Key Resources: Sexualities

A note on terminology

The resources below come from a wide range of organisations and institutions working to achieve equality for all. Acronyms used differ between them (LGBT, LGBTI, SGM, SOGI SOGIESC, LGBTQI and LGBTQIA+). In our summaries, the acronyms we use are as they appear in the original source.

Human rights and sexuality
Citizenship, governance, and law
Displacement and conflict
International development and sexuality
Sex work, power, and development
Sexuality, faith, and fundamentalisms
Activism and organising
Organisations and websites

Human rights and sexuality

The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2006) available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish

Existing human rights law nowhere addresses the violence, persecution, and discrimination experienced specifically by those who do not conform to the heteronormative model. The Yogyakarta Principles were formulated in 2006 to address this gap, and provide, in the absence of inclusion and protection specifically for LGBTI people in international law as it currently stands, a reference point and guide for governments (as duty-bearers in international law), human rights bodies, activists and others. The 29 Principles relate tenets of existing human rights law, (for example, Principle 1 is the Right to Universal Enjoyment of Universal Human Rights; and Principle 2 is the Rights to Equality and Non-Discrimination) to LGBTI people, and each Principle sets out what measures States should undertake in order that these rights may be realised by their citizens.

The Yogyakarta Principles plus 10: Additional Principles and State Obligations on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics to Complement the Yogyakarta Principles (2017) 27 pp.

Published in November 2017, these nine Additional Principles and 111 additional State Obligations to the original Yogyakarta Principles reflect developments in both international human rights law and the understanding of the type of rights violations experienced by people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Also reflected, through the Principles’ expansion to include gender expression and sex characteristics is the recognition of violations affecting people on these specific grounds. The Additional Principles include: Principle 30 – The Right to State Protection; Principle 33 – The Right to Freedom from Criminalisation and Sanction on the Basis of SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics); and Principle 35 – The Right to Sanitation.

An Activist’s Guide to The Yogyakarta Principles (2010) Sheila Quinn, ARC International,  75 pp.

This guide opens with an overview of the Yogyakarta Principles and the context in which they were created. Included is a valuable outline of the international human rights system (including regional bodies) and their engagement, or otherwise, with issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) up to 2010 (the date of publication of the Guide). The second section examines the Principles thematically, grouping them together into categories such as health, treatment within the judicial system, families, and more, and making links to the international laws on which the Principles are based. Section Three – The Yogyakarta Principles in Action – brings together case studies from around the world illustrating the impact of the Principles in areas such as national legal decisions, policy change, and improved health service delivery. The final section of the Guide – Applying the Principles – sets out the ways in which different levels of engagement with the principles by activists and organisations can help support and develop their work. (It would be very good to see the author/publishers of this guide producing an updated version in due course, in the light of the publication of the Principles plus 10, in 2017.)

United Nations Treaty Bodies: References to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (2016) Kseniya Kirichenko, Geneva: ILGA, 277 pp.

This annual report compiles and analyses all references to SOGIESC by seven UN Treaty Bodies (that is, the committees that oversee the implementation of UN human rights treaties). Treaty Bodies issue General Comments (which are interpretations of their respective treaties), respond to Individual Communications (complaints of treaty violations brought by individuals or organisations) and raise List of Issues, which are lists of issues and questions for governments before the regular reviews of treaty implementation. The report provides an overview of each Committee’s approach to and actions around SOGIESC issues, plus a list of resources to aid civil society organisations in their engagement with the Treaty Bodies, making it, like the resource below, a vital tool for advocates seeking to use the UN system to advance the human rights of LGBTI people.

The UN Special Procedures: A Guide for Advocates Working on Human Rights Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2015) ARC International, Geneva: ARC International, 12 pp.

The UN Special Procedures is a term used for expert UN human rights experts who investigate human rights issues either on a country or thematic basis. This guide provides information on how these experts carry out their roles, why activists should work with them, and how they can do this. The Guide includes a list of Special Procedures (ie. experts) who are, or have been, of particular relevance in working on SOGI rights issues, for example, the Special Rapporteur on torture, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. As the Guide was published in 2015, this list does not include the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a post created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. In November 2016, a close vote by a UN General Assembly committee affirmed that the newly-appointed Independent Expert should be allowed to continue his work, following attempts by African countries to challenge the creation of the post.

