakistan’s persecuted women rare justice after the violence – The Guardian

‘Welcome and important’: academics on decolonising education – The Guardian

Dirty books of the rich and famous: The classic erotica of Édouard-Henri Avril (NSFW) – Dangerous Minds

The American Impulse to Equate Guns with Freedom and Masculinity with Violence Is Killing Us – The Nation

Female Genital Mutilation: A native affliction on every inhabitable continent – Al Jazeera

Against Assimilationist Projects: Towards Queering Our Political Imaginations – Kohl Journal

Has universal development come of age? – IDS Bulletin


Thanks to #MeToo the feminist movement is experiencing something magical right now – Huffington Post

How #MeToo can graduate from moment to movement – The Intercept

How correlating homosexuality to child molestation influenced politics – Washington Post

Why the #MeToo movement left me overwhelmed and should be a wake-up call for other men too – Huffington Post

Women and men are speaking out about abuse – is this the end of the patriarchy? – The Guardian

Publications and resources

Caste and Sexuality – InPlainSpeak October Issue

ARROW for Change – Women With Disabilities: Disabled, Sexual, Reproductive


ILGA’s Bulletin on UN Special Procedures and SOGIESC – October 2017

Equal Eyes, October 10

ILGA – Advancing equality #3 – October 2017

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: More Reports from 28 September [3 October 2017]

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: Publications, More Activities, & Press and Media Reports for 28 September [6 October 2017] 

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: More Reports of 28 September Activities and Abortion Law & Policy News [10 October 2017]

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: an Announcement, Some Publications
& More 28 September Reports [13 October 2017]

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: A Statement, Journal Articles & A Youth Training Manual [17 October 2017]

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: Personal Experiences [20 October 2017] 

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: Abortion Law & Policy News, Including Some Good News [24 October 2017]

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion: Abortion Law and Policy News:
Great Britain, Northern Ireland,
Poland, Uganda, USA [27 October 2017]

Check it out

Decolonising Gender and Development – University of Sussex

Thursday 9 November 2017 17:00 to 18:30 at IDS Convening Space

Call for applicants to the Training Institute Seminar “Representing muslim women: muslim women and the media” that will take place at Berkeley, CA (USA) between January 2018 and December 2018.

Deadline for applications: November 10, 2017

Call for Papers Contexto Internacional Special Issue 2018 ‘Gender in the Global South’

Abstract Submission: November 30th, 2017

Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa in July 2018.

Abstract submission deadline: 01 February 2018.


Sexuality and Art

As a tribute to Judith Butler’s visit to Brazil — which was subject to vicious attacks by the right-wing anti-gender crusaders  —  we republish the posts Our Lady of Flowers and the Infinite Impersonations of  Cindy Sherman.

Our Lady of Flowers : Gender Performance Embodiment by João Manuel de Oliveira.

Cindy Sherman: Infinite gender impersonations 


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