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Pathways to Sexuality and Women’s Empowerment

The role that gender plays in a range of broad development areas. Issues of focus include governance, gender based violence, the economy, sexual and reproductive rights, citizenship and social movements.
The narrow way in which gender equality and women’s empowerment has been dealt with in development policy and practice has often excluded sexuality. A ‘sexuality lens’ can provide new ways of looking at development problems. If for example, you look at women’s empowerment through a sexuality lens, you see a more complete and realistic picture of a woman: not a victim, nor an end-product ‘empowered’ woman, but a woman with a complex and changing life. You see a woman whose well-being depends, among other things, on making choices about her own body, about pleasure and about her own sexuality. You also see a woman who lives within or perhaps challenges the confines of social pressure and expectations about her behaviour.

The resources in this guide complied by Pathways of Women's Empowerment bring together thinking on sexuality and women’s empowerment from around the world. Some papers outline the hidden way in which issues related to gender and sexuality open up or constrain the possibility of political, economic and gender justice. Some consider how a focus on sexuality can alter thinking on development or the ways in which people organise to make claims for rights. Others point to the limits of traditional approaches to women’s empowerment – legal reform and social protection – in the realisation of sexual rights.

More cutting edge research and work on sexuality can also be found at the Sexuality section of the Institute of Development website.

Sexuality and Women's Empowerment

Eldis Guide: Heteronormativity
K, Hawkins; S. Wood; G. Aboud 2013
Heteronormativity is considered a very abstract concept by some but it has serious implications for international development. The term heteronormativity grew out of “Queer Theory” and is the assumption that heterosexualit...
Sexuality and Empowerment: An Intimate Connection
K, Hawkins; A, Cornwall; T, Lewin / Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC 2011
What does sexuality have to do with women’s empowerment? Research from Pathways of Women’s Empowerment shows that sexuality affects women’s political and economic empowerment in a number of important ways. For exampl...
Sex Workers’ Struggles in Bangladesh: Learnings for the Women’s Movement
S. Huq / BRIDGE 2005
In 1999 the government of Bangladesh forcefully evicted sex workers from a large cluster of brothels just outside Dhaka. Members of the sex worker organisation Ulka immediately sought support from Naripokkho, a country-wide women&rsqu...
Changing Narratives of Sexuality – Concept Paper, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Working Paper 4
C. Pereira 2008
The focus of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment thematic group on Changing Narratives of Sexuality is simultaneously a focus on the multiple changes shaping women’s relations to sexuality and power, and on the ways in whi...
‘Sexual Pleasure Empowers Women!’, Contestations, Issue 2
S. Jolly 2010
In this issue of Contestations the editor argues that images of women as victims are rampant in gender and development and that this is particularly the case in discussions of sexuality, where the world is portrayed as so fraught with...
BRIDGE Gender and Development in Brief, Issue 18, ‘Sexuality’
BRIDGE 2007
Sexuality can bring misery through sexual violence, HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, female genital mutilation, or marginalisation of those who break the rules, such as non-macho men, single women, widows who re-marry, sex workers, peopl...
Policy Audit: Social Protection Policies and Urban Poor LBTs in the Philippines
A. Lim 2013
GALANG’s work with lesbians, bisexual women, and trans men (LBTs) living in urban slums indicates that while marriage is of course an important issue, it is hardly foremost in the minds of many Filipino LBTs who are systematical...
Religion and Muslim Women: Trajectories of Empowerment
S. Huq; S. I. Khondaker / Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC 2011
The  report  is  based  on  a  two year  research  project  in  which  the authors  looked  at women’s everyday engagement with religion. They aimed to gain insigh...