Development usually treats sexuality as a problem: over-population, sexually transmitted disease, or sexual violence in the home and as a weapon of war. The images that come with any mention of the subject are those of risk and danger, disease and death. This focus well describes some of the consequences of the disregard for sexual rights that exists the world over. There has been a recent emphasis on criminalising non-normative sexuality and a rise in homophobic violence in several places in the world. However, focusing merely upon this negativity generates fear and disempowerment, and discourages us from seeing how we might be able to change our situations.

Rather than focusing on pain, harm and wrongs, a more positive, pleasure-oriented, view of sexuality offers an entirely different set of entry points for work to make sexual rights real. Similarly, broadening the areas within law, development policy and practice in which sexuality is considered is an increasingly crucial area of engagement. Understanding the relationship between sexual rights and poverty illustrates the need for aid policies and poverty alleviation efforts that account for sexuality and examine unspoken assumptions and exclusions.

Across the Institute, we currently support research and communications aimed at rethinking the relationship between sexuality, rights and development and building stronger links between people in different contexts working to realize their sexual rights. Collaborating closely with established networks and movements, our approach to protecting and respecting rights are based on strategies drawn from local communities that are most affected. Much of this theme’s activity is organised through the IDS Sexuality and Development Programme and the Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme.

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Bridging the Gap Evaluation

This is a mid-term evaluation of the Bridging the Gaps Programme a global program operating in 16 countries across all the main key populations at-risk for HIV. More details

Masculinities and Transition

The project will explore the experiences of men and shifting constructions of masculinities in current ‘transition countries’ More details

Sexuality and Development Programme (2007-11)

Supporting the realisation of sexual rights and access to basic services for those facing poverty and injustice More details

Sexuality and Local Voices

The Sexuality and Development project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) Programme, funded by Sida. More details

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Publication cover for KS-APCOM discussion paper on Islam, sexual diversity and health services

Islam, Sexual Diversity and Access to Health Services

In the Asian region, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia have a majority Muslim population. Islam, in essence, does not condemn anyone due to sexual orientation, and the Quran does not prescribe punishments for homosexuality. More details

Sex Work and its Linkages with Informal Labour Markets in India

IDS Working Paper 416 (2013)

Based on the results of the First Pan India Survey of Female Sex Workers (n=3000), this paper positions sex work within the broader spectrum of informal labour markets that women engage with in India. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Creative Nepal - Expressions of Sexuality and Gender

This website is the product of research that was conducted by Nepal’s sexual and gender minorities, Paul Boyce and Daniel Coyle in December 2012 as part of a larger research funded by the Institute of Development Studies on Sexuality and Law in different countries around the world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Mutilating Bodies: The Muslim Brotherhood's Gift to Egyptian Women

In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood have offered to circumcise women for a nominal fee as part of their community services, a move that threatens to reverse decades of local struggle against the harmful practice argues Mariz Tadros More details

This is the image for 'Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Institutional Settings'.

Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Institutional Settings

Gender inequalities, and the violence that maintains them, are not simply a matter of individuals and their behaviours; they are maintained by the social, economic and political institutions that structure all of our lives. More details

This is the image for 'Politicising Masculinities: Beyond the Personal'.

Politicising Masculinities: Beyond the Personal

During 15–18 October 2007, a diverse mix of people came together in Dakar, Senegal, to debate issues of men, gender and power: unconventional practical academics, open-minded policymakers, reflective practitioners and activists. It was a unique gathering and offered a unique opportunity – to inform and inspire a greater engagement by men in the struggle for gender justice and broader social change. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Introduction: Contextualising “Rights” in Sexual and Reproductive Health

BMC International Health and Human Rights 11.Suppl 3: S1 (2011)

The idea for this supplement arose from discussions among a set of research partners associated with the Realising Rights Research Programme Consortium (RR RPC), an international partnership funded by the UK Department for International Development from 2005-10 that focused on neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In the Consortium, work on rights has been concerned with ways of bridging the gap between international legal human rights frameworks as applied to SRHR, and how these play out for actual people ‘on the ground’. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Sexuality and Empowerment: An Intimate Connection

Pathways Policy Paper (2011)

This policy paper demonstrates why sexuality is so important for women’s empowerment, drawing on evidence generated by research carried out by the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment RPC and collaborative initiatives with the DFID-funded IDS Sexuality and Development Programme. More details

IDS Research Summary

Bringing Together Pleasure and Politics: Sexuality Workshops in Rural India

IDS Research Summary of IDS Practice Paper 6 (2011)

This paper shares the learnings that emerged from the ‘Sexuality and Us’ training programme, run by the NGO Nirantar. More details

IDS Practice Paper

Bringing Together Pleasure and Politics: Sexuality Workshops in Rural India

IDS Practice Paper 6 (2010)

What are the linkages between sexuality and violence against women - beyond sexual violence? Do poor rural women want to talk about sex? More details

IDS Research Summary

Mobile Love Videos Make Me Feel Healthy: Rethinking ICTs for Development

IDS Research Summary of IDS Working Paper 352 (2010)

Development discourse tends to limit attention to the contribution of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to economic and educational empowerment, largely ignoring other potential areas for empowerment. More details

IDS Working Paper

Mobile Love Videos Make me Feel Healthy: Rethinking ICTs in Development

IDS Working Paper 352 (2010)

In the ICTs for Development discourse, ICTs are positioned as tools and processes to fight poverty and facilitate empowerment. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Poverty and Sexuality: What are the connections?

Few studies and reports examine the relationship between poverty and the denial of sexual rights. However, an emerging literature by researchers, activists and organisations shows that in many cases, poor people are more vulnerable to abuses of sexual rights, and that such abuses can entrench poverty. More details

IDS publications on international development research

HIV/AIDS, the disability grant and ARV adherence

This report presents selected findings from a project conducted in collaboration between Fafo and University of Cape Town, AIDS and Society Research Unit. Through triangulated qualitative and quantitative research methods, we studied whether people living with HIV faced trade-offs between treatment adherence and grant termination. More details

Front cover of Old Wineskins, New Wine: Readings in Sexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Old Wineskins, New Wine: Readings in Sexuality in sub-Saharan Africa

The WHO draft definition conceptualises sexuality as 'a central aspect of being human throughout life [which] encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Questions about human sexuality have also begun to be asked in very imaginative ways, forcing the field of sexuality to spill over the margins of academic legitimacy and to increasingly hold its own as a valid field of intellectual inquiry. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Sex, Gender and Development: Challenging Heteronormativity

If development really did justice to the diversity of people's social and sexual identities, livelihoods and living arrangements, how would it be different to the approaches we see today? What would be done differently? How can practitioners, activists, academics and policy actors concerned with challenging oppressive gender and sexuality norms work together to loosen development's "straightjacket"? More details