Sexuality Policy Watch

SPW Newsletter, N. 9 – October, 2010

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This week, the last meeting of the Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics series organized by the Sexuality Policy Watch takes place. The African Regional Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics is happening in Lagos, Nigeria  from October 4th to 6th, 2010 and some of the main themes addressed are: strategies to foster effective alliances between activism bodies and States along with strategies to address themes like religion and culture when addressing sexuality and sexual politics in Africa.  The discussion also includes issues related to sexual citizenship; sexual identity, orientation and expression; gender identity; desires and pleasures; and sexuality in the different stages of life  such as adolescence and elderly ages.  Furthermore, participants considers sexuality issues related to HIV/AIDS, rape, survivors of sexual violence, and exposure to HIV prophylaxis.

The African Regional Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics includes participants from various African sub-regions and represents the experiences and concerns of a wide range of constituencies: feminist researchers and advocates, LGBT rights advocates, sexuality researchers, and communities engaged with HIV/AIDS-related investigation, policy and advocacy.

You can stay up to date with complete coverage of the meeting on Twitter by following @sxpolitics.

1.1 SPW organizes the African Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics

1.2 ABIA and SPW launched the report Sexuality and Development: Brazilian National Response to HIV/AIDS amongst Sex Workers

1.3 The final stage of the EroTICs research project in Brazil


2.1 Relevant meetings

Since April 2010 a series of global events that are relevant in terms of the intersections between sexuality and politics have occurred, which are featured in this issue of the SPW newsletter: the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights held in Barcelona (June); the Vienna XVIII International AIDS Conference (July); and the Internet Governance Forum held in Vilnius (September). The focus of this editorial is the Vienna Conference.

As is well known, International AIDS Conferences are gigantic gatherings that can not be assessed as a totality. Despite their scale and complexity, in the past, a number of International AIDS Conferences have projected a compelling image that would synthesize the policy climate and agenda for years to come. As is also well known, the development of anti-retroviral drugs became the historical mark of Vancouver in 1996, while in Durban in 2000, the extension of access to such medications in resource-poor parts of the world began to become a global policy priority. In Toronto in 2006, the emphasis on evidence-based prevention announced the current scenario of increasing resources being invested into male circumcision programs and the use of ARV as a prophylactic, while opposing views on the ABC approach to primary prevention signaled an increasing polarization of policy responses to the HIV epidemic.

In light of this trajectory, it is not trivial that, in Vienna, human rights were the title and the main theme of the conference. In fact, it is somehow troubling that it has taken so long for the AIDS mainstream to fully incorporate human rights as a non-negotiable perspective in the design of the responses to the epidemic. This  breakthrough, though late, was made possible because many voices situated at the margins – such as HIV positive persons, feminists, LGBT activists and intellectuals, sex workers, a cluster of social scientists and even a few biomedical researchers – have been for many years raising the human rights agenda in AIDS policy debates.

The colorful demonstration on July 20th that went through the Burgring before gathering at the Hofburg was the remarkable result of these ongoing and rather invisible efforts (see some pictures by Malu S. Marin). But the AIDS and Human Rights March should also be placed against the backdrop of history. Firstly to recall that in 1938, Hitler paraded through the same Burgring when Austria was incorporated in the III Reich (the Anschluss). But also to say that for those who have been part of the UN 1990’s “sex saga” it was simply thrilling to be walking in front of the Austrian Parliament while the crowd happily shouting “Sexual rights are human rights”. Most of us engaged in the closed-room negotiations in Cairo and Beijing could not have imagined that fifteen years later sexual rights would be spiraling in the streets.

It should also be mentioned that the AIDS and human rights agenda was present and alive in a large number of panels, workshops and satellites, including plenary sessions where Meena Seeshu spoke about sex workers rights and Everjoyce Win about gender violence, human rights, and HIV, and Carlos Cáceres, a member of the SPW Advisory Group, also spoke about rights and stigma. Most importantly, key main obstacles to the full realization of human rights of those affected or those potentially vulnerable to HIV were also addressed, in particular criminalization of same-sex relations, sex work, and drug use, which was the topic of a number of sessions. It is also remarkable that for the first time in history of the AIDS conferences the intersection between HIV, abortion, and criminalization (see the 10 Reasons Why Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission Harms Women, by ATHENA Network) was addressed in at least two formal panels (and not exclusively in the Global Village as used to happen in the past).

