Sexuality Policy Watch

The sexual politics in February 2016

In February, there were good news to report from both Haiti and Europe. In the case of Haiti, the Penal Code reform is underway and the draft document approved by a committee of juridical experts includes a provision that legalizes abortion on the basis of public health concerns and freedom of women. Although this is still work in progress, this is a very promising sign that sharply contrast with legal restrictions on abortion prevailing in the large majority of Caribbean and Latin American countries. Then in Portugal, the members of the recently elected National Assembly – which counts with a left majority— have struck down a presidential veto on adoption rights of same-sex couples and have removed restrictions in the access to abortion that had been voted by the conservative composition that controlled the parliament until late 2015.

On the United Nations front, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released the report requested by the Resolution on the Protection of the Family adopted at the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council last July. The content of the report compiles key normative references to inform ongoing debates on ‘family’ structures, rights and related state obligations.

Concurrently the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has issued a decision that condemns states’ refusal to grant same-sex couples residence permits with the purpose of family reunification. The decision was grounded on the principle that this refusal is discriminatory.

Moving to Latin America, in Chile, the Minister of Health condemned so-called “conversion therapy” aimed at “healing” homosexuals, describing it as “grave threat to health and well-being”. In Brazil, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro hosted a training program titled: “A particular revolution: the Brazilian prostitute movement”. The course addressed the history, contexts and connections of sex worker’s movement in Brazil.

Finally news continue to pour at the zika crisis frontline. SPW continued to compile articles and analysis of the public health crisis underway that is hitting Latin America and within it Brazil, in particular . From this compilation we would like to highlight the statement issued by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the statement of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion and the New York Times’ article by Débora Diniz.


In February the realms of sexual politics and sexuality research has experienced two major losses.

On February 5th, the Argentinean trans leadership Lohana Berkins has departed. Lohana was recognizes worldwide as a champion of trans rights as well as a an admirable person whose life was imprinted by great energy, large solidarity and lots of humor. SPW has deeply mourned Lohana departure and share the various tributes to honor her life and struggle that we have been able to compile (here; here; and here)

The death of North American sociologist John Gagnon is the other loss to be regretted. For many decades his research and conceptualization had a groundbreaking impact. Gagnon was one of the first theorists to propose and consistently argue that sexual behavior “could better be understood by looking at social forces rather than biology or psychology”. His work was influential far beyond the US boundaries, including in Brazil, where his last book Interpretation of Desire was translated into Portuguese by the Latin American Center on Sexuality and human Rights (CLAM).

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  • Reproductive Health Matters’ call for papers for its 48th number (Sexuality, sexual and reproductive health in later life ) opens March 15

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