IDS speaks up on International Day Against Homophobia
17 May 2011
International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) was created to encourage the formation of a worldwide community of activists and committed people, sharing the ideal of a world without homophobia nor transphobia in which everyone can freely live their lives regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. IDAHO marks the anniversary of the day the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1992.
To mark IDAHO we interviewed Dennis Altman, IDS Visiting Fellow. Altman is Professor of Politics and Director of the Institute for Human Security at LaTrobe University in Melbourne. He first came to attention with the publication of his book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation in 1972. This book, which has often been compared to Germaine Greer's Female Eunuch and Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, was the first serious analysis to emerge from the gay liberation movement. His book, Global Sex, has been translated into five languages, including Spanish, Turkish and Japanese.
Problems in the development sector
'I think that the development sector, by and large, has a picture in its head of a world where everybody lives in conventional family structures, which doesn't leave room for people outside those structures. Not just people who are homosexual but, for example, single people, people who don't for whatever reason get married, single parents and people who have one form or another of homosexual identity or practice,' said Altman.
This is a view shared by IDS staff working in the Sexuality and Development Programme at IDS. 'Most assumptions underpinning development policy and practice reinforce gender stereotypes and are deeply heteronormative. Yet sexual rights violations can have a direct economic impact on people and on development. Prejudice and discrimination weakens networks of families, friends and colleagues, which are often an important source of strength and support. As development organisations there is more that we can do to make the conceptual and practical links between sexuality and poverty and to consider how development itself seeks to regulate sexuality.' said Kate Hawkins, Convenor of the Sexuality and Development Programme.
'The Ugandan example of an explicitly homophobic law is one instance of a new wave of homophobia, that is, the use of law as a tool for the directed violence against Queer folk. Never has it been more important for those who work on the social implications of law and on law reform as a process of development to recognise the significant threat posed by heteronormativity,' said IDS Fellow Akshay Khanna.
Altman suggested 'What the development sector needs to do is become much more imaginative and diverse in how it sees development rather than assuming that everybody is going to fit into this one, fairly traditional, family structure.'
Photo: Nikki Rixon, Twenty Ten / Panos
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