Resolution on Protection against Violence and Other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (2014) The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the body that monitors the implementation of the regional human rights treaty, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. In 2014, partly in response to rising levels of hostility, intolerance and violence towards LGBT people – including the introduction of punitive laws – in parts of Africa, the Commission passed this resolution. Expressing alarm at the violence and human rights abuses experienced by many LGBTI people and SOGI rights advocates by both State and non-State actors on the continent, it calls for States to ensure an enabling environment for SOGI rights activists, and to bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

Sexual Health, Human Rights and the Law (2015) World Health Organization, Geneva: WHO, 76 pp.

Defining sexual health as ‘a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality’ (p. 1), and arguing that ‘it has become clear that human sexuality includes many different forms of behaviour and expression, and [ ] the recognition of the diversity of sexual behaviour and expression contributes to people’s overall sense of well-being and health’, (p. 1) this paper from the World Health Organization examines the relationship between sexual health, human rights and the law. It argues that with ill health related to sexuality representing a significant disease burden throughout the world, States have an obligation to bring their laws and regulations relating to sexual health into alignment with human rights laws and standards that support and promote sexual health.

Declaration of Sexual Rights (2014) World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), available in English and Spanish

First articulated in 1997 and revised in 2014, this Declaration sets out the 16 rights its framers – WAS – consider are necessary for a person to achieve the highest attainable sexual health. WAS has been at the forefront of developing the understanding of sexual health at the global level (see Defining sexual health: report of a technical consultation on sexual health, 28–31 January 2002, Geneva: World Health Organization, 2006),  and a for a full discussion of the Declaration of Sexual Rights, see the article Sexual Rights as Human Rights: A Guide for the World Association for Sexual Health Declaration of Sexual Rights, Eszter Kismödi et al., in the International Journal of Sexual Health 29(S1): 1-92.

Citizenship, governance, and law

Sexuality and Citizenship (2018) Diane Richardson, Cambridge and Medford, MA: Polity Press, ISBN: 978-1-509-51420-5, 224 pp.

In this book, the author considers the concept of sexual citizenship. In the same way that others have been rendered less than full members of society, with access to rights denied on the basis of sex, race/ethnicity, caste or religion, heteronormative standards have precluded full equality on the grounds of SOGI for many. The book explores the different interpretations of sexual citizenship, its development as a concept, how it applies in the global North/global South and the attendant arguments around individual versus collective rights, and sexual citizenship in the context of neo-liberalism and globalisation.

Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice: What’s Law Got to Do with It? (2016) Kay Lalor, Elizabeth Mills, Arturo Sánchez García and Polly Haste (eds.), Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, 156 pp.

This is a wide-ranging collection of contributions, which includes academic papers, casestudies, think pieces and more. The publication is organised into two sections, the first assessing the potential of the law for attaining sexual and gender justice, and the second considering the scope for working collaboratively in pursuit of justice. Contributions in the first section make clear that while the law can be used to promote and protect equality, and potentially transform attitudes, it can, equally, serve to reflect prejudices in society and be used to exclude and punish. Law also functions within an economic context, which must be taken into consideration when seeking to address marginalisation and exclusion. With this in mind, the second section examines the scope for collaborative working in pursuit of sexual rights, offering examples of successful activism, and barriers where they occurred. Contributions cover a broad range of SOGI, LGBTI and women’s rights experiences, and come from a large number of geographical contexts.

State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition, 12th Edition, May (2017) Aengus Carroll and Lucas Ramón Mendos, Geneva: International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association,) 196 pp.,  available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French Russian and Spanish

First published in 2006, and produced annually, the IGLA World Survey provides an up-to-date listing of legislation relating to sexual orientation and gender identity across the globe. This includes information on the 72 states where sexual relationships between men are illegal, the 45 states where sexual relationships between women are illegal, the 14 states where legislation provides for the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts, and the eight states where the death penalty is actually implemented. ILGA also produces a set of maps each year, which are visual representations of the information contained in the report. These are available in Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

Trans Legal Mapping Report: Recognition before the law. 2nd Edition (2017) Zan Chian, Sandra Duffy and Matilda González Gil, Geneva: ILGA, 120 pp., available in English and Spanish

IGLA’s Trans Legal Mapping Report is an invaluable compilation of the laws, policies and administrative procedures across the world allowing trans and gender-diverse people to change their identity markers – that is, their sex/gender markers and their names – on official documents. Also included is a chapter on international law. In the report’s preface, author Zan Chian notes – given that laws and government policies continue to rely on medical models over a self-determination model in defining what trans is – the importance of the World Health Assembly (the decision-making body of the World Health Organization) in May 2018. Here, the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11 – the standard diagnostic reference book for epidemiology, health management and clinical practice) is due to be approved and adopted. Currently, ‘gender identity disorders’ are classified under ‘mental and behavioural disorders’. But in ICD–11, transgender health issues will appear in a new category of ‘gender incongruence’. This will, according to the author, affect how trans people everywhere are able to access legal gender recognition.

