» Archive for category: ‘Sexuality Research Initiative (SRI)

Mansoureh Shojaee, CIRI Visiting Fellow

CIR HormozganJPG


I will share the stories of some of my photos during the upcoming DRS Dialogue on “Coloniality of gender, cyberfeminism and the poetics of resistance” on 6 June 2016.

Paulina Trejo Mendez, ISS


I am looking forward to share my artwork and reflect on it jointly with you during the upcoming ISS Development Research Seminar (DRS) on “Coloniality of gender, cyberfeminism and the poetics of resistance” on 6 June 2016!

Liz Hilton, Empower Foundation


We were asked “What makes sex work a precarious and often dangerous occupation?” For us it is more interesting to be asked “What makes sex work such a viable occupation for millions of people when it seems precarious and often dangerous?”

The majority of people in the world have no qualifications, no capital and a need to earn cash for their survival and the survival of the people they love. In many countries, children of 8 or 9 years begin to earn money to help the family income or look after younger siblings while parents are out working. They work after school, weekends and holidays. By the time they reach the age of full time work, usually 15 years old, they have experienced many jobs. The adult labor market for those without qualifications or access to capital offers work that is often either excruciatingly tedious and/or physically grinding on our bodies. This work takes up more than a third of our days, which is our life. It rarely provides access to social protection and rarely leads to any opportunities.


Not work, but ‘labour of love’?

As women and mothers much of the work offered to us is the work of caring e.g. cleaning, cooking, washing, child minding, aged and disabled care. This is the kind of work we are expected to do free in our homes as a ‘labor of love’, so of course it is not valued much more when we do it outside the home for money. We are also expected to have sex for free, another ‘labor of love’. Asking to be compensated for sex in cash rather than in flowers is actively condemned both legally and morally. However, we find that men value sex more highly than ironed shirts etc., so are willing to pay more for this than any other service we women provide in the market. Still, it is just a small minority of women who will decide that the opportunities sex work provides are worth the risks of working outside State protection and social approval. Sex work provides a chance to end generational poverty for themselves and their families. It is not surprising people decide to do sex work; given the inequality between rich and poor combined with the tyranny of the man-made market.


Criminalisation and lack of recognition as work makes sex work precarious

Tens of millions of people, mainly women, decide to do sex work. It does not seem reasonable that the punishment for this decision should be total disregard for their right to human dignity, physical integrity, access to protection and justice. Even people who have committed serious crimes are still accorded their full human rights – why not sex workers?

I am looking forward to discussing these thoughts with you during the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation Research on “Decent Work for Sex Workers” on 24 May 2016. Also, have a look at Empower’s recent research report that details steps for “Moving toward Decent Sex Work“.


Patricia Viseur Sellers (PVS) and Kirsten Campbell (KC) have, among them, huge experience with some of the most important international, national and alternative strategies for addressing sexual violence in contemporary wars. Patricia Sellers worked as a feminist lawyer with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). She now works in the International Criminal Court, and in 2000 was Co-Prosecutor at the Women’s International Tribunal in Tokyo. Kirsten Campbell has been doing extensive research on  prosecution of sexual violence in ICTY and national Bosnian courts and participated in the 2015 Women’s Court in Sarajevo. Both are well known feminist scholars who wrote extensively on international criminal law, transitional justice and gender.

On 9 May 2016 they will be at ISS, at the Development Research Seminars (DRS) Dialogue, addressing alternative strategies for achieving justice for the crimes perpetrated during violent conflicts. The following short reflections are among some of the issues they will address during the DRS Dialogue.  


Patricia Viseur Sellers

PVS: Sexual violence in wars has been tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Other international or hybrid courts, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, also addressed crimes of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Sierra Leone. Each of these judicial mechanisms developed extraordinary jurisprudence and other precedents, such as for example procedures for witness protections. Other international and national courts, such as the International Criminal Court, and war crimes chambers in national courts such as in Uganda, or Bosnian and Herzegovina, special chambers such as in Senegal or the national criminal courts in Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina or Germany also have jurisdiction over criminal acts that entail international crimes of sexual violence. So, the ICTY and ICTR initiated the modern wave of addressing international crimes based upon sexual and gender-based violence.

