» Archive for: March, 2013


The fifth SRI/DRS session on Why Sex Counts brought to the fore the tensions at the heart of the Development Research Series this spring.
Ramzy Qumsieh spoke about queer activism in Palestine bringing out a number of debates among queer
activists in Palestine in their own analysis and strategic choice on how to respond to different mainstream approaches to homosexuality – from choosing to ignore religious and ethical homophobia to questioning liberal tolerance. He pointed out the need for interconnectedness of the queer issue with other political and social oppressions of the daily life of Palestine people living under occupation. In a very nuanced talk he illustrated the need for a situated standpoint on what it is to be gay in Palestine.
The political nature of the talk – on all levels – from the personal reflections on how difficult it is to be queer in a society that does not opening speak about sexuality of any sort –  to how to resist Israeli pink washing  proved fascinating. www.palestinelink.eu/ Tellingly, the talk attracted an audience from outside the ISS with 6 members of the Dutch Zionist organization attending. This mixed audience led to a strong debate – illustrating again why talking about sex is important in order to understand its
strong relationship to social and political development issues and how sexuality cannot be viewed as
an apolitical personal choice in any society. 

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The Sexuality Research Initiative (SRI)  celebrated  International Women’s Day on March 8 with a Development Research Series SRI panel ‘Why Sex Counts’ on ‘feminisms, gender and sexualities’. Saskia Wieringa, UVA, Gé Meulmeester (ATRIA) and Gemma Andriessen, HIVOS led the discussion with Silke Heumann chairing.

The lively dialogue with around 40 people started from the  personal experience of the panel – as feminists, engaged in research and activism around gender equality, rights of transgender and identity issues. It then moved to a series of questions and answers from the audience as the dialogue reflected on the panelists’ contributions and considered the larger academic and activist debates in and around feminism and sexualities. The dialogue reflected on how feminism, gender equality and the right to sexual freedom matter for all people’s lives. The discussion looked closely at what are the ‘legitimate’ subjects and goals of feminism. Participants explored questions around how patriarchy and heteronormativity shape our different cultures and lives.  Examples were given from Asia and Africa, Europe and the US. Other questions raised how do we move beyond gender binaries, normative assumptions about gender? How do we view the family and legal constraints to sexual freedom in different contexts?  How has the human rights discourse helped or hindered women (and men and others) in pursuing sexual expression for pleasure in safe and healthy ways? The different histories of northern and southern feminisms, the varied concepts of what is normative for women and men’s sexuality, the family and society emerged reflecting the diversity of the audience. Lastly the question of what feminism means in different histories and cultures was raised – with again many different answers and concerns that touched on issues of inclusion, rights, self-expression, collaboration and justice.


International Institute of Social Studies

CIRI aims to scale up and identify synergies between existing research at ISS on civic agency and change agents, as drivers of societal change and development. This blog is a forum on which to share and discuss themes and issues which fall within the broad framework of the programme.

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