Publications on sexuality and law

  • Sexuality and the Law: Case Studies from Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal and South Africa

    Waldman, Linda; Overs, Cheryl IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2014
    This paper provides a synthesis of five case studies on the relationship between sexuality and law. These case studies were undertaken as part of the Sexuality, Poverty and Law theme of the DFID-funded Accountable Grant that explores, among other things, the relationships between sexuality and development. The Sexuality and Law work aims to identify policy options and strategies for activist engagement with law and to inform the realisation of sexual rights. The work is particularly concerned with people negatively affected by laws on sex, gender and sexuality; with gaps in policy and inadequate implementation of laws that negatively affect people and their sexuality; and with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ)1 activism around legal and human rights issues.
  • Avenues for Donors to Promote Sexuality and Gender Justice

    Haste, P; Overs, C; Mills, Elizabeth IDS
    IDS Policy Briefing, 2016
    Donor agencies agree that addressing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is not only an important human rights issue but is also integral to efforts to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development. However, with limited support and evidence of what works, and even hostility from many governments, incorporating SOGI issues into the day-to-day development work of country offices, NGO partners and diplomatic missions presents many challenges. Nonetheless, progress is being made. Investment in leadership, clear policies and training, effective coordination across agencies and sectors, and a stronger evidence base are among the crucial steps to positive change.
  • Migration, Mobility and Marginalisation: Consequences for Sexual and Gender Minorities

    Wood, S IDS
    IDS Policy Briefing, 2016
    As a strategy to avoid discrimination, violence and economic marginalisation, sexual and gender non-conforming people often turn to migration as a route to achieve independence and build social capital. Recent studies by the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme demonstrate that while migration can provide liberation from some experiences of marginalisation and an ability to contribute economically towards family households, for many it leads to a precarious existence. To ensure these groups are not ‘left behind’ in development, policymakers and aid programming must recognise and address marginalisation of these groups as part of overall strategies to reduce risks of migration.
  • Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice: What's Law Got to Do with It?

    Lalor, K; Mills, Elizabeth; Sánchez García, A; Haste, P IDS
    Other, 2016
    The contributions to this Edited Collection reveal the complexity of the deceptively simple question posed by its title: Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s Law Got to Do With It? Many of those involved in this publication are directly involved in and affected by the issues to which the Edited Collection’s title speaks. From activists working with women in Assam’s tea gardens in India or young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders in Vietnam, to lawyers fighting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda or the criminalisation of cross-dressing in Malaysia, to academics carefully re-reading Islamic Sharia or researchers assessing HIV prevention programmes in South Africa, the contributors to this Collection have first-hand knowledge and experience of the complexities of gender, sexuality and social justice. The product of this vast array of experience is a series of conversations that decisively indicate that the question of law’s relation to sexuality, gender and social justice does not have a single, simple answer. The increased legalisation of processes by which sexual, sexuality and gender justice is sought requires interrogation and careful scrutiny and, as the contributions in this collection show, the law is often an imperfect tool for achieving meaningful justice. Yet it is in these important and complex conversations that the scope for future action becomes tangible. In exploring different processes by which activists and other actors have worked for change, in interrogating what we mean when we talk about ‘solidarity’, and in questioning the usefulness and place of law, a picture of a complex but vibrant field of action for sexuality and gender justice begins to emerge. This Collection offers multiple routes to sexuality and gender justice and numerous suggestions of what sexuality and gender justice could be in a plurality of contexts. It also suggests that there are many potential pitfalls and barriers to justice or progress. What this Collection highlights, however, is that by listening carefully to each other and by paying careful attention to the needs of those working on the ground, we give ourselves the best chances of success, individually and collectively. The ongoing conversations in this Collection are part of this process. It has been a privilege to be part of them and we will watch how they develop further with interest and with hope.
  • Transgender at Work: Livelihoods for Transgender People in Vietnam