Living Free and Equal: What States are Doing to Tackle Violence and Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People (2016) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva: UN OHCHR, 150 pp.

This UN report surveys measures taken by states to address human rights violations against LGBTI people. It outlines over 200 initiatives across 65 countries, relating to areas including; the protection of people from violence, the repealing of discriminatory laws, and crosscutting issues and practices, such as the legal recognition of gender identity without abusive requirements. Gaps and challenges are also identified – not least the fact that consensual same-sex relationships remain a crime in 73 countries. The report follows UNHCR’s Born Free and Equal report (2012), which outlines some of the key legal obligations that States have under existing human rights laws to protect the rights of LGBT people.

Diversity in Human Sexuality: Implications for Policy in Africa (2015) Academy of Science of South Africa, Pretoria: ASSAF,  99 pp.

Thirty-eight of 53 African nations criminalise homosexuality. Other countries, in Africa and elsewhere, are considering bringing in legislation to prohibit same-sex relationships or what they term ‘the promotion of homosexuality’. This report, compiled by an international panel of public health, medical, and social science professionals and academics, aims to inform policymakers across the continent about current biological, socio-psychological, and public health evidence on sexual diversity and orientation. It finds, ‘[i]t is evident that contemporary science has evolved to see sexuality beyond a simple binary opposition of hetero/homosexual and normal/abnormal’ (p. 62). The report assesses the extent to which recent research supports or challenges some of the key arguments used to justify new laws. It also considers the negative public health consequences of criminalising same-sex sexual orientations and attempting to regulate behaviour/relationships, and suggests focuses for future research on SOGI in Africa.

Being LGBT in Asia: Country Reports (2014) UN Development Programme, Bangkok: UNDP

This is a series of reports produced by a UNDP regional programme – Being LGBT in Asia – that seeks to address inequality and discrimination faced by LGBTI people. The reports, from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, review the legal and social environment for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in each of these countries, and in some cases outline the development of LGBTI activism in the country. All reports are available in the national language and in English (English only, in the case of the Philippines). The programme, together with the B Change Foundation in the Philippines, has also produced a series of short videos Stories of Being Me in which LGBT individuals from seven capital cities around Asia recount their personal experiences.

Displacement and conflict

Protecting Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities: A Global Report on UNHCR’s Efforts to Protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Asylum- Seekers and Refugees (2015) Nishin Nathwani, Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 35 pp.

This report documents the findings of a 10-month project by UNHCR to evaluate their country and regional operations designed to protect LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. Country and regional offices reported back on areas of work concerning the general situation of LGBTI persons; identification and outreach to LGBTI persons; displacement conditions of LGBTI persons; asylum and durable solutions; and training, operational guidelines, and advocacy efforts. Some of the main findings include: that a large majority of the challenges around protection work for LGBTI individuals arise from the criminalisation of LGBTI identity, expression and association in many countries; and that staff need to be better trained in order to translate operational guidelines into concrete protection measures on the ground.

When merely existing is a risk: Sexual and gender minorities in conflict, displacement and peacebuilding (2017) Henri Myrttinen and Megan Daigle, London: International Alert, 39 pp.

Drawing on research carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Lebanon and Nepal, this report argues for a widening of the debate on gender in peacebuilding (including the Women, Peace and Security agenda) to include sexual and gender minorities (SGM). Noting the deployment of arguments around SOGI rights by extremist groups (against, in the case of some nationalist, patriarchal, political and religious groups; for in the case of some far right-wing groups in Western Europe, in order to generate antagonism towards migrants) the report outlines some key areas to be addressed in order to build a more inclusive and sustainable peace. These include: the violence and vulnerabilities experienced, both in and out of conflict, by SGM individuals; their legal, social and ideological exclusion; and opportunities to extend rights and inclusion in the post-conflict period. The paper ends with recommendations for the peacebuilding sector, including, crucially, given the vulnerable position of SGM people and communities, the adoption of a ‘do no harm’ approach’ that doesn’t endanger partners or staff.

