Evidence and policy findings

“We can’t say we are achieving poverty reduction, hunger reduction, universal health care, education, empowerment of women and gender equality when parts of the population aren’t even factored in to existing programs. In many places LGBT people are not part of the discussions…” (Grace Poore, UN Commission on the Status of Women, March 2014).

In creating an evidence base on the relationship between poverty and sexuality, the work conducted through this stream has asked: 

  • What are the economic implications for lesbian workers who are not protected by national economic policy from being fired or treated prejudicially by a homophobic employer in the Philippines? 
  • How does an unemployed same-sex couple with a family access South Africa’s welfare provisions when those writing the White Paper on Families have a narrow vision of a nuclear family headed by a man, in a heterosexual relationship? 


  • Transgender at Work: Livelihoods for Transgender People in Vietnam

    • The laws in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam promote equality for all citizens and refer to ‘persons’ rather than ‘men’ or ‘women’. However, because of traditional gender norms, transgender people in Vietnam are facing severe stigma and discrimination in public, in schools, at home and in the workplace.
    • Before 1975, homosexuality and transgenderism were considered ‘social diseases’, ‘social evils’, and were targets for elimination in government health and public policies; after 1975, there was a higher emphasis on this as the public saw them as remnants of American neo-colonialism.
    • Transgender people have difficulty accessing services and rights as they cannot change their personal identification card, which is an obstacle to obtaining social services, housing and work. 
    • Gender roles and norms affect the employment practices, options and preferences of transmen and transwomen differently. 
  • Developing More Effective Strategies for Sex Work, Law and Poverty

    • Decriminalisation of sex work remains a priority
    • Evaluation needed of Economic Empowerment Programmes (EEP)
    • Legal recognition is a cost-effective and politically realistic intervention to improve lives of sex workers
    • Resources needed to research the efficacy of Biomedical HIV prevention and care
  • Policy Audit: Sexuality and Disability in Policies Affecting Chinese People with Disabilities

    • Law-makers and policymakers at the national level should involve people with disabilities and grass-roots organisations in the consultation processes, to guarantee their needs and desires are represented and reflected in the policies and laws that are relevant to them
    • Local and regional ministries that are responsible for implementing national policies should integrate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights across national policies and provide better access to sexual health resources for people with disabilities
    • NGOs and the civil society sector working on disability issues need to work across fields with NGOs working on sexuality issues to reach a better understanding of disability and sexuality issues
  • Case Study: Livelihood, Exclusion and Opportunity: Socioeconomic Welfare among Gender and Sexuality Non-normative People in India

    • Facilitate awareness-generation sessions on psycho-social, medical and legal processes involved in feminisation/masculinisation (gender identity change, sexual reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy) for transgender people
    • Facilitate continuing initiatives that train and handhold people in negotiating the rules and regulations (paperwork) in applying for and accessing social security schemes, including timely follow-up
    • Support community discourse42 on issues of gender, sexuality and human rights to generate awareness and address self-stigma among people with non-normative genders and sexualities through community meetings/events/other forums
  • Same-Sex Sexualities, Gender Variance, Economy and Livelihood in Nepal: Exclusions, Subjectivity and Development

    • The poverty and poor socioeconomic conditions in which many sexual and gender minority peoples live should be addressed through holistic initiatives that extend beyond skills training 
    • Initiatives addressing discrimination and socioeconomic marginalisation should be mainstreamed within pre-existing development projects
    • Specifically within the context of Nepal, avenues for people of sexual and gender minority experience to receive formal recognition and certification of their education, skills and qualifications is imperative for chances to obtain employment
  • Case Study: How Filipino LBTs Cope with Economic Disadvantage

    • SOGIE rights should advocates challenge the ‘victim’ discourse in migration and highlight the impact of increased financial independence on the exercise of SOGIE rights.
    • Policymakers, development actors and researchers investigate the links among SOGIE, labour and migration, and conduct further studies that can measure the impact of financial independence on the exercise of SOGIE rights
    • The Philippine government should immediately enact an anti-discrimination law that covers workplace discrimination based on SOGIE, and penalises the imposition of genderconformity criteria such as uniforms, hair length, etc.
  • Literature Review on Sexuality and Poverty