    Hoang, T-A; Oosterhoff, P IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2016
    The laws in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam promote equality for all citizens and refer to ‘persons’ rather than ‘men’ or ‘women’. However, because of traditional gender norms, transgender people in Vietnam are facing severe stigma and discrimination in public, in schools, at home and in the workplace (CCIHP 2011; Hoang 2012; ICS 2015; iSEE 2013). Parents, teachers and policemen are among the most common perpetrators (CCIHP 2011, 2012a, 2012b). Before 1975, homosexuality and transgenderism were considered ‘social diseases’, ‘social evils’, and were targets for elimination in government health and public policies; after 1975, there was a higher emphasis on this as the public saw them as remnants of American neo-colonialism (Blanc 2005). People who were found to practice same-sex sex could be sent to an education centre (Blanc 2005). Transgender people have difficulty accessing services and rights as they cannot change their personal identification (ID) card, which is an obstacle to obtaining social services, housing and work. Gender roles and norms affect the employment practices, options and preferences of transmen and transwomen differently. This study, undertaken by the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and Institute of Development Studies (IDS), does not claim to report on behalf of all transgender people in Vietnam, but we hope to gain more insights into both the opportunities and the obstacles that transmen and transwomen face and to understand how they could be supported to increase their livelihood options. First, the research involved a case study on transgender people and livelihood opportunities which sought to answer the following questions: What are the different employment options and preferences for Vietnamese transmen and transwomen? What are the links between stigma, education and employment? Second, it involved testing an integrated application of new quantitative online participatory methodologies on young transmen and transwomen communities, alongside qualitative face-to-face methods to reach elderly transgender people and employers who are not members of online communities. Qualitative interviews also help understand these communities better and provide information that can inform their development.
  • Religion, Gender and Sexuality Workshop Report: 1–5 June 2015, Garden Court Hotel, Eastgate, Johannesburg

    Marks, B; Charles, T; Mills, Elizabeth; McEwen, H IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2015
    Religious doctrine shapes and informs decision-making at the individual and collective levels, and sexuality and gender rights advocates must therefore work with faith-based organisations and religious activists to challenge harmful and discriminatory sexuality and gender norms and practices. The Religion, Gender and Sexuality workshop provided a space for faith leaders and those engaging with faith institutions to discuss successes, challenges and learning around sexual diversity and gender justice. In sharing their knowledge and experience, and through a range of facilitated discussions on the themes discussed in this report, the participants were able to collectively build on their knowledge, skills and awareness linked to gender and sexuality. Given the rise of religious activism in civil society, the political arena and in law- and policymaking, it has become imperative to offer training to organisations and individuals who work in the religious/faith-based sector on issues of gender and human rights-based approaches. With the support of Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Centre for Diversity Studies (WiCDS) the workshop sought to provide members of faith communities across Africa with the knowledge to advocate for sexuality and gender equality and human rights. The workshop was hosted by: Sonke Gender Justice, MenEngage Africa, Institute of Development Studies and Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.
  • Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s Law Got to Do with It? International Symposium Workshop Report

    Lalor, K; Haste, P; Vaast, C IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2015
    In March 2015, the Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme at the Institute of Development Studies brought together over 60 activists, lawyers, researchers and international advocates to critically assess the scope of law and legal activism for achieving social justice for those marginalised because of their sexual or gender non-conformity. Delegates represented a broad range of expertise in the field of sexuality, gender identity, rights and social justice. They included a number of leading lawyers and activists involved in litigating cases of sexual and gender rights in countries such as Uganda, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Argentina and Botswana. Lawyers and activists shared their experiences of working within this fast developing area of domestic and international law. Discussions also addressed the wider social and theoretical aspects of recent legal developments, contributing to our understanding of the complex relationship between research, knowledge exchange, activism and law.
  • Developing More Effective Strategies for Sex Work, Law and Poverty

    Overs, C IDS
    IDS Policy Briefing, 2015
    The welfare of female sex workers in low-income countries has attracted significant attention in recent years. In line with human rights and development goals, advocacy focuses on decriminalisation of sex work, attaining economic rights, ending violence and improving sexual and reproductive health. Recent studies by the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme have highlighted many of these issues and placed them within the wider context and discussion around sexuality and development. We call for further research and action in three key areas, where evidence is needed to drive feasible, effective and measurable initiatives that benefit sex workers, even in unfavourable legal, economic and social conditions.
  • Negotiating Public and Legal Spaces: The Emergence of an LGBT Movement in Vietnam

