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.

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 consideration. 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.

Challenging norms and stereotypes

At the heart of our project activities is an agenda of challenging patriarchal norms and harmful stereotypes around sexuality. We are using an array of activities and tools to this end, for example academic journals, films, software platforms and media such as cartoons and blogs.

Understanding cultures of constraint and influence

The underlying theoretical framework instigates us to work towards identifying and understanding the structures of constraint and influence in the context of Sexuality. We work towards developing a political economy perspective on sexuality.

We have also developed resources that can enable such a framework of understanding. Some of these activities relate to broader conceptual processes and some to specific cases.

Building Alliances across movements

A broader objective of the Sexuality and Development Programme is to enable collaboration and conversation between movements in the global south in ways that are not dominated by western notions of sexuality and gender. At the same time we seek to enable critical conversation amongst Euro-North American activist about assumptions, stereotypes and appropriation of progressive discourse by discourses of violence and exclusion. Several of the strands of our work are planned in such a way as to intersect later in the program period.

We are also growing deeper relationships with the other workstreams in the Gender, Power and Sexuality Programme, particularly with the theme working on Men, Masculinities and HIV.

Project details

start date
1 October 2011
end date
30 September 2014


About this project

Recent work


Undressing Patriarchy: Redressing Inequalities

Patriarchy may be seen as an old-fashioned term with little relevance to current work on gender, yet these kinds of questions motivated participants to get excited about the notion of ‘Undressing Patriarchy’ and inspired them to draft background papers and to travel across the world to take...

19 November 2013


Sexuality and the Economy in China

IDS Sexuality and Development Programme;

This publication examines the changing relationships between sex and money in contemporary China. Factors such as marriage or other forms of sexual expression still impact upon access to resources, whilst financial and economic status impacts dramatically upon access to sex and partners, as well...

1 July 2013