Each judicial mechanism attempts to redress international crimes such as rape as an act of crimes against humanity or as a war crime not only for the individual survivor, but also for the affected communities.  So the Special Court for Sierra Leone, for example, judged in the Charles Taylor case, that the civilian population had been attacked, inter alia, by sexual terrorisation. Hence, testimonies that individual and communities members might offer to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice should not be diminished.  Furthermore, other courts, such as the International Criminal Court have procedure that allow recognized victims to be represented as a party at all stages of the proceedings and to receive reparations, compensation and restitution.  Besides, some courts could expand the temporal jurisdiction of crimes of sexual violence. In Guatemala and Argentina as well as in Cambodia, the respective courts have examined testimony of sexual violence that was committed decades ago.  The lack of statute of limitations on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity opens the possibility that past atrocities might be judged today.


Former Korean ‘comfort women’ waving their handkerchiefs to supporters after the closing of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal Tokyo

This possibility is important for the courts and tribunals that are organized as alternatives to the official, international and national courts. I served as a Co-Prosecutor at the Women’s International Tribunal, in Tokyo, in 2000. This was a symbolic trial for the women who had been subjugated to sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.  The victims and survivors are commonly known as the ‘Comfort Women’.  The tribunal was a unique exercise of civil society’s ability to draw critical attention to the unanswered crimes committed against at least a hundred thousand women. The legal angle was paramount because state courts in Japans repeatedly rejected any claims made by the ‘Comfort Women’ during the past decades. Also, the legal approach highlighted that the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also held in Tokyo, in 1946, did not include the crimes committed against the ‘Comfort Women’. The Women’s Tribunal was composed of over ten national prosecution teams, such as North and South Korea, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Netherlands, because these were the countries – some former colonies – from where the girls and women originated.  The judges were highly respected international law experts, that came from the United States, Kenya, Australia, and Argentina.  The Women’s Tribunal used as its own criminal code, the 1946 Tokyo Charter, to underscore that the crimes committed against the ‘Comfort Women’ could have been tried already in 1946. The Women’s Tribunal presented evidence and reached conclusion about the criminal conduct and the reparations due to the survivors and to the memory of the victims. The judgment is a source of law under Article 38(c) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.



Kirsten Campbell

KC: Sexual violence in wars has received a lot of attention lately – from international and national courts, from women’s groups and feminist activists, from UN, from national governments, but also from celebrities. While this attention is politically important, it has not resulted in greater clarity of our understanding of conflict-related sexual violence, or how to provide justice for these crimes.  Rather, the context for serious academic or political engagement with this topic is increasingly challenging.  Academic research is turning away from gender and feminist analysis, while also calling for more quantitative data and cross-country comparison.  The broader political context is increasing ‘securitization’ of conflict-related sexual violence, emphasizing the security of states rather than justice for victims.  The issue of justice remains a crucial question for feminist politics in the field of conflict-related sexual violence.


The Women’s Court Sarajevo (Photo: Clara Casagrande)

In such a context of securitization of sexual violence in conflict, it is important to be attentive to an effort to create a new feminist paradigm of justice in the first women’s court held in Europe.  The Women’s Court dealt with the connected violence committed during and after the war in the former Yugoslavia, and was held on 8-9 May 2015 in Saraevjo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Court aimed to offer an alternative to the failure of the formal legal system to provide justice; to enable women to be active agents of justice, and to build a more just peace in the former Yugoslavia. The work of the Court has not yet finished.  The Preliminary Decision was rendered by the Judicial Council, with the Judgment and book of witness testimonies still to be published. Above all, it involves the ongoing attempt to create a new feminist paradigm of justice.  How to do this remains the crucial issue for the Court, and for feminist interventions in this field.

By Ruben Korevaar, Business Development Manager at Simavi

How social and technological innovation support menstrual hygiene management and women empowerment

menstrual hygiene, Uganda, civic innovation

Micro entrepreneur promoting MHM in Uganda (image: Mona van den Berg)

Increasingly women participate in economic life, generate income and are an important driver for economic development. Girls’ school enrollment is increasing and in many countries more girls pass secondary school certificate than boys. More than ever we have access to various sources of information. However, millions of women and girls still lack information on menstrual hygiene, and lack access to hygienic and affordable solutions to manage their menstruation. In many countries girls and women are being excluded from public life – like going to school or work – because they are having their period. How can social change and technological innovation contribute to turn the tide?