‘“Trust no one, beware of everyone”: Vulnerabilities of LGBTI refugees in Lebanon’ (2017) Henri Myrttinen, Lana Khattab and Charbel Maydaa in Jane Freedman, Zeynep Kivilcim and Nurcan Özgür Baklacioğlu (eds.) A Gendered Approach to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge, pp. 61-76

In this chapter from an edited collection on the Syrian refugee crisis, the authors consider the situation of LGBTI persons seeking refuge in Lebanon. For the authors, while conflict and displacement bring their own set of risks for LGBTI refugees, this is part of a continuum of discrimination, harassment and violence they have already experienced at the hands of state officials, wider society, and in some cases their own families, in their country of origin. Importantly, we see that as in the home country, a person’s social and economic status play a part in determining levels of vulnerability as do biological sex, sexual orientation, and (once in Lebanon) refugee status. The chapter helps to make clear that the LGBTI refugee experience is not a homogenous one.

‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Syrian Refugees in Turkey’ (2017) Zeynep Kivilcim in Jane Freedman, Zeynep Kivilcim and Nurcan Özgür Baklacioğlu (eds.) A Gendered Approach to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge, pp. 26-41

More experiences of LGBT Syrian refugees are examined here – this time focusing on Turkey. The chapter opens with a discussion of the legal and operational problems that prevent Syrian LGBT refugees accessing to international protection. It moves on to examine refugees’ daily struggle for survival in a climate of harsh discrimination, which not only inhibits access to housing, healthcare work and social assistance, but also endangers their physical safety.

Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex Persons in Forced Displacement: Need 2 Know Guidance (2011) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva: UNHCR, 19 pp., available in Arabic, English, French, Japanese, Persian and Spanish

This is a short guide intended for use by UNHCR staff working with LGBTI refugees. It aims to ensure that staff have a basic understanding of the marginalisation, discrimination and violence LGBTI people can face both in society in general, and during displacement and resettlement. Acknowledging the need to address prejudice on the part of staff, the guide provides actions to be undertaken by staff in order to ensure protection and programming are inclusive and take into consideration the specific vulnerabilities and needs of LGBTI individuals. This includes, for example, creating a safe and confidential identification and registration environment, and working with LGBTI civil society organisations who can provide support.

International development and sexuality

The Sustainable Development Goals and LGBT Inclusion (2016) Stonewall International, London: Stonewall, 10 pp.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed on by the international community in 2015 make no explicit mention of sexual orientation, gender identity or LGBT people. However, Stonewall, the authors of this short paper, believe that the SDGs pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’ offers the potential to challenge the lower income, worse health, reduced access to education and more experienced by many LGBT people around the world. Focusing on seven of the 17 goals, (1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 16) the paper highlights the ways in which LGBT people have been left behind with regard to each goal, and the actions necessary to address these.

Investing in a Research Revolution for LGBTI Inclusion (2016) The World Bank and UN Development Programme,  29 pp.

With huge gaps in research and data on LGBTI experiences globally, this report sets out the key priorities – as identified by the World Bank, in collaboration with LGBTI civil society organisations – where research needs to be undertaken in order to address the social, political and economic exclusion of LGBTI people. The report draws attention to the UNDP’s LGBTI Inclusion Index, which is currently being developed, and which will require the generation of data in the areas of health, economic well-being, personal security and violence, education, and political and civic participation. Other crucial research areas identified in the report include the links between LGBTI inclusion and national economic development, assessing the influence of gender norms, and measuring the prevalence and impact of ‘conversion therapies’.

Leave no one behind: Advancing social, economic, cultural and political inclusion of LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific. Summary (2015) United Nations Development Programme, Bangkok: UNDP, 24 pp.

This is the summary document of a forthcoming report, Leave no one behind: Advancing social, economic, cultural and political inclusion of LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific, and like the Stonewall paper above, sees the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for addressing the social, economic, cultural and political marginalisation experienced by LGBTI people. This summary outlines the contents of the report, which will include chapters giving an overview of regional trends and developments with regard to LGBTI inclusion, and detailed information on progress and challenges in key areas of relevance to the SDGs, including; health: education; employment; violence; decriminalisation; and political participation. Other chapters will focus on LGBTI organising in the region, and a set of recommendations relating to specific SDGs.

Poverty and Sexuality: What are the connections? Overview and Literature Review (2010) Susie Jolly, Stockholm: Swedish International Development Agency, 48 pp.

In this paper, the sections on Access to Health Services, Work and Livelihoods, Education, and Family, Home and housing, provide referenced examples of the ways in which discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTI people, sex workers, and others with non-conforming sexualities manifest themselves. Such examples are, for the authors, part of ‘an emerging literature by researchers, activists and organisations shows that in many cases, poor people are more vulnerable to oppression around sexuality, and that denial of sexual rights entrenches poverty’ (p. 10).

