Evidence and policy findings

This stream generates evidence on the implications of law, from the transnational to the national level, on the lives of particular groups of people who hold, practice and perform sexualities that are marginalised. 

To this end, we have worked with partners across the world to compile a series of seven Legal Case Studies in Nepal, Uganda, South Africa, Cambodia, Egypt and Vietnam. 

Each case study identifies a specific national law or legal process and, through engaging with key partners in each country, outlines the implications of this legislation on the lives of people marginalised on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.


  • Sex Workers, Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation in Ethiopia

    • Although the criminal law against adult sex work is not enforced, it does exacerbate poverty by depriving sex workers of the civil rights and access to services they need. 
    • To remove structural determinants of poverty the law should be removed to make way for sex workers to claim rights under labour and other administrative legal provisions and to benefit from antidiscrimination and other human rights law. 
    • The inclusion of sex workers in Ethiopia’s Social Protection Policy should be recognised and applauded. 
    • All adult women born in Ethiopia who sell sex so should be able obtain an ID card regardless of their location, background or other status.
  • Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice: What's Law Got to Do with It?

    • Edited Collection from an international symposium organised by the Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme. Many of those involved in this publication are directly involved in and affected by the issues to which the Edited Collection’s title speaks.
    • It explores different processes by which activists and other actors have worked for change, interrogates what we mean when we talk about ‘solidarity’, and questions the usefulness and place of law.
    • This Collection offers multiple routes to sexuality and gender justice and numerous suggestions of what sexuality and gender justice could be in a plurality of contexts. 
    • It suggests that there are many potential pitfalls and barriers to justice or progress.
  • Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s Law Got to Do with It? International Symposium Workshop Report

    • 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.
  • Sexuality and the Law: Case Studies from Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal and South Africa

    • Engaging with the law and seeking policy reform is potentially a dangerous activity especially in countries which do uphold the rule of law or where laws are in rapid flux and have little correspondence to lived social realities.
    • Sexuality is significant in relation to law and development
    • Sexuality should be explored as a broad concept and not to be confined by specific forms of categorisation of sexualities but identities and constructs can also provide entry points and modalities for legal recognition, funding for essential services and other advantages.
    • Even when the rule of law is strong, this does not ensure that the law and legal processes are appropriate or accessible.
  • Case Study: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women Living with HIV in South Africa

    • This case study presents five examples of the violation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women living with HIV, and explores the underlying causes and dynamics. 
    • The review presents a number of key recommendations for South African activists, the South African government, and international donors such as measures to harmonise existing policies to fit the needs of women living with HIV
    • Establish and institutionalise rights-based training for health care workers and to institute redress mechanisms for women whose rights have been violated
  • BOOSHTEE! Survival and Resilience in Ethiopia

    • Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia, same-sex behaviour is not prosecuted because the government views it as a low law enforcement priority 
    • The illegality of same-sex relations continues to drive and justify social and economic exclusion and human rights abuses of same-sex attracted people
  • Negotiating Public and Legal Spaces: The Emergence of an LGBT Movement in Vietnam

    • Over the past five years there has been a big increase in the public visibility of LGBT persons and civil society organisations. The first LGBT Pride event was held in 2012 in spite of legal restrictions on peaceful assembly.
    • Laws regarding family and marriage are selectively enforced. While same-sex marriage is prohibited by law, some couples are able to hold unofficial wedding ceremonies without being fined.
  • Case Study: A Progressive Constitution Meets Lived Reality: Sexuality and the Law in South Africa

    • In the South African legal context, hate crimes are not yet recognised as a specific category, despite high levels of physical and sexual assault based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Homophobia, conservatism and a weak rule of law have made it difficult for gay, lesbian and transgender people to realise their rights as enshrined in the South African Consitution.   
  • Case Study: The legal status of the Anti Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

    • The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda contains a number of provisions that, for legal reasons, are nearly impossible to implement. Two examples include:
      1. The difficulty of collecting evidence as there is no 'complainant' for sex between consenting adults;
      2. The punishment is 'disproportionate' under criminal law as there is no vicitm of the 'crime' of homosexuality between consenting adults.
  • Development, Discourse and Law: Transgender and Same-Sex Sexualities in Nepal

    • In 2011, Nepal became the first country in the world to add a third category in addition to male and female in the national population and housing census. Since 2013, the state have begun to issue citizenship documents listing a third gender.
    • While this affirms the equal citizenship rights of third gender people in Nepal, they continue to experience explicit prejudice, lack of economic opportunity and familial rejection. 
  • Politically Motivated Sexual Assault and the Law in Violent Transitions: A Case Study from Egypt

    • The current legal system does not recognise men as victims of sexual assault.

Our work

Our work considers the relationship between sexuality and the law from multiple angles, and proposes recommendations for policy makers and activists working in the field in order to ensure that these studies contribute to a wider set of debates taking place at a national, regional and global level. 

The legal case studies outline key government departments and legislative frameworks that mandated a set of policies that either stipulated which sexualities were criminal (see Jjuuko and Tumwesige 2013) or failed to introduce vital policies to enforce progressive laws that protected sexual minorities from discrimination (see Lewin et al. 2013).