Social constraints for women’s socio-economic participation

We give periods many names like “Aunt Flo,” “time of the month,” “crimson wave” or a number of other weird euphemisms that only serve to mystify and hide the process that women go through every month. Menstruation is a natural and essential part of the reproductive cycle. However, in many parts of the world it remains a taboo that is rarely talked about. These taboos and social norms restrict the participation of women and girls in society during menstruation. In addition, limited access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities and sanitary napkins make it difficult for women to manage their menstruation hygienically. As a result, many (young) women around the world face considerable physical and social challenges during their menstruation period.

Menstruation is a cross-cutting issue that relates to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), e.g. SDG 3-6. While menstruation issues and menstrual hygiene management have recently gained attention in the global development agenda, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is not specifically mentioned as such in the SDGs.

Social change

Development organisations like Simavi believe that solutions for menstruation issues are vital in empowering women and ensuring basic health conditions. Approaches include:

  • Creating awareness on sexuality, reproductive cycle and menstrual hygiene among girls, women and men in order to empower women to take care of themselves during their menstruation, self-develop and live a healthy life.
  • Creating a supportive environment, in which menstruation is socially accepted and women are not excluded or discriminated because of their monthly periods.
  • Improving access to services, such as sanitary pads and sexual, reproductive health services, as well as sanitation facilities and clean water.

Where NGOs are well-rooted in society and have access to especially the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), the private sector is a driving force in producing MHM solutions like pads, tampons or menstruation cups. Therefore, a multisector collaboration in addressing menstruation is needed to accelerate change and increase impact.

Innovations to reduce the environmental burden of waste

While promoting MHM and creating access to modern methods, we do not want to create more plastic waste. The average woman uses up to 11,000 pads or tampons during her lifetime. Imagine what this means with regard to the amount of waste in a country like Bangladesh where about 40 million women/girls menstruate.

The role of the private sector is important in looking for innovations and developing environmental friendly alternatives. For example Simavi, together with TNO and a private partner in Bangladesh, is developing and producing biodegradable sanitary napkins. The involvement of the private sector is crucial to ensure supplies can actually be provided in a cost-efficient way and at scale. Looking at sustainability, NGOs can encourage sanitary producers to consider environmental friendly solutions that are also reaching girls and women who have limited resources to spend.

By facilitating social change, working together with the private sector and encouraging technological innovations, NGOs contribute to ensure that all girls and women have comprehensive knowledge of menstrual hygiene, appropriate methods to manage their cycle and are in the position to do so.

I am looking forward to discuss these ideas about technological innovation on this blog and during the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation on March 7, 2016!

By Clarisa Perullini & Luciana Comes, Maggacup, Argentina

In our presentation in the next session of the Dialogues on Civic Innovation research on 7 March 2016, we will be looking at the question: How the use of a new menstrual technology can produce social and environmental impacts?

Creating a new feminine habit through technological innovation Maggacup

The inception of the menstrual cup brings a disruption to a standing dominant behavioral pattern that has been imposed by market forces to women, which promotes the idea of consuming disposable products and rapidly getting rid of the ‘annoying issue’ of menstruation by simply wrapping it, absorbing it and throwing it to the garbage. Leaving the consequences of the disposability to another stakeholder: the environment.

With the cup, a woman has the possibility to alleviate the environmental impact caused by this way of managing menstruation and become part of the solution. The cup brings her the possibility to be in charge of the disposal of her own menstrual fluid. By being reusable, the cup offers a simple way to reduce the production of waste: the cup lasts for 5 years with the proper care, and costs the same as the average woman will spend on disposable sanitary protection in ten months.

What Cíclica does is helping women to navigate this change of paradigm, by promoting new interpretations and ways of managing the menstrual cycle.

New Caring Paradigm

“When we love, we care; and when we care, we love”

“Caring is the key category of the new paradigm of civilization that is struggling to emerge all over the world. Caring serves both to prevent future damage and to repair past damage”

Leonardo Boff

We promote three main levels of care that can trigger social and environmental change:

  1. Caring towards each person, encompasses care about the body, the mind and the spirit.

Caring about the body, implies self-care. Developing a better self-esteem and self-knowledge. How to maximize women’s optimal times in the menstrual cycle. The non-toxic and hypoallergenic silicone cup protects the body by inhibiting health risks.

