Category Archives: gender and sexuality

“Being a macho kills”

Sociologist, Oscar Guasch teaches sexual criminology and Sociology of Sexuality at the University of Barcelona. His activity articulates around the identification and reconstruction of the discourses and practices of ‘power’, the origins and political uses of heterosexuality, the social consequences of AIDS and the masculine identities and homophobia, among others. At present he is carrying out an investigation on prostitution among men in Barcelona.

In your writings you criticize the hegemonic gay movement basically for accepting to be tolerated at the price of laminating its diversity and for being incapable of legitimizing and exporting the love among men to the whole group of them.

There exist social processes that are born to free people but with the time become normalizers. The feminist movements, for instance, start to free women but certain feminisms becomes ‘state feminism’ or marxisism, which is born to free the proletariat but certain Marxism becomes proletariat dictatorship and real socialism. The gay movement is born to fight homophobia but in the end a certain part of it says exactly how homosexual people have to be. If you are poor, old and homosexual you do not have social visibility.

Why did the hegemonic gay movement become normalizer?

For a collection of factors. The ‘pink peseta’, that is the fact the ghetto, which is never volunteer but a strategy of the subordinate groups to survive in an hostile environment, generates an important market of consumption. The political context, which in Spain has surely to do with the ‘zapaterism’, that is with an attempt of redefinition of the left wing starting from social policies of visibility that cost no money such as the law regulating the homosexual marriage.

The existence of certain gay leaders who have used the movement to promote themselves, something that happens everywhere. A certain need of many homosexual people to be accepted, to be able to say ‘I am normal too, I can get married’ and a lot of well versed homophobia by many homosexuals, the fact of being able to say ‘I am a correct homosexual, I am not promiscuous, I am not effeminate, I am not a queen’. All this has created a context where a certain archetypal model of ‘gay to imitate’ was produced.

The crisis will change this all. Spain has passed in the last 15 years from the sheep to the convertible. In the next future we will become a modest country and this is going to create many social problems for what to acceptation is concerned. A lot of people will be demanding authoritarianism and order and there will be social rage casted on immigrants, probably on the homosexuals and trans they will find close because it is very complicated for a society to have its social status diminished.

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On sexual and reproductive rights, Meet Jacqueline Sharpe

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Jacqueline Sharpe is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist from Trinidad and Tobago and the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global service provider and a leading advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights working in 150 countries. Its areas of action include abortion, access, adolescents, advocacy and AIDS/HIV.

Although there is an area of over-lap between them, sexual and reproductive rights are two separate issues.

Sexual rights include the right of all people to make free and responsible decisions about all aspects of their own sexuality, including deciding to be sexually active or not and protecting and promoting their reproductive and sexual health; The right to be free from discrimination, coercion and violence in one’s sexual life, and when making sexual decisions; The right to expect and demand equality, full consent, mutual respect and shared responsibility in all sexual relationships and to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

On the other side reproductive rights include the rights of couples and individuals to freely and responsibly decide the number, spacing and timing of their children; The right to have the information, education and means to make the above decisions; The right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health and the right to make decisions free from discrimination, coercion and violence.

Sexual and reproductive rights are included in international conventions such as CEDAW (see blogroll), the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, and the Plan of Action which emerged from the International Conference on Population and Development (El Cairo, 1994).

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Between sexuality, gender and rights: A story from Sub-Saharan Africa

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Both the majority of worldwide countries  (38 out of 76) criminalizing same-sex sexual activities and the one with the first constitution in the world to explicitly prohibit unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (South Africa) belong to the African continent.

Last month the first ever African Same Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity (ASSGD) conference took place in Pretoria, South Africa. A country that in these matters has carried out some other legal steps that constitute records world-wide. In 2006 it became the fifth country in the world –and the first in the continent- to legalise same-sex marriages and it is one of the few countries where it is explicitly permitted to change gender on official documents (the others are Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Argentina).

“The reality on the ground is very different from the laws”, says He-Jin Kim, the representative at the conference of GenderDynamiX, a South African Human Rights organisation dedicated to promoting the rights of transgender people and one of the organizers of the event.

