Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexuality, Health and Society – Latin American Journal

From the editors

The 24th issue of Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad marks its eighth year of systematic publication and presents an expressive illustration of its central themes and objectives.

On the one hand, this issue expands the exchange of ideas among different Latin-American academic networks, publishing works by researchers from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. On the other, bringing together contributions from anthropology, sociology, public/preventive health, history and philosophy of science, it also fosters the debate among diverse disciplines belonging to the social sciences and humanities arena, and their respective methodological approaches.

Representative of one of the Journal’s central topics, two articles analyze how conventions of gender and sexuality are produced, enforced or disputed in various Latin-American places, at different moments of the Region history. Jeanny Lucero Posso and Ange La Furcia conducted a fascinating ethnography in Colombian hairdressing salons managed by trans women, in which the boundaries between bodily care and sex work can become sometimes blurred. Their article emphasizes the analytical results of incorporating class, race and ethnicity, alongside with gender and sexuality, for a sharper appraisal of trans women work trajectories and their identity-building projects, carried out in a complex social network that encompasses many actors. In her article about the history of the Beco dos Artistas – a gay-friendly bohemian alley in Salvador (Brazil), Andressa de Freitas Ribeiro shows how the identity of places are also dependent of the same lively and historically mutable intersection between class, sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity.

Other articles in this issue turn around another main theme of our Journal: the social and political regulation of sexuality and gender expression through medical/sexological and legal discourses. Barbara G. Pires explores the polemical politics of “verification and confirmation of sex/gender” promoted by the many sports committees and federations in order to decide athletes sex eligibility. Such regulation is aimed mainly at women under suspicion of being under “abnormal” levels of “male hormones”, and becomes even more invasive and coercive when intersex athletes are involved. Fernanda Carvajal Edwards also works with the regulation of expressions of gender in her article about the history of Márcia Alejandra’s “sex change”, as the transsexual process was called during the 1970’s, in the early Chilean dictatorship. The author shows how important mainstream media was at the time in disseminating the Chilean Anthropological Sexology Society´s discourses on transsexuality, approached as a pathological condition that could be treated through transgenitalization surgeries.

The article by Fabrizzio Mc Manus and Agustín Mercado-Reys is also about regulation, but with a far greater emphasis on sexuality than on gender expression. They examine the images disseminated by Mexican HIV-AIDS prevention campaigns between 1985 and 2005, and show how, during the first two decades of the epidemic, medical discourses and media coverage worked together in creating stigma and invisibility for HIV-positive people. Other important sexuality regulation locus is approached by Thais Gava and Wilza Villela in their article on “sexuality education” and the political and practical challenges it poses to Brazilian schools. This is a discussion of major relevance in a historical moment when, in Brazil as in other Latin-American countries, conservative positions on the so-called “gender ideology” provoke moral panics and impose serious obstacles for the promotion of gender equality and for the fight carried on in public schools against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity . By comparing the principles of normative documents on education in Brazil with the many concepts of sexuality and morality present among education professionals, both in the primary and secondary school, the authors show that personal values and educational policies guidelines are not always reconcilable.

Finally, this issue also presents two articles addressing important topics directly related to women’s sexual and reproductive rights: abortion and obstetric violence. Based on an investigation in the Argentine city of La Plata, Belén Castrillo shows how the notion of “obstetric violence” has being defined in a disputed field in which civil society associations and state agents dispute its meanings. In her essay, Josefina Brown contributes significantly to the discussion about the ongoing conflicts on the right to abortion. Brown offers new and enlightening hints for understanding the renewed difficulties faced by abortion rights activists in the Region. Her analyses displaces the discussion, often centered on the obstacles posed by catholic and evangelical power in Latin America, in order to highlight  the impacts of new ideological configurations based on neoliberal values, related to an increased individual responsibility over sexual conduct.

For those who focus their research on the relationship between gender, sexuality and health, the articles published in this number of Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad present new and inspiring paths either to approach well explored issues, such as abortion, or to disclose subjects still somewhat invisible, such as the policies of sex/gender verification in sports or the disputes surrounding obstetric violence.

Source: Sexuality, Health and Society – Latin American Journal

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