Sexuality and the development industry

Sexuality and the development industry

In April 2008, 70-plus activists, academics, donors and development practitioners from more than 25 countries gathered at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton to explore the complex linkages between sexuality and the development industry. Participants came from a range of professional, activist and academic backgrounds, with varying degrees of identification with the topics on the table. Amidst this diversity, those who attended were united by a desire to look critically at how the development industry addresses sexuality, and to identify entry points for bringing development policies and practices –including efforts to address HIV and AIDS – into closer alignment with the complexity of people’s desires, struggles and identities. Norms and normativity in general, and heteronormativity in particular, were central themes in the workshop. Much of the research and analysis that participants shared aimed to locate and question the norms and ideologies – rarely explicit – that shape development policies, programmes, funding and discourses. As activists, many of the people who participated in the workshop seek to challenge norms in their own lives and with the individuals and communities with whom they work. Participants also emphasised that the goal is not just to take norms apart: they are also trying to construct ‘good’ norms about equality, freedom, diversity, human rights and sexual rights. However, concern was expressed about how their work to reconstruct norms could end up creating new problems. [abstract adapted from author]

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