“The so called ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians is very common in black townships in South Africa. Besides, while the law allows changing gender without the need for actual surgery its implementation is lacking and it is rare that transgender people succeed in accessing this legal provision. There is also little access to transgender related healthcare and in light of the gravity of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, it must be noted that sexual health services are for the most part inaccessible to transgender people due to prevailing stigma and ignorance”, she says.

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Gender inequality as HIV social driver

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According to the UNAIDS (UN programme on HIV/AIDS) 2010 report 22.5 out of around 33.3 million people globally living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, where young women between 15 and 24 years old are 8 times more likely than men to be HIV positive. 80% of the women living with HIV worldwide live in the region.

Gender inequality remains one of the main HIV social drivers. According to the UNAIDS report the HIV epidemics and sex and reproductive health are intertwined. HIV related causes contribute to at least 20% of maternal deaths and countries with high HIV rates also have high teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortion rates while very few countries involve men in reproductive health programmes. Violence and HIV rates are also often associated.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the only regions where the number of people living with HIV has almost tripled since 2000. The proportion of women living with HIV is also growing. Female sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men, whom remain often underserved in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, account for most of the new infections both in these regions and worldwide.

Nafis Sadik is Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. As former head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) she became the first woman, in the history of the United Nations, to lead one of its major voluntarily funded programmes. She is an expert on international maternal and child health, reproductive and sexual health, including family planning, on population and development and gender and development. She was born in Pakistan and lives in the United States.

In its action items on gender equality the UNAIDS 2010 report calls for the need of countries to address the needs of men who have sex with men through prevention interventions that go beyond health service provisions. What could these be and where are there positive examples that go this way?

We need to make men more responsible and educate them in the importance of women and in the need to keep them safe.

The issue has to be discussed also at policy level because even if now many governments have special programmes for men who have sex with men they haven’t changed the laws in their countries (for instance 79 countries criminalize same sex relations between consenting adults) nor they address the problems of the laws enforcement agency.

The effort is now for governments to have public advocacy programmes at national, regional and local level also by talking to religious and tribe leaders and to strengthen attention and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

HIV is socially not accepted and so are MSM (a medical and social research designation for men who have sex with men). Many of these men are also married, so they go to their male partners, get infected and then bring the infection back to their female partners. In a sense, there is a need not only to prevent HIV among them but also to protect the general population.

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Meet Julia Suryakusuma

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Currently known as one of Indonesia’s leading and most outspoken opinion-makers, Julia Suryakusuma – columnist, author, activist, feminist, cultural critic – is hard to pigeon-hole. Being Indonesian, but born in India and raised in Europe (UK, Hungary, and Italy) following her parents who worked as diplomats, she was always a foreigner abroad and a stranger in her own country, which made it possible for her to constantly look at things from different perspectives.

As a columnist (writing for the Jakarta Post, the International Herald Tribune, The Daily Yomiuri, NRC Handelsblad, among others), she always tries to “generate a debate” on the most pressing social, political and cultural issues affecting Indonesia.
She is the author of “Sex, Power and Nation: an Anthology of Writings, 1979-2003 (Metafor, 2004), and “Julia’s Jihad” (Prunsoop, 2009, in Korean, and Mizan, 2010 in Indonesian; in English, forthcoming in 2011), and lives in Jakarta.

How and when did you start dealing with the relationship between sex and power in Indonesia?
In 1981 I was asked to be a guest-editor for Prisma (at the time the most prominent Indonesian social science journal), to do an issue on women. It was the first time that women’s issues were addressed from a feminist perspective in my country. Then in the mid-eighties I started doing research on the social construction of womanhood in New Order Indonesia which eventually became the first gendered analysis of Suharto’s New Order (1966-1998).

What was this social construction about?
The way that women were defined, i.e. constructed, was in such a way to buttress state power. At the time we had an authoritarian, militaristic government and the entire society was supposed to obey it. One of the things that had not been done by then was to show how the state created an ideology and structures that allowed the control of women. This was done first by defining them as wives and then by creating women’s organizations that paralleled the hierarchy of the male bureaucracy. The most important one was Dharma Wanita, the civil servants wives organization, which was in fact controlled by the State.

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