Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual politics in September 2018

September is the key moment of the year in the global struggle for abortion rights, as the 28th marks the International Safe Abortion Day. In its bulletin, the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion (ICWRSA) shared twenty-eight success stories of abortion struggle around the world in the last year and urged activists to continue working towards the normalisation of abortion. Several UN  Special Rapporteurs  and the Working Group on Discrimiation of Women in Law  released a joint statement on the occasion recognizing illegal unsafe abortion as main obstacle to women’s rights. Check out the SPW worldwide compilation of rallies, campaigns and articles and Sonia Corrêa’s article on Brazilian Supreme Court public hearing on abortion in August 2018.

#EleNão – #NotHim: In Brazil, the centrality of women’s views and votes became flagrant in the highest polarized election since democracy was recovered in the 1980s. On September 29th, the #EleNão movement, originally mobilized by a young black feminist with no connections with political parties or institutionalized women’s organizations, has taken over the country and spread internationally to oppose and resist the far-right candidate who is leading the presidential run. SPW offers a compilation of photos and news of the massive demonstration and shares two analyses from Isabela Oliveira Kalil and from Denise Mantovani and Maria Lígia G. G. R. Elias on this shifting and troubled electoral scenario.

Other Latin American Critical Cases: In her first speech as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet drew attention to the ever-eroding political scenarios in Nicaragua and Venezuela. In  Guatemala’s president Morales, in the face of corruption charges, has banned UN officers as the country sets a stage for a conservative restoration at full force. A bill introduced in April 2017 in the country’s Congress will be put to vote on October claiming to “protect the right to life, the family, the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom of conscience and expression and the right of parents to guide their children in the field of sexuality”.  Amnesty International issued a call for protest and solidarity.

Abortion and contraceptive politics

The abortion rights struggle success stories reported by ICWRSA are to be highly valued in light of regressions that are also reported in September 2018. In the US, for example, despite sexual accusations from four women, the name of Brett Kavanaugh was approved for the Supreme Court.  While the final confirmation vote is pending on an FBI investigation, Roe Vs. Wade is now further at risk. During the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, one of his victims, the nominee fully lost his temper and, in reaction, a new campaign #BelieveWomen was launched that is also being used to mobilize for the forthcoming midterm elections for Democrat but also for Republican female candidates (check out a compilation).

In Sinaloa (Mexico), a constitutional reform approved in an extraordinary session at the State-level Assembly that includes language on the right to life from conception (read in Spanish).

Moving to Africa, the president of Tanzania condemned contraception and attributed to any form of birth control the status of a foreign threat to the ability of the country to reproduce its manpower, reinforcing the biopolitical nexus between demography and sexual and reproductive rights.

LGBTTI+ Rights

After a four-year legislative battle, a gender identity law was approved in Chile on September 12, that allows for the registry of a new social identity without any medical requirements. Its  limitation is, however, that in the case of persons under 14 years old, in addition to parents consents, a Family Court decision is mandatory. This clause was strongly lobbied by antigender religious groups.

In the Montevideo (Uruguay) annual Trans March on September 29, thousands called for the approval of the Trans Comprehensive Act, that has been harshly attacked by antigender forces to be swiftly approved by the Parliament.

In Brazil, the Federal Psychology Council (CFP) submitted a lawsuit to the Supreme Court calling for it to strike down of a Federal District judge decision annulling the CFP’s resolution that prohibits sexual conversion therapy.

On September 18, UN Independent Experts — Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Health, on Torture and the Working Group on the discrimination against women in law and in practice — issued a joint letter to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) raising concerns on the new eligibility criteria for the participation of intersex persons in Olympic competitions.

Anti-gender politics

In July, after much anti-gender mobilization articulated by US-sponsored evangelical organizations and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled the gender language of the Istambul convention unconstitutional. SPW recommends the article published at the LeftEast on how this attack has wider political implications.

Then, in August, in Hungary, the Orban government threatened to ban the two existing gender studies program in the country. The articles written by Andrea Peto and Weronika Grzebalska situate these threats in relation to the longer trajectory of anti-gender politics and right-wing populist views on economics across Eastern Europe.

Another potential regression underway in the region, in result of antigender politics, is the Romanian referendum on marriage that has been campaigned for since 2015 and will take place on October 6th.

The 13th World Congress of Families, organized by the US-based International Organization of the Family, was held in Chisinau, Moldova, counted with the presence of people from many continents and, in addition to its regular US donors, it received financial support from the Turkish and Chinese embassies and from Russian entrepreneurs. It also counted with the participation of Orthodox religious authorities. Under the theme ‘The West coming together around the beauty of the family’, the conference targeted gender, abortion and LGBTTQ+ rights.

In Uruguay, the Ministry of Tourism declared the 2nd Regional Southamerican Pro-life and Profamily Congress planned to be held in November in Punta del Este as a public interest event and planned to support it. After the pressure and critique of civil society organizations, the support was withdrawn (read in Spanish).

