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Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s law got to do with it?

How useful is the law for attaining sexual rights? And what is the scope for joint working to advance sexual rights? These key questions were explored by activists, legal practitioners and scholars at a unique international symposium, hosted by the Institute of Development Studies. #sexsocjustice


  1. As global efforts are increasingly focused on the work of lawyers and the power of law to achieve social and economic justice for those marginalised because of their sexual or gender non-conformity, there is an urgent need for more information and critical thinking on the impact of legal challenge on the everyday lives of individuals and the communities affected.

    At this critical juncture, the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme is interrogating the changing dynamics of sexual politics by asking: how do law and legal processes translate into lived experience in different socio-economic, political and legal contexts?
  2. In March 2015, IDS and Kent Law School convened a Sexuality and Social Justice Symposium that aimed to critically assess the scope and limitations of the law in the context of sexuality and gender, by bringing together legal practitioners, activists and scholars from around the world to explore different legal pathways and their role in reducing economic and social exclusion.
  3. Setting the tone for the Symposium, research partners from the SPL Programme gave an IDS seminar where they shared findings and implications from their research in Vietnam, Nepal, The Philippines and Ethiopia.
  4. In addition, these IDS partners also wrote blog pieces to contextualise their research findings and bring the realities of the legal and economic disadvantage experienced in communities to life.
  5. In the last few years, interest in examining the economic impact that exclusion has on gender and sexual minorities has also risen up the political agenda with the World Bank commissioning a report from Professor Lee Badgett on the cost of homophobia in India. The findings have sparked both methodological and ideological debates within sexual rights movements and received a great deal of press attention.
  6. Before the symposium, the organisers asked a series of challenging questions via social media to ensure that the conversation spread beyond the meeting itself and drew in a wide range of viewpoints.
  7. As guests started to arrive for the symposium, IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law Convenor Dr Elizabeth Mills penned a blog post that set out the context in which the symposium will be taking place.
  8. Day 1 kicked off with a rousing keynote speech by Dr Rahul Rao of the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London