    Oosterhoff, P; Hoang, T-A; Quach, T.T IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2014
    Vietnam’s laws, policies and decrees do not explicitly discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals but their rights are not legally protected and they are socially marginalised. The state promotes a model of a married heterosexual couple with two children in the media and through its public policy campaigns. Families that comply are able to obtain membership of the Communist Party and run for office; women are eligible for micro-credit programmes. Same-sex couples cannot marry and are thus ineligible for the benefits that married couples enjoy. Family laws, with regard to child custody, inheritance and property, do not protect same-sex couples. In order to understand how LGBT civil society organisations can affect legal and social change with regard to the laws that regulate sexual norms and unions, this empirical study explores the following two examples of collective action in Vietnam: 1. The mobilisation strategies of civil society organisations to hold gay pride events. 2. Collective action to legalise same-sex ceremonies and marriages.
  • The Implications of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 on Uganda's Legal System

    Jjuuko, Adrian; Tumwesige, Francis IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 (AHB or the bill) was controversial right from the time of its inception. Its tabling in Uganda’s parliament in October 2009 was greatly welcomed by some religious leaders and sections of the population, while at the same time, it was vehemently opposed by some human rights organisations in Uganda and abroad. The provisions of the bill pose a threat to the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in Uganda regardless of their sexual orientation, but far more so for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons. Beyond the violations of human rights that are envisaged if the bill becomes law, the bill also poses unique questions for lawyers and the legal system as regards its implementation and how it impacts on established principles of law and criminal justice. This paper analyses the implications of the bill on Uganda’s legal system. It discusses the contents of the AHB, traces its background as well as its current status, analyses the legal issues that are likely to arise if it becomes law, discusses the legal issues that are already arising with the bill still a bill, and finally discusses some of the positive aspects of the bill.
  • From Sex Work to Entertainment and Trafficking: Implications of a Paradigm Shift for Sexuality, Law and Activism in Cambodia

    Overs, Cheryl IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    At the behest of the US government, policy and legislation were introduced in Cambodia in 2008–9 that made virtually all activities associated with commercial sex illegal. The law confirmed the illegality of human trafficking and procuring for prostitution through the use of force or coercion and extended it to criminalising all third party involvement in sex work. In the wake of this new law, most brothels were closed, street prostitution was dramatically reduced and commercial sex shifted to restaurants, entertainment and massage venues. The law and its enforcement was criticised by sex workers’ networks, human rights organisations and health agencies who said it violated human rights, would fail to capture perpetrators of abuse and contribute to the spread of HIV and STIs. This case study describes and examines the impact of the changes brought about by the law focusing particularly on conditions in the entertainment venues; the role of the many national and international policies and institutions that aim to help sex workers and the opportunities for sex workers to develop, articulate and advance demands. It concludes with ideas about ways in which sex workers might participate in and influence process in which specific, self-identified outcomes can be attained. It argues that re-configuration of the institutions and networks that represent sex workers and victims of trafficking in Cambodia is needed; that grants from international donors should be made to local, member-driven organisations; and recommends that the government revise its definition of trafficking and sexual exploitation
  • Development, Discourse and Law: Transgender and Same-Sex Sexualities in Nepal

    Boyce, Paul; Coyle, Daniel IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    This report presents research conducted in Nepal between November 2012 and January 2013 aimed at exploring the legal, social and economic context pertaining to sexual and gender minority rights. The research explored recent legal reform in Nepal, the wider socioeconomic and social context of legal reform, and included work with sexual and gender minority persons, aimed at understanding their life experiences. Findings of the research emphasise complex connections between law, social context and sexual subjectivity. There is dissonance in Nepal between a progressive legislative environment in respect of gender and sexual minority issues and everyday sociocultural ambivalence toward such sexual and gender minority persons. Such persons may suffer from explicit prejudice, lack of economic opportunity and familial rejection. Other forms of marginalisation may be more tacit, but nonetheless profoundly significant.
  • Politically Motivated Sexual Assault and the Law in Violent Transitions: A Case Study from Egypt

    Tadros, Mariz IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    This case study is about the use of sexual violence against women and men in order to deter the opposition from engaging in protests and demonstrations in a context of a country in transition, Egypt. The paper advances a number of arguments. First, politically motivated sexual violence has a number of distinguishing features from the socially motivated sexual harassment that is generally prevalent in society. While they both contribute to discouraging women from assuming an active public role, they have different implications vis-a-vis who to hold accountable. Second, men have also been the targets of sexual assault, though their narratives have rarely been documented or recognised, and the law does not offer possibilities for redress. Third, due to a number of historical and contextual factors associated with Egypt – which has been in the throes of revolutionary activism – there has been a strong call for the perpetrators to be tried and the government to be held accountable for complicity. This has, in turn, reactivated calls for the revision of the criminal code to be more effective as a tool for addressing sexual violence.
  • A Progressive Constitution Meets Lived Reality: Sexuality and the Law in South Africa