In Argentina, the Comprehensive Sexual Education Law (ESI), currently under debate at a Congress Special Commission, has become the target of anti-gender campaigns from Catholics and Evangelicals that gained visibility after the June-August abortion debate. Concurrently, the first congress of “Pro-life Women” that aims at “counterweighting feminism and the left” is being planned to take place in Salte on October 27 (read in Spanish).

Then, in Cuba, where the Constitution is going through a thorough reform, the Catholic and Evangelical churches have risen their voices against the inclusion of gender-neutral language in the definition of the right to marry.

To announce its next issue on Gender and the Rise of the Global Right, the Journal Signs sponsored the webcast conversation with Cynthia Enloe, Agnieszka Graff, Ratna Kapur, and Suzanna Danuta Walters.

Vatican politics

Pope Francis is being sued in Argentina for having overlooked serious sexual abuse complaints at Antonio Provolo Institute for deaf children that were brought to him when he was the country’s cardinal, from over 60 young men and women who were inmates. Similar sexual abuse accusations have been raised in relation to the Verona Provolo Institute in Italy and the case will reach Court later this year.

In Germany, a report on the Catholic Church has also provided consistent data on 3,600 victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, but no comment has been yet heard from the Vatican. And, in India, accusations against Bishop Franco Mulakkal for having systematically raped a nun have mobilized large rallies in Kerala against authorities overlooking the case, where the Catholic Church has been losing credibility in recent decades (read further).

The persistence, scope and depth of the Church sexual abuse crisis do not curtail, however, Vatican geopolitical endeavors. On September 22, a provisional but groundbreaking agreement has been reached in regard to the Church recognition of bishops who have been appointed by Chinese Communist authorities, ending a long impasse.

Sex worker’s rights

The first union of sex workers was created in Spain in July. However, the Spanish Sánchez government — acclaimed for the number of women and feminist in the cabinet — announced that will annul its creation (read in Spanish). Sign the petition to support Spanish sex workers here.

Women’s Rights

In the US, the Pregnant Women in Custody Act aims to provide a national standard of care for pregnant prisoners by requiring access to pre and post-natal care in detention facilities, and mandating training for all correctional staff. The bill, which they introduced on Thursday in the House, would also put a nationwide ban on the shackling and solitary confinement of pregnant prisoners.


Bill Cosby, one of the first celebrities subjected to #MeToo accusations has been sentenced to up to ten years in prison. After the judgement, his publicist criticized the decision connecting  Mr. Cosby’s fate to that of the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Ravi Karkara, a senior UN Women official, was dismissed after sexual misconduct accusations from different male colleagues were investigated and proved.

The UK Care Quality Commission published a full report on alleged rapes and cases of sexual harassment in psychiatric wards.

Sexuality & art

As an allusion to the polarized, tumultuous and risky Brazilian presidential elections, we invite you to revisit Doris Salcedo’s installation Shibboleth and the resistance art of protest posters displayed at the MIMA Museum.

We recommend

Papers and articles

The Feminist Project under Threat in Europe – Politics and Governance, 2018, Volume 6, Issue 3

New Forms of Antisemitism, the Law, and the Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary France – Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism – ACTA, Vol. 39 (1)

In Bad Faith: How Conservatives Are Weaponizing “Religious Liberty” to Allow Institutions to Discriminate – Guttmacher Institute

Trump can’t win the war on demography – The New York Times

Christian Zionism: the interfaith movement hiding in plain sight – Aeon Magazine

Matteo Salvini, renaturalizing the racial and sexual boundaries of democracy – openDemocracy

The Lost Boys of Bird Island: No one cares when black boys are raped – Pambazuka

Being black twice: reflections of young black women workers – Pambazuka

The future is not in front of us, it is inside of us – Human Rights Watch

Publications and resources

Estimating Abortion Incidence among Adolescents and Differences in Postabortion Care by Age: A Cross-Sectional Study of Postabortion Care Patients in Uganda – Guttmacher Institute

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health – Guttmacher Institute

Diversion from Justice: A Rights-Based Analysis of Local “Prostitution Diversion Programs” and their Impacts on People in the Sex Sector in the United States – Global Health Justice Partnership

Un-Meetable Promises: Rhetoric and Reality in New York City’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts – Global Health Justice Partnership


Ask a Feminist: Cynthia Enloe Discusses Gender and the Rise of the Global Right with Agnieszka Graff, Ratna Kapur, and Suzanna Danuta Walters – Signs Journal


Gender Letter Sept. 14, 2018 – The New York Times

e-bulletin #23: September 2018 – Arc-International

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

24 September 2018–30 September 2018

17 September 2018–23 September 2018

10 September 2018–16 September 2018

3 September 2018–9 September 2018

Check it out!

2nd Edition of the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival (March 2019) competition launches a call to submit Global South artworks and films, open until December 9, 2018.

Astraea and Mama Cash are collaborating with Feminist Solutions towards Global Justice (FemJust) on the survey State of Funding for LBQ Movements global survey. Submit a response until November 16, 2018.

Access SPW’s website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content