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Publication

IDS working papers 294

Whose sexuality counts? : poverty, participation and sexual rights

Published on 27 June 2022

Sexuality and sexual rights have generally been treated as secondary to ‘more
important matters’ such as poverty. The first part of this paper explores the linkages
between sexuality and other areas which are considered to be priorities in
development, such as health, education, work, migration and political participation.
It shows that sexuality is about so much more than sex. Social norms around
sexuality have a huge impact on other areas, for example feminine boys and
pregnant girls are more likely to drop out of school due to bullying, social pressure
and lack of support, and employers and colleagues discriminate against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people at work. Rights based approaches must maintain
the principle of the integrality and indivisibility of human rights, and recognise the
interdependence of sexual rights with rights to health, housing, food and employment.
And if poverty is understood to be not just material, but to also be about
exclusion, illbeing, and restrictions on capacities and freedom, then the lack of
sexual rights in itself constitutes poverty. A call is made for greater attention to
sexuality from development agencies.
The second part of the paper shows how participatory approaches can be a valid
strategy to include sexual rights and wellbeing in the development agenda. It is
important to acknowledge that not every participation experience is transformative,
and to address the limitations of participation. Yet participation in some cases does
bring about both personal and social transformation, including in relation to
sexuality. Sexuality is an issue that enables people to work with politics at a very
personal level; the very intimacy of working with issues of citizenship and rights
through the lens of sexuality makes space for a transformative process of selfreflection
that can lead to social action.
Keywords: sexuality, sexual rights, rights based approaches, poverty, participation,
democracy.

Publication details

published by
IDS
authors
Armas, Henry
language
English

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