    • Considerable work has now developed the case for sexuality as an appropriate concept for a development agenda. 
    • The arguments for including sexuality within the development agenda are linked to the acknowledgement of sexuality as a social and political process.
  • Case Study: Sexuality, Poverty and Politics in Rwanda

    • Homosexuality has never been criminalised and sexual orientation has been designated a 'private matter' by government
    • Civil society organisations have some freedom to work on LGBT issues as long as they are aligned with the government's agenda
  • Policy Audit: 'Marriage Above All Else': The Push for Heterosexual, Nuclear Families in the Making of South Africa's White Paper on Families

    • South Africa is the only country in Africa where same-sex marriage is legal.
    • Despite a progressive constitution which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, non-heterosexual families continue to be excluded from the benefits of the South African welfare system
  • Policy Audit: Social Protection Policies and Urban Poor LBTs in the Philippines

    • Philippine law does not criminalize consensual same-sex acts and the principle of equality and non-discrimination are enshrined in the Constitution.
    • However, homosexuality continues to be policed in other ways such as arbitrary arrest by rogue enforcement officers, discrimination in social protection policies and bullying within the education system.
  • Policy Audit: A heteronormativity audit of RMSA - a higher education programme in Indian schools

    • Fears about sexuality are a key reason for parents withdrawing girls from secondary education. This includes fears about girls' expressing their desires as well as fears about sexual violence.
    • The only place where sexuality is addressed in the examinable curriculum is through human reproduction in science textbooks. Evidence suggests that this is often taught inadequately as teachers feel inhibited and lack the skills to deliver the content appropriately.
  • Sex work and economic empowerment programmes in Ethiopia

    • Prostitution is not explicitly criminalised and sex work is wide-spread and conducted with relative openness.
    • The vast majority of sex workers are 'undocumented' which means they do not have access to basic services like healthcare and education, land rights and water, and the right to vote, open a bank account, or register a marriage or birth.
  • From Sex Work to Entertainment and Trafficking: Implications of a Paradigm Shift for Sexuality, Law and Activism in Cambodia

    • Under Cambodian Law sexual exploitation refers only to women
    • Because of the 'Palermo Protocol', Cambodia lacks the autonomy to make its own law/policy decisions about responses to sex work.
  • Education policies in Brazil

    • Research indicates that many trans young people, and poor trans youth in particular, drop out of education or under perform due to bullying and violence in Brazilian schools.
    • Religious moral conservatism has played a big part in the failure of the 2004 'Brazil without Homophobia' programme to achieve its objectives of combating discrimination and supporting sexual diversity in the education system.

Our work

Working with partners in South Africa, the Philippines, Brazil, India and China, this stream has completed five Policy Audits that consider the implications of particular development policies on the lives and livelihoods of people marginalised on the basis of their sexuality.

Findings from this stream detail how national law and policy has implications for people’s lives at a local level. 

The policy audits offer evidence demonstrating consequences of framing development policy in narrow terms that:

  • Presume a capacity to speak for and reflect the sexual and health needs of disabled people in China (He, 2014).
  • Or that reflect the power of discourse to frame policies that exclude individuals and couples who are not necessarily heterosexual in South Africa (Charles, 2013).

The policy audits consider the assumptions that have guided the framing of a range of national policies, and  show how this framing quietly marginalises sections of the population based on their sexuality.

  • In Brazil, Mountian describes how the religious right in the national government became exceptionally powerful and was able to reframe the content of, and therefore side-line, the anti-homophobia policy that had been established for primary and secondary-level education.

In raising these issues for development policies and policy makers, we aim to generate an evidence-base that shows how particular kinds of development policies aimed at alleviating poverty might actually be obscuring or failing sections of the population that hold non-normative sexualities.

A photograph about a protest against the inclusion of Trans and Trans* people in 2008; they were lobbying against the Human Rights Campaign lobbying for the removal from of the gender identity from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 

View our policy outputs on sexualtiy and poverty