Caring about the mind: this is a technology that promotes well-being and generates self-awareness. It helps re-telling the narratives about menstruation, replacing the rejection and embarrassment for acceptance and respect.

Caring about the spirit: we see the connection to the menstrual cycle as something sacred, not as something dirty or a waste, rather as something that strengthens and connects all women with life.

  1. Caring about the community

We are a B Corporation, whose motto is “to be the best FOR the world” and not “the best OF the world”.

We provide different kinds of trainings in order to create value and awareness of the importance of menstruation and its impact on health, education, the environment and the economy.

  1. Care about the environment

Besides reducing plastic waste production, in what has to do with the manufacture of the menstrual cups, no trees are cut or used. Plus none of our activities include animal testing.

With our sales we have already achieved to preserve (until February 2016) 14,000 m2 of the Misiones jungle with the help of the Forest Bank foundation. This is possible due to our commitment to make a donation to this foundation for each Maggacup that is purchased.

What Maggacup promotes

Maggacup offers workshops and programs to different sectors of our society: entrepreneurs’ festivals, cooperatives and educative institutions. To briefly name and explain a few:

The Heritage Love Cycle is a workshop about the menstrual cycle and its role in the construction of the feminine identity within the family system in a transgenerational level.

The “Blood life. Wisdom of Humanity” Where menstruation is explored from different artistic manifestations.

menstruation, menstrual technologies, civic innovation, India, protest

Learning that ‘Menstruation is not an illness’ (picture from a protest in Kolkata, India)

Menstru-action A program for students about sexual, reproductive and sustainable health.

Women’s Empowerment Program It is a strategy which is presented to the community through arts, communications and business tools.

We are developing the “Cíclica Observatory” on which we are making agreements with local universities to build and systematize knowledge about the experiences of women concerning a dignified management of menstrual health.

We are looking forward to discussing these ways to promote civic innovation through menstrual technology with you during the ISS Dialogue on 7 March!

Wendy Harcourt & Saskia Vossenberg


The next session of our Dialogues on Civic Innovation research on 15 February 2016 will be looking at: How do we translate feminist visions on the economy into viable options for action and policy influencing? What openings do we see and what feminist dilemmas do we face when negotiating and debating new forms of economic life and what strategies do we use to counter these?

In an interactive form of dialogue – a fishbowl conversation – we will reflect on these questions by putting the feminist dilemmas and innovative practices of ‘interlocutors’ in the spotlight. These women and men working from a gender lens at the interface of the market and government, actively influencing their economic policy debates, agendas and instruments will begin the conversation and then we will invite the audience to join.

In bringing people from the academe, civil society and government together, we aim to create an open space for scholars, policy makers, activists, development practitioners, students and lobbyists to share in and reflect on our diverse efforts to aim for different and more gender just economic policy and pathways in the Netherlands and beyond.

We would like to open up the conversation by asking four questions that will guide the fishbowl conversation:

Why? What ‘feminist principles’ are important to you and what are the ‘gender just economic alternatives’ that you aim for?

Where? In what spaces, with what audiences, do you try to create openings, debate or negotiate for new forms of economic life?

How? Which activities and strategies do you use?

What? What dilemma’s do you encounter and what innovative practices do you use to counter these?

The German NGO Dreilinden gGmbH has granted the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS) again scholarships for capacity building in the area of decent work for lesbian, gay, trans- and intersexual (LGBTI) persons.

Dreilinden provides two scholarships for MA students from the Global South and East. The selected applicants will participate in the 2014/2015 ISS MA Programme in Development Studies, major Social Policy for Development (SPD) with a specialisation in Work & Employment (WE).

Eligible applicants are nationals of a developing or transition country and have a documented background in work for human/labour rights for LGBTI persons.

The scholarship covers all study-related expenditures, including the fee, travel, lodging, and meals, for the whole 15.5 month study period (1 September 2014 – 15 December 2015).

Application procedure

To apply, please send a motivation letter and CV to the WE convenor, Professor Dr. Irene van Staveren, via e-mail: staveren@iss.nl. The application deadline for the Dreilinden-ISS Scholarship is on May 15, 2014.

General admission requirements for the ISS MA Programme as well as information about the application procedure can be found on the Prospective Students page of the ISS website.

For more information about the Dreilinden-ISS scholarship, please contact WE convenor Professor Dr. Irene van Staveren via e-mail at staveren@iss.nl or phone +31-70-4260 602.