Literature Review on Sexuality and Poverty. IDS Evidence Report 55 (2014) Pauline Oosterhoff, Linda Waldman and Dee Olerenshaw, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, 72 pp.

This literature review assesses research on sexuality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in relation to poverty, with a focus on LGBT persons and sex workers. The field of sexuality and development is still relatively new, and the review found that much of the literature around sexuality in LMICs is concerned with HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care. So as to identify connections between sexuality and poverty in the literature, the review applied Robert Chambers’ conceptualisation of a multidimensional ‘web of poverty’. This framework contains interlinked dimensions of poverty, such as material poverties, de facto and legal inferiority, and physical illness. The authors were not able to identify any quantitative analyses of exclusion and marginalisation because of sexuality, but for them, the literature when viewed collectively, makes clear that sexuality and poverty are deeply interwoven.

Sexuality and Social Justice: A Toolkit (n.d.) Sexuality and Development Programme at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, Brighton: IDS

In the context of a development arena in which ‘actors have been slow to recognise that not all recipients of policies and programmes are heterosexual couples living in nuclear families’, this resource is designed to help those working to end the economic, political and social marginalisation facing those from sexual and gender minorities. The Toolkit consists of five main sections. The first two set out in clear and accessible language the ways in which legal and policy systems relate to SOGI issues. The subsequent sections -Taking Action and Practical Tools – give examples of ways in which activists have successfully worked with local communities, engaged with policy, and challenged laws, and provide a set of ‘how to’ tools. These include, for example, how to undertake a risk assessment, and conduct a policy audit.

Research Methods and Visualisation Tools for Online LGBT Communities. IDS Evidence Report 89 (2014) Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, 21 pp.

In a context where conducting research with LGBT individuals may be particularly difficult because of secrecy, stigma and potential danger for research participants, this resource offers a ‘how to’ guide for online data collection and data visualisation for researchers and activists. Setting out main steps and considerations for research design, it also provides a short case-study example from Vietnam.While the resource focuses on LGBT individuals, the methodology would also be relevant across a wider range of research issues.

Rescue, and Real Love: Same-sex Desire in International Development (2015) Andil Gosine, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies Sexuality and Development Programme, 24 pp.

In this paper, the author offers a thoughtful consideration of the changing attitudes to working on issues of sexual diversity and sexual desire in international development. He notes that the complete lack of recognition of the existence of non-heterosexual people and relationships began to shift with the advent of the HIV and AIDs crisis, and that the present day now sees considerable attention and resources being paid to work on supporting the rights of LGBT people in the global South. The author cautions against the danger this ‘rescue’ work runs of reinforcing long-standing narratives pitting the ‘backward’ and ‘uncivilised’ South against the ‘progressive’ and ‘civilised’ North, and discusses the problems arising from the imposition of global-Northern frameworks and terms of sexual identity onto other contexts. The author ends with a call to those working on sexual rights in international development to adopt a far more complex approach to their work, in order to reflect the complexity of the issues of sexual diversity and desire themselves.

Sex work, power, and development

Empowerment, Citizenship and Redemption? Economic programmes and policies for female sex workers (2014) Cheryl Overs, Institute of Development Studies Blog, 28 October

In this very valuable think piece, the author reflects on her experiences of looking at economic programmes aimed at sex workers, an area in which she has been involved for some years. The author contrasts the kind of programmes – many offered by organisations keen to ‘rescue’ women from sex work – designed to provide livelihood alternatives for sex workers, (who cannot hope to make an adequate living from the kind of work the programmes train them for) with a ‘good rehab’ approach. The author provides an example from her research in Ethiopia, where a programme helped sex workers obtain the ID cards necessary for accessing services, and travel and work purposes. Along with, for example, improving living conditions in slum areas, this can help reduce sex workers’ vulnerabilities. Where some sort of income generation designed to supplement rather than entirely replace money earned from sex work is available, this can potentially allow women to work less or turn down clients who refuse to wear a condom. The author ends by stressing the lack of reliable data – an ‘information abyss’ – that exists with regard to economic empowerment and sex workers, which makes identifying effective policies and programmes extremely difficult.

