Sexuality Policy Watch

2015 Sexual Politics Round- Up

mapaAs the year heads toward its end, SPW recollects main trends and facts in sexual politics worldwide.


Pope Francis drew global attention after urging the faithful not to reproduce as “rabbits”. The remarks sparked reactions from the most diverse quarters actors (here and here).

In Chile, a new law was approved that recognized civil unions between same sex persons was approved in Congress , being subsequently signed by President Michelle Bachelet.

In Vietnam, the ban on marriage between same sex people was also abolished (here  and here).

In Egypt, however, the situation of homosexuals deteriorated. In December 2014, 26 men were arrested after being accused of participating of a “sex party”. They were acquitted in early January, but the arrest is illustrative of state arbitrariness against expressions of sexual diversity.

The most glaring political event of the month was, however and undoubtedly, the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. SPW has compiled a series of articles on the attack and its aftermath, whose remarks remain highly insightful today, in particular in light of the November 13th, 2015 Paris new round of extremist attacks and their effects. The compilation includes: Scott Long’s commentary Why I am not Charlie; Slavoj Žižek article Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?; Teju Cole’s Unmournable Bodies; and Mark Levine’s Why Charlie Hebdo attack is not about Islam.

In January 2015, both the art world and the realm of LGBT activism deeply mourned the departure of the Chilean writer and artist Pedro Lemebel.


A series of inspiring books, publications and reports have been launched during the month.

The Global Public Health Special Issue (volume 10, issue 2) on SRHR “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for the next decades: What’s been achieved? What lies ahead?

The Queer African Reader, edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas focuses on intersectionality across gender, sexuality, race, location and diverse post-colonial conditions.

Abortion and Reproductive Rights in Latin America: Implications for Democracy was published by the Center for Reproductive Rights

Men Who Sell Sex – global perspectives, a new book edited by Peter Aggleton and Richard Parker

Strengthening the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the African region through human rights, published by the Pretoria University Law Press


In Kenya, the High Court declared unconstitutional a section of the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act that sought to criminalize reckless spreading of the disease .

In China, on International Women’s Day, five young women’s rights activists have been arrested. They remained in detention for more than 30 days.

April – May

In May, SPW has re-launched its English website. The launching announcement brought a recollection of facts and trends of the month, including new products on the project Emerging Powers, Sexuality and Human Rights and an article on new trends in the realm of abortion advocacy in Brazil.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has admonished the Philippines State for grave and systematic violation of women’s rights.

Lastly on May 17th the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) were celebrated. SPW compiled articles and news on these celebrations and, in particular, highlighted Scott Long’s article on the situation of LGBT persons in Egypt.


In Mozambique, abortion and homosexuality were finally decriminalized as the new penal code came into effect (here and here).

SPW has reported same sex marriage legal reforms in Europe and the Americas: the Ireland referendum; the Mexican Supreme Court’s decision on the status of same sex marriage nationwide and, in particular, a compilation of articles on the US the Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges.

In relation to this last topic we have republished three critical commentaries:  the “Republic of Love” by Anne Mulhall, on the Irish referendum; a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore that articulates earlier legal debates and jurisprudence on reproductive autonomy to marriage equality;  and Scott Long’s provocative elaboration on the dignity of marriage. Lastly, upon our request, Gloria Careaga has written on the Mexican Supreme Court decision.

Last but not least, in June, the Vatican launched the encyclical “Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home”. Juan Marco Vaggione accepted SPW invitation to critically comment the document.


The global controversy around Amnesty International draft policy on the protection of the human rights of sex workers has taken over the stage of global sexual politics. The mainstream media coverage was intense (here and here). In relation to this topic, SPW has also published an article by Michelle Agnoleti on two Brazilian cases involving violence and police actions against prostitutes and a ‘story told in photos’ by Vanessa Class and Elsa Oliveira on the abuses experienced by migrant sex work in Johannesburg.

In Malawi, a bill allowing women to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape or incest, in cases of danger of life, mental or physical health complications and fetal abnormality proposed in the country’s Parliament. The current law allows the abortion only to save a woman’s life.

Lastly but not less importantly, global feminist and social justice movements have lost Gigi Francisco,  the Filipina activist, scholar, teacher and a longstanding SPW working partner. We miss you deeply dear Gigi!