A major step has, therefore, been made that must be applauded and appraised. However, this does not imply that the road ahead is an easy one, as the conditions of the world are not exactly favorable for the respect and promotion of human rights at large or sexual rights in particular. It is not therefore surprising that one of the very first sessions of the Vienna Conference, sponsored by UNAIDS,  was titled: A Human Rights based approach to prevention: Mission Impossible? However, as this newsletter was being finalized, the news has arrived that a court decision has decriminalized prostitution in Ontario, Canada, and in Czech Republic the  Prague City Council will consider a bill to legalize prostitution, suggesting that though hard and difficult, the logic of criminalization can be contested and overcome.

To provide readers with a few highlights of the Vienna Conference we have few partners assessing specific aspects and topics. Aziza Ahmed assesses the abortion-HIV debates and its relevance in relation to discussions around criminalization in the article Abortion and HIV at the AIDS Conference. We have interviewed Marcela Romero, Coordinator of RedLacTrans to learn further about the participation of trans persons in Vienna [in English] [in Spanish]. You can also check out how sex workers present in Vienna strongly questioned Eric Goosby who is currently responsible for the US HIV policies (more information available at NSWP Global Network of Sex Work Projects website) and have a glimpse at the wonderful Daily Vulva Award sponsored by Latina feminists. But you can also explore other angles of the conference at the International AIDS Society and Open Society Foundations websites. Lastly, we inform that Athena Network is preparing a report on feminist debates in the 2010 AIDS Conference, which will also be shared with you when available.

SPW did not participate directly in the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights held in Barcelona, but you can watch here the video on the International Demonstration of Trans-Intersex Struggle – Barcelona, held on June 5th, in which more than a thousand trans activists from the five continents went to the streets against trans pathologization. Howerver, SPW did attend Internet Governance Forum as part of the EroTICs: Sexuality and the Internet – an exploratory research project and directly engaged in the debates concerning internet regulation and sexuality. Read the article Internet and sexuality from IGF 2010 (also in Portuguese) written by Marina Maria, a SPW’s project assistant, describing her experience and some aspects on the association internet and sexaulity.

>> XVIII International AIDS Conference
– Read the article Abortion and HIV at the AIDS Conference, by Aziza Ahmed
– Read the interview with Marcela Romero, Coordinator of RedLacTrans, on the participation of trans persons in Vienna [in English] [in Spanish] – See the online Coverage (webcasts)
– See some pictures of the event, by Malu S. Marin

>> The International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights
– Watch the video International Demonstration of Trans-Intersex Struggle – Barcelona – June 5th [also in Spanish]

>> V Internet Governance Forum
Internet and sexuality from IGF 2010, by Marina Maria [also in Portuguese] – Read the article Internet Governance, Sexuality and Women’s Rights, published at GenderIT
– Read the article Internet Governance Issues on Sexuality and Women’s Rights, published at GenderIT
– See the transcription of the workshop Sexual rights, openness and regulatory systems
– See the transcription of the workshop Protecting women’s rights: Internet content from a gender perspective
– See the transcription of the Dynamic Coalition on Gender meeting
– Read other articles at GenderIT [in Englsih] [in Spanish]

2.2 Regional highlights

Since the African Regional Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics takes place this week in Lagos, Nigeria, we have selected a series of articles related to sexuality and gender issues in Africa, published in the last months for the SPW’s newsletter n.9. See below.

