Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s Law Got to Do with It? International Symposium Workshop Report

Evidence Report (IDS)
Lalor, K; Haste, P; Vaast, C
Institute of Development Studies
Publication date: 
Tuesday, 1 September, 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. Participants 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.

In the course of these discussions, a number of key themes and questions emerged: The space and role of law, dialogues and the use of language within international forums, terminology such as ‘LGBT’ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) limits our understanding of the lived experiences of individuals’ lives, power dynamics, politics and the state, resources and solidarity and representation.

  • There is a need for a more careful unpacking of the power dynamics of different relationships, including global-local, South-South and within movements.
  • Recognition of the problematic power dynamics of global-local interactions must be followed by the implementation of strategies to address these dynamics. 
  • There is an urgent need to close the gap between progressive law and its implementation and to ensure that sound, evidence-based policy is fully realised in practice. 
  • Research capacity in institutions and universities in the global South should be supported and developed in order to promote effective research and to develop a strong evidence base for activism and ownership of research output.
  • The lived experience of marginalisation and poverty perpetuates vulnerability and further marginalises. A more nuanced and intersectional approach to engaging with and acknowledging lived experiences is required.
  • In order to respond to the challenges of social injustices, recognition and creation of spaces for alliances and dialogues that move beyond, or do not fit neatly into a ‘human rights’ or an ‘LGBT’ framework are required.
  • International support for training and funding is key.
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