SPW published Working Paper nº11 Emerging Powers, Sexuality and Human Rights: Fumbling around the elephant. Authored Sonia Corrêa and akshay khanna, the paper examines the politics of sexuality and human rights in Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

In early August, India featured the global headlines as the government issued an order banning pornography websites on the ground of morality and decency. The rule was lifted a few days later, but it was a revealing episode of the sexual politics dynamics under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime.

In Brazil, the abortion frontline, which has been heating up since 2014, was further ignited. Sonia Corrêa comments.


In Tunisia, the Justice minister has publicly declared that the penal law that punished consensual sex between men is “inconsistent with the country’s new, progressive Constitution”. Two months later, Zied Mhirsi from Physicians for Human Rights insightfully analyzed the coercive measures to which male homosexuals are submitted under the law.

In Brazil, Congress debates around on abortion retrogressed further and the issue has finally reached the Brazilian political headlines.


In Indonesia, the Aceh province criminal Sharia law, passed in 2014, came into effect on October 23th.

In Kenya, where the sexual relations between men remains criminalized, President Uhuru Kenyatta has, for the first time, publicly condemned violence and “witch hunts” against LGBT people. Neela Ghoshal’s from Human Rights Watch (East Africa) comments the meaning and impact of this remark.

In China, the government announced the end of one-child policy after of 35 years, prompting global attention and analysis through global media (here, here  and here).

In Brazil, feminists have taken the streets in Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities to protest against partially approved legislation that criminalizes providing information and assistance in regard to abortion in the case of rape.

The sad news of October was the murder of the Argentinean trans activist Amancay Diana Sacayán. Diana was the third trans woman murdered in the country since August.


The month will be remembered by a second murderous terrorists attack in Paris that killed 130 people and had direct effects on the subsequent French local elections. Few days later, in the state of Colorado, in the US, abortion clinic was the target of an armed attack that killed three people and left wounded many others.

SPW has compiled few critical comments on the Paris attacks: Murian Hales Davis article published by Jadaliyya analyzes the media coverage of the attacks. Kafila published an insightful reflection by Debaditya Bhattacharya that critically examines politics of solidarity. Judith Butler, who was in the city during the events, has also immediately written about their meanings and impact.

But November 2015 was also key for the visibility and human rights of intersex persons. Remarkable analyses on these topics circulated between October 26th (Day of Intersex Awareness) and November 8th (Intersex International Day). This list includes: The marks on our bodies, by Mauro Cabral, and Intersex rights and freedoms, by Morgan Carpenter. Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) has interviewed the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Dainius Püras on his views on intersexuality and ARC International circulated Arvind Narrain’s article: The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and The Quest For Justice.

In Brazil, feminists continued mobilizing on the streets, social media and even on the mainstream media pages against sexism and regressive trends in parliament and society.


In Sierra Leone, the parliament voted unanimously in favor of a new abortion law making safer legal abortion. In relation to abortion, Foreign Policy published a very informative article on Palestine, where the issue remains, to a large extent, unspoken. Regarding the US, the New York Times published an editorial commenting the “tireless, coordinated nationwide assault on the right of women to control her bodies” during 2015. The  International Campaign for the Right of Safe Abortion has also circulated a comprehensive round-up  of worldwide abortion debates and legal reforms

In regard to LGBT rights, in Japan, a new round of debates  has  sparked off  as local governments expressed their support to the cause. In India, a global petition has been released calling for worldwide support to urge Indian government to repeal the criminalization of same sex relationship restored in 2013 by a Supreme Court decision. We call you to sign the petition. Lastly, the New York Times published an article raising sharp questions in what regard US diplomacy on sexual diversity and human rights in Sub-Saharan Africa

The sad note of the month was the departure of Fatema Mernissi, Moroccan feminist who left an important legacy on convergence of colonialism, nationalism, feminism, Islamism, neocolonialism, and revolution.  Jadaliyya has published a rich memorial of her life and intellectual contribution to feminism.

2015 readings: SPW recommends


Sexuality and Art

Since the re-launching of the website in May 2015 we have expanded and improved publications on visual art works that address and explore gender and sexuality. Enjoy:

Baaraan Ijal – a visual artist who lives and works in Delhi

Zanele Muholi: from SPW Newsletter No 8 to the New York Times Magazine

Wangechi Mutu, the Kenyan artist who launched Africa’s Out

Helena Almeida whose photographic self-portraits bring the body as protagonist

The Brazilian black feminist artist Rosana Paulino

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