‘Sex Work as Livelihood: Women, Men and Transgender Sex Workers in Karnataka’ (2016) Shubha Chacko, Subadra Panchanadeswaran and Gowri Vijayakumar in Land, Labour and Livelihoods: Indian Women’s Perspectives, Bina Fernandez, Meena Gopal and Orlanda Ruthven (eds.) Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 133-153

In this book chapter, the authors look at the working lives of women, men, and transgender women in Karnataka state, India, who rely on sex work as their mainstay of survival. Considering the parallels and differences between these groups – in terms of what led them into sex work, and their experiences of violence, stigma and access (or otherwise) to social entitlements – the authors go on to discuss the Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union, where the framing of sex work as work brings these groups together on a common platform. (See also the authors’ article ‘As Human Beings and as Workers’: Sex Worker Unionization in Karnataka, India’ (2015) Global Labour Journal 6(1): 79-95, where they assess the potential and limitations for sex workers of adopting a ‘worker’ identity.)

Women engaging in transactional sex and working in prostitution: Practices and underlying factors of the sex trade in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Researching livelihoods and services affected by conflict Report 10, March (2016) Isumbisho Mwapu, Dorothea Hilhorst, Murhega Mashanda, Muhigwa Bahananga and Ruhamya Mugenzi, London: Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium,  68 pp.

Combining a literature review with findings from on-the-ground research, and adopting a perspective of livelihoods and women’s agency, this paper looks at the dynamics of prostitution and transactional sex in South Kivu, DRC, an area that has seen an upsurge in these practices related to (post)-conflict conditions, and where they now form a part of everyday urban life. The literature review is published separately as The many faces of transactional sex: Women’s agency, livelihoods and risk factors in humanitarian contexts: A Literature Review (2016) Constance Formson and Dorothea Hilhorst, London: Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium,  26 pp.

Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (2007) Laura Maria Agustín London and New York: Zed Books, ISBN: 9781842778609

With the experiences of women migrants from Latin America to Spain as a focus, the author of this book challenges prevalent notions of victimhood and exploitation around sex work, and in particular, the work of what she terms the ‘Rescue Industry’, a burgeoning field comprising of European NGOs seeking to ‘save’ ‘trafficked’ women who are working in the sex industry. Bringing in discussion on global economic migration, service work and sex work, morality, and agency and voice, this is an important book, but should perhaps come with the caveat that the author does not address the issue of genuinely trafficked women, nor the violence and exploitation suffered by migrant women from the global South working in the sex industry. (In a short blog from December 2017, Sex at the Margins Ten Years On the author reflects on the book, and on what has changed over the 10 years since its original publication.)

Sex Work and its Linkages with Informal Labour Markets in India: Findings from the First Pan-India Survey of Female Sex Workers. IDS Working Paper Volume 2013 No 416 (2013) Rohini Sahni and V. Kalyan Shankar, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, 51 pp.

This paper reports on the findings of the First Pan-India Survey of Female SexWorkers, and places sex work within the wider context of informal labour markets in which women seek to earn a living in India. Over half of the women surveyed had undertaken other work in the informal labour market prior to entering sex work – a labour market in which exploitation, poor pay, often dangerous working conditions, and abuse and sexual harassment are rife. Stigma attached to sex work, unlike other livelihoods in the informal sector, creates barriers to services provided by the state, along with vulnerability to abuse from authority figures. The authors call for policy and law makers to address the realities of life for those engaged in sex work, and act to safeguard their safety, health and well-being as workers.

Sexuality, faith, and fundamentalisms

Special Rapporteur’s Compilation of Articles on Freedom of religion or belief and Sexuality (2017) UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva: UN OHCHR, 73 pp.

This is a collection of papers given at a 2016 conference jointly organised by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the NGO, Muslims for Progressive Values. The conference was held to explore the perceived tensions between the human right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and respect for people in their diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, something increasingly recognised within the international human rights framework. In his introductory remarks and first article, the Special Rapporteur contends that viewing these two sets of rights as being in opposition is mistaken, noting that FoRB protects believers, not beliefs, and can be used to support progressive voices within religions. The remaining five articles include discussions on LGBT rights in relation to Buddhism, Islam and the Catholic Church.

Understanding Religious Fundamentalisms for Activists (2014) AWID, Toronto: Association of Women’s Rights in Development

This resource manual from AWID is specifically designed for use by activists and organisations facing religious fundamentalist opposition to their work. (Please note: the manual is not directly downloadable, and anyone interested in obtaining it should contact AWID directly at While AWID’s work on religious fundamentalisms has had a primary, although not exclusive, focus on women’s rights, the patriarchal and homophobic views expounded by religious fundamentalists threaten the rights of LGBTI people as much as those of cis-gender women. The need for knowledge on religious fundamentalisms and how to challenge them is therefore equally applicable, making this resource a potential tool for LGBTI activism. The manual includes information on the growth and impact of fundamentalisms, and strategies to challenge them, and provides materials for workshop use, including visuals and participatory activities.