    Lewin, Tessa; Williams, Kerry; Thomas, Kylie IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    This paper examines two cases of homophobic hate crime in post-apartheid South Africa. The paper illuminates how activists have used the legal system to address the violence faced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI) South Africans. Drawing on court transcripts, the experience of the lawyer in one of the cases and on interviews conducted with activists in South Africa, the article also draws attention to some of the challenges faced by those seeking to secure justice for LGBTQI people. The authors argue that recognising forms of violence motivated by prejudice as ‘hate crimes’ can serve as a powerful legal tool. The article provides a brief overview of the use of the term ‘hate crime’ in the South African context and offers concise accounts of the case studies and observations drawn from them. It also provides a series of recommendations regarding sexuality, violence and the law for state actors (ranging from police officers to judges and policymakers), for LGBTQI activists and educators and for donors.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women Living with HIV in South Africa

    Muller, Alexandra; MacGregor, Hayley IDS
    IDS Evidence Report, 2013
    South Africa‟s constitutional and legal framework reflects the country‟s commitment to women‟s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), in line with international commitments. Numerous policies detail the provision of services around sexual and gender-based violence, fertility, maternal, perinatal and newborn health, sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), and cancers of the reproductive system. However, these policies exist in a social climate of extreme inequality, with high rates of poverty and unemployment. Despite almost equal representation of women in government and other high-profile areas, women in South Africa experience unprecedented rates of sexual and gender-based violence, and women‟s autonomy is all too often compromised by poverty, limited access to education, limited access to health care, and ongoing gender inequality that is bolstered by patriarchal norms.


  • Case Study: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women Living with HIV in South Africa

    • This case study presents five examples of the violation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women living with HIV, and explores the underlying causes and dynamics. 
    • The review presents a number of key recommendations for South African activists, the South African government, and international donors such as measures to harmonise existing policies to fit the needs of women living with HIV
    • Establish and institutionalise rights-based training for health care workers and to institute redress mechanisms for women whose rights have been violated
  • BOOSHTEE! Survival and Resilience in Ethiopia

    • Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia, same-sex behaviour is not prosecuted because the government views it as a low law enforcement priority 
    • The illegality of same-sex relations continues to drive and justify social and economic exclusion and human rights abuses of same-sex attracted people
  • Negotiating Public and Legal Spaces: The Emergence of an LGBT Movement in Vietnam

    • Over the past five years there has been a big increase in the public visibility of LGBT persons and civil society organisations. The first LGBT Pride event was held in 2012 in spite of legal restrictions on peaceful assembly.
    • Laws regarding family and marriage are selectively enforced. While same-sex marriage is prohibited by law, some couples are able to hold unofficial wedding ceremonies without being fined.
  • Case Study: A Progressive Constitution Meets Lived Reality: Sexuality and the Law in South Africa

    • In the South African legal context, hate crimes are not yet recognised as a specific category, despite high levels of physical and sexual assault based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Homophobia, conservatism and a weak rule of law have made it difficult for gay, lesbian and transgender people to realise their rights as enshrined in the South African Consitution.   
  • Case Study: The legal status of the Anti Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

    • The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda contains a number of provisions that, for legal reasons, are nearly impossible to implement. Two examples include:
      1. The difficulty of collecting evidence as there is no 'complainant' for sex between consenting adults;
      2. The punishment is 'disproportionate' under criminal law as there is no vicitm of the 'crime' of homosexuality between consenting adults.
  • Development, Discourse and Law: Transgender and Same-Sex Sexualities in Nepal

    • In 2011, Nepal became the first country in the world to add a third category in addition to male and female in the national population and housing census. Since 2013, the state have begun to issue citizenship documents listing a third gender.
    • While this affirms the equal citizenship rights of third gender people in Nepal, they continue to experience explicit prejudice, lack of economic opportunity and familial rejection. 
  • Politically Motivated Sexual Assault and the Law in Violent Transitions: A Case Study from Egypt

    • The current legal system does not recognise men as victims of sexual assault.