>> Zimbabwe: Attemps to sneak homosexuality into constitution (Behind the Mask)
>> South Africa: Minister of Health urges partnership with lgbt community (Behind the Mask)
>> Senegal: A report published by Amnesty International titled “Senegal Land of Impunity” and presented to the media on the 15 September 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, has denounced the use of torture to extract “confessions” and convict alleged homosexuals (Behind the Mask)
>> South Africa: Play unravels homosexuality (Behind the Mask)
>> Uganda: Homosexuality attracts a curse (Behind the Mask)
>> Ivory Coast/Nigeria: Combat Trafficking for Prostitution (Human Rights Watch)
>> Kenya: Kenyan gays celebrate new constitution
>> Uganda: African Anglican bishops vow never to accept homosexuality (Behind the Mask)
>> Cameroon: Decriminalize Same-Sex Acts (Human Rights Watch)
>> Zimbabwe: Drop Charges Against Rights Defenders (Human Rights Watch)
>> Zambia: Intolerance Threatens Health, Rights (Human Rights Watch)
>> Uganda: Primeira-dama discursa contra homossexuais (Lambda Mozambique)
>> Africa: Bispos anglicanos reforçam posição contra homossexualidade (Lambda Mozambique)

2.3 The abortion front lines

Since the article Abortion and Human Rights: Will Brazil be the Next Nicaragua? has been published in Reality Check, in June 2010, the debate on abortion has continued to interweave with the complex political dynamics of the electoral period in Brazil. Even before the campaign was in its full fledge mode after August, abortion had already become one main issue. Firstly because quite early in time the press called upon candidates to manifest their view on the subject, making it clear that any of the main candidates were in favor of legal abortion and most principally that in most cases positions have shifted, sometimes dramatically. Marina Silva from the Green Party, who belongs to the Assembly of God had quite early declared to be against abortion for religious reasons and, though pressured by supporters who are in favor of abortion, has since then sustained the discourse that the question should be resolved in a referendum. Dilma Roussef, from the Worker’s Party, who led the pool until the first round of the presidential run on October 3rd., in early 2009 had declared to Marie Claire magazine that abortion was always a difficult decision, but that it should be considered a major public health problem and therefore legalized. By May 2010, she had already moved towards a much more careful position to say, in consonance with the III National Plan for Human Rights that “abortion is a matter of public health services”.

However, this “strategic” retreat has not spared her from the strong pressure and attack on the part of dogmatic religious leaders, including Catholic bishops, which led her to have a closed conversation with the President on the National Bishops Conference. And since then her pervious support to legal abortion has been extensively used by the PSDB campaign and other sectors. Last but not least candidate Serra, who as the minister of health, in 1998, has signed the MoH protocol that ensure access to abortion in the two cases permitted by law, has fully retrogressed towards an open anti-abortion position and a discourse on maternal health. As if this was not enough his wife made a public declaration saying that Dilma was not trustful because she supported legal abortion. In the last week of the campaign the scenario is such that just two presidential candidates from minority left wing parties openly defend legal openly support legal abortion. But on the side of what really counts – meaning the competitive candidates — abortion has become as never before a major and divisive electoral issue. Polls have shown that in the last week Dilma has lost her advantage over other candidates, because of a wide range of factors, there including a corruption scandal that erupted in early September. But various analysts discussing the electoral scenario today, include the “abortion issue” as one factor explaining why she is loosing ground. At two days for the elections, the candidate sat with representatives of the National Pastors Conference and with Catholic representatives to discuss rumors about her positions on abortion and gay marriage. She then declared herself personally against abortion, but defended public health care to women who have undergone abortion. Marina Silva declared that Dilma Roussef changed her discourse due to “electoral convenience”, and the issue gripped the main mass media vehicles. In addition, big paid ads of pro-life candidates were posted, in colors, in the mains pages of some the major newspapers, which read VOTE AGAINST ABORTION, literally.

The “abortion issue”, surprisingly enough, has also spilled over Marina, who was the main beneficiary of the votes Dilma lost, particularly in Rio and Brasilia. Also in the last week of campaign one of the better known evangelical pastors of Rio has publicly declared that he was not supporting her anymore because she was “lying about her views on abortion”, in his words her proposal of a referendum was a mere smoke curtain to hide her project to legalize the procedure. And he shifted his vote to Serra.

In other words, while it is certainly premature to predict that Brazil will become or not Nicaragua, it is quite clear that Brazilian electoral politics is now quite similar to what has been witnessed in the US in the last two decades. But, spots of light can be identified in this shadowy scenario. In July, during the 11th Latin American and Caribbean regional Conference on Women, sponsored by ECLAC, the Brazilian delegation pushed for a final declaration reaffirming Cairo and Beijing language on abortion. Ironically enough the US delegation did not join the consensus, and the reasons that may explain that are not yet fully clarified.