Arab Queer Women and Transgenders Confronting Diverse Religious Fundamentalisms: The Case of Meem in Lebanon (2011) Meem and Nadine M., Toronto: Association of Women’s Rights in Development,  13 pp.

This paper relates the experience of Meem, a Lebanese organisation of Arab lesbian and transgender women, some of whom are atheists, some of whom, while rejecting the patriarchal and homophobic nature of religious institutions, are believers. The paper is part of a wider collection published by the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) for whom working to counter the influence of religious fundamentalisms is a central focus. See Key Learnings from Feminists on the Frontline: Summaries from Case Studies on Resisting and Challenging Fundamentalisms.

Not as Simple as ABC: Christian Fundamentalisms and HIV and AIDS Responses in Africa (2012) Jessica Horn, Toronto: Association of Women’s Rights in Development, 25 pp.

Providing an example of the influence of fundamentalist religious actors on policy and service delivery, and with a focus on HIV and AIDS responses, this paper looks at how Christian fundamentalist engagement in the HIV and AIDS sector has supported and strengthened highly moralistic, patriarchal discourses around sexuality, gender, and sexual practices, and continues to affect practice and policy on HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa The paper tracks the shifting attitudes of key actors – the US government (a major funder of HIV responses in sub-Saharan Africa) and the Catholic Church – and, of particular relevance for readers of this issue of the journal, considers the resulting implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights, and women’s rights, particularly in the light of the connections between the US Christian right and African Pentecostal and charismatic churches, and growing levels of homophobic policy and law making at the state level.

Faith, Gender and Sexuality: A Toolkit (2016) Sonke Gender Justice, the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies and Institute of Development Studies

This toolkit for use with faith communities promotes and supports progressive and tolerance attitudes towards women and LGBTI people, based on a vision of equality and human rights. It covers the following areas: Sexuality and gender diversity; Sexual and reproductive health and rights; Sexual and gender-based violence; Women, gender and power; Culture, tradition and faith; with a final section on how religious leaders and communities can act as allies to LGBTI people. Included are case studies and activities, and religious texts (primarily from the Bible) interpreted from a progressive perspective. NB: For anyone seeking a quick and easy way to explain the non-binary nature of sex/gender/orientation, the ‘Genderbread Person’ graphic, in the Sexuality and gender diversity section is a great tool, which could be used in a multitude of contexts.

Activism and organising

Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa: Rethinking Homophobia and Forging Resistance (2013) Marc Epprecht, London and New York: Zed Books, ISBN: 9781780323817, 232 pp.

Entitled ‘Struggles and Strategies’, the final chapter in this outstanding book – in which the author stresses the importance of knowledge of place, culture and history for understanding, challenging and defeating homophobia – focuses on two areas of resistance. Firstly, the struggle for justice by African LGBTI activists is considered. There then follows an exploration and assessment of advocacy strategies that have employed a human rights framing. These have involved activism around international human rights law, and the promotion of sexual rights through arguments on public health. (Other chapters in the book examine the ways in which religion, the state and the history of colonialism and postcolonialism have influenced attitudes towards LGBTI people, making the point that it is current, fundamentalist strains of religion, often introduced from elsewhere, rather than religion itself, that are responsible for much of the homophobia apparent in parts of Africa today.)

Negotiating Public and Legal Spaces: The Emergence of an LGBT Movement in Vietnam. Sexuality, Poverty and Law Evidence Report No 74 (2014) Pauline Oosterhoff, Tu-Anh Hoang and Trang Thu Quach, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies,  47 pp.

Providing a case study of the ways in which LGBT civil society organisations have affected legal and social change, this report analyses two examples of collective action in Vietnam: organising to hold gay pride events, and working to legalise same-sex ceremonies and marriages. The report looks at the strategies adopted by civil society organisations to advocate for their causes in the particular legal, political and social context of Vietnam, where, in a one-party state with restrictive laws on freedom of expression, civil association and organisation, depoliticising the LGBT movement has paid dividends.

Organisations and websites

ARC International

Founded in Canada in 2003, ARC International has had a strong record of working on LGBTI rights at the UN level. The organisation has also been closely involved with the development of the Yogyakarta Principles, and maintains the Yogyakarta Principles in Action website which monitors the use of the Principles. The organisation is now in the process of refocusing its work in order to bring about changes at ground level, following some of the key international developments of recent years.

Free and Equal: The UN Global Campaign against Homophobia and Transphobia

With a strapline ‘Stand Up for Equal Rights & F air Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans & Intersex People Everywhere’, the UN’s Free and Equal campaign was launched in 2013. As well as information on the campaign, the website provides campaign materials for activists, and the Learn More section of the website hosts some useful resources, included a set of factsheets on issues such as criminalisation, bullying and violence at school, refuge and asylum, transgender, and intersex.

Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE)

Formed in 2014, GIN-SSOGIE is a network of organisations and individuals working to promote the equality of LGBTIQA persons within faith communities. The network functions as a facilitating and convening space amongst members, sharing information, and providing opportunities to work collaboratively, and it conducts advocacy and lobbying work at the UN level.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics

GNRC was founded in 2015, with the goal of creating an international network for the organisations and individuals working to promote the inclusion, dignity and equality of LGBTI people within the Roman Catholic Church. Still relatively young, GNRC has been working to constitute and develop the network, and has held two Assemblies for network members. The website provides information and news updates on LGBTI issues and the Catholic Church, with a lot of this material available in the following languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)

NWSP is an international membership organisation comprised of local, national and regional sex-worker led organisations and networks from around the world. Working to influence policy, and advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers NSWP bases its work on its three core values: acceptance of sex work as work; opposition to all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work; and supporting self-organisation and self-determination of sex workers. The website provides access to an impressive range of resources, which come from NSWP and
other sources.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

A federation bringing together some 1200 national and local LGBTI rights groups from across the world, ILGA is a leading advocacy organisation at the international level, lobbying for LGBTI rights at the UN and elsewhere. ILGA carries out much valuable research to support its advocacy work, publishing annually on the state of laws relating to sexual orientation around the world, along with social attitudes surveys, and reporting on UN proceedings relating to LGBTI and SOGIESC issues, some of which are included in the resources above.

Micro Rainbow International

Micro Rainbow International seeks to address the poverty experienced by many LGBTI people, many of whom suffer social and economic marginalisation because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. The organisation provides training and mentoring, and uses a micro finance approach to support the start up of small businesses by LGBTI people, who are often excluded from employment and access to finance. Micro Rainbow International carries out its programme with LGBTI NGO partners in Brazil and Cambodia, and in the UK, their work focuses on supporting LBTI refugees, providing safe housing and programmes to aid social and economic inclusion.

Muslims for Progressive Values

This US-based organisation works to promote women’s rights, LGBTQI inclusion, freedom of expression and freedom of and from belief through its championing of a progressive, inclusive and egalitarian interpretation of Islam. The organisation carries out international advocacy work at the UN and engages with the media and government bodies. A selection of resources (including on LGBTQI issues) are available on the website. MPV has partner organisations in other countries (see, for example, Muslims for Progressive Values – UK and was instrumental in the founding of the Alliance of Inclusive Muslims – a global coalition of progressive Muslim organisations – in the autumn of 2017.

Sexuality Poverty and Law Programme – Institute of Development Studies

The Institute of Development Studies in the UK is a pioneer in the study of sexuality in international development. Its Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme conducts research to support legal reform around LGBTI rights and to address the issue of sustainable livelihoods for those who are marginalised on the grounds of their sexuality. Its substantial number of publications are available from the website, including two toolkits designed for LGBTI rights activists; on sexuality and social justice, and on faith, both of which are included in the resources above.


Founded in 1989, Stonewall is rightly celebrated for the success of its campaigning, advocacy and educational work for LGBT rights in the UK. From 2012, the organisation broadened its focus to include work at the international level. This includes networking, and providing training and capacity building for LGBT activists from around the world. In the UK, Stonewall works to raise the profile of LGBT rights issues with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, and collaborates with international development NGOs. The organisation has also produced a guide – Engaging with the UK Government: A Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Activists Worldwide 36 pp., which provides guidance for LGBT rights activists on how to build a working relationship with the UK government in their own country.

The World Congress of GLBT Jews

The World Congress – Keshet Ga’vah, is an international membership organisation (which takes a pro-Israel stance) made up of Jewish LGBTQIA+ individuals and organisations. An ‘organisation for organisations’, it works to support and strengthen local groups working on inclusivity and rights issues, and to connect them with others in the network. As well as providing support for Jewish LGBTQIA+ leaders, the World Congress has a programme of regular regional and world conferences.