More importantly, feminist organizations and other sectors supporting legal abortion have been mobilizing as never, in recent years. The marking of September 28th this year included a wide range of events, as well as the launching of looking forward documents, there including a new draft provision aimed at legalizing abortion. This effort, initiated by CLADEM, the Feminist Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and the Commission on Citizenship and Reproduction, is supported by a number of other organizations and has been presented to society as a basis for discussion that may lead to a legal reform proposal in the 2011 legislature.

On October 3rd, the outcome of the elections resulted in 47 percent of votes to Dilma, 33 percent to Serra and 20 to Marina, which means that a second round will take place on October 31st. Inevitably, the “abortion issue” will remain high in the agenda.

Read also:

>> Spain: Spain’s new abortion law comes into effect

2.4 Also in the news

Latin America
>>  Latin American Center on Sexuality and Human Rights (CLAM) website
(information in Eng / Port / Spa)
>>  Ciudadania SX (only in Spanish)
>>  Conectas Human Rights (information in Eng / Port / Spa)
>>  Observatorio de Género y Equidad (only in Spanish)
>>  CFEMEA (information in Port / Eng)
>>  Revista de Saúde Sexual e Reprodutiva de Ipas Brasil (only in Portuguese)
>>  Rede Feminista de Saúde (only in Portuguese)

>>  Council for Global Equality
>>  PEPFAR Watch

>> Behind the mask: the voice of africa’s lgbt community
>>  Portal Lambda Moçambique (only in Portuguese)

Eastern Europe
>>  CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights No 10 (89) 2010 (only in English)

Muslim Societies
>>  News and Views (Women Living Under Muslim Laws)


3.1 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of Ms. Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, as the head of UN Women.

3.2 The United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously on July, 2nd to create a new entity to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide, establishing the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — the new gender equality entity at the UN.

3.3 Read the suggested recommendations on human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity presented during the Eighth Session of the Universal Periodic Review  at the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council in September 2010.

3.4 Visit the Yogyakarta in Action website, undertaken by ARC International to track and evaluate the use of the Yogyakarta Principles and make the information available to activists, lawyers, academics, governments, and others to further their work in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity. You also can find an Activist’s Guide to the Yogyakarta Principles. Read more.

3.5 UN Human Rights chief speaks out strongly to end violence and criminal offences against LGBT-people


4.1 Take a look at the Campari advertisement, entitled The Secret.

4.2 Andrea Cano and photographer Manuel Antonio Velandia, after 50 years of Barbie, were responsible for the operation, which ended with the change of sex on the popular doll. The trans Barbie dolls were presented in a controversial exhibition at the University of Alicante, Spain, titled Invisible: transgressive nature.

4.3 Danielle Levitt photographed four transgender teens and the pictures as well as video interviews with two of the youngsters are available  in the Dazed Digital website. See the pictures.

4.4 Read the paper (part1 and part2) In the Archival Space of a Queer Supplementary: Giuseppe Campuzano’s Museo Travesti del Perú. The author looks at where the postcolonial and the queer performative meet and analyzes the Peruvian artist Giuseppe Campuzano’s notion of the “Museo Travesti.”


5.1 Upcoming events

6.1 Publications and resources

>>  Sense (September, 2010), the MSMGF’s new multilingual online publication for men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV (also in Spanish, Portuguese and French)

>> El género desordenado – Críticas en torno a la patologización de la transexualidad

Read more at Publications and reosurces

6.2 Articles and papers

>>  SPW Working Paper N.6 – Some thoughts for Sexuality Policy Watch on The Global Gender Gap Report 2009, by Kate Bedford

>> Six Reasons Why Argentina Legalized Gay Marriage First, by Javier Corrales and Mario Pecheny

>> Can Financial Transaction Taxes help finance Development in line with Human Rights?, by Natalie Raaber with Masum Momaya

>> MDG 5: Maternal Mortality, by Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era

Read more at Papers and articles and Working papers

6.3 Relevant links

>> The blog Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex

>> The blog Incisiones, by Mauro ï Cabral

Read more at Relevant links

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