All inquiries about the ISS MA Programme can be directed to the ISS Student Office at student.office@iss.nl.

We are pleased to invite you to the last session of the Development Research Series ‘Bodies in Resistance’ on Monday 16th December from 16:15 to 17:45 in Small Aula (International Institute of Social Studies).

The invited speaker Dr. Marjaana Jauhola will deliver her keynote speech under the title ‘Becoming Better Men and Women: Gender Mainstreaming and Gendered Agency in Post-tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia’. CIRI member and PhD researcher, Tamara Soukotta, will be the invited discussant.

Dr. Marjaana Jauhola is a postdoctoral researcher in Gender Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She holds PhD from Aberystwyth University in International Politics (2010). In her postdoctoral research, she continues her research on governmentality and subversive potential of reconstruction landscapes in Aceh through street ethnography in Banda Aceh exploring how aesthetics of ordering and disordering urban space offer alternative modes for political engagement in post-disaster landscape: how lived and embodied experiences of reconstruction offer modes of contestation, rupture and discontinuity for the conceived ‘political present’. Dr. Jauhola has nearly 15 years experience as a development aid practitioner.


Gender mainstreaming, integration of a gender equality approach and a gender perspective, was formally endorsed by the UN member states at the Beijing Conference in 1995 as a policy strategy to promote gender equality and the advancement of women. The underlying assumption of gender mainstreaming is a transformative process resulting in empowerment and freedom.

It has become the dominant mode for promoting gender equality for most international, regional and national organizations, governments and non-state actors: Since the early 1990s, humanitarian organizations have introduced policies, guidelines and training packages to support the integration of gender concerns into emergency response and disaster management

In her groundbreaking study of female agency in Aceh from the 1990’s, Jacqueline Siapno argued that female agency is constituted in a complex interplay of indigenous matrifocality, Islamic belief and practice, state terror, and political violence. What is the situation twenty years later, 9 years after the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami and the earthquakes, and 8 years after signing of Memorandum of Understanding that ended nearly three decades of armed conflict?

This talk will address the question of gendered agency from the perspective of international ‘gender humanitarianism’ or gender advocacy in Aceh and it will explore how initiatives that aim to mainstreaming gender and attempts to integrate a gender equality approach to post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Aceh, take part in the politics of reconstruction by both reproducing and subverting gendered images of temporality and spatiality, nation, modernity and citizenship that intersect with norms such as sexuality and the practice of Islam.

Focusing on two governmental practices of gender mainstreaming, the use of the sex/gender concept pair, and the use of gender as an exclusive category of feminist analysis, the talk aims to illustrate how gender advocacy on one hand unfold their effects and how on the other how disaster landscapes escape the attempts of governance and allow the emergence of subversive feminist politics.

The talk is based on a recently published monograph ‘Post-tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia: Negotiating normativity through gender mainstreaming initiatives in Aceh’.


We are pleased to invite you to the last session of the Development Research Series ‘Bodies in Resistance’ on Monday 2nd December from 16:15 to 17:45 in Small Aula (International Institute of Social Studies).

The invited speakers will be Dr. Rosalba Icaza, CIRI member and senior lecturer at the ISS, and PhD candidates Larissa Barbosa Da Costa from Brazil and Angelica Maria Ocampo Talero from Colombia. They will discussedKnowledge about, Knowledge with. Dilemmas of Researching Lives, Nature and Genders Otherwise’. Sara de Jong from Leiden University College in Netherlands will be the invited respondent.

About the research series

Under the title Bodies in Resistance the series continues the debate on why sexuality and gender are integral to development studies showing how the body, (sexualized and desexualized), is embedded in development discourse.

The focus of this second series will be to look at gender relations and the new body politics in civic resistance to the governing regimes and the inequalities and injustices of neoliberal capitalism around the world.

The series will look at the sexual politics of ‘bodies in resistance’ on the streets, in communities and in the in-between marginal places as people are fighting for their rights, their integrity and their survival. Speakers will address such issues as the responses of female Egyptian activists who were exposed to sexual violence while protesting in Tahrir Square in 2011 and 2013; the ‘new’ forms of body politics using social media; the fight to be recognized by transgender activists in feminist movements; gender relations in communities fighting for their survival in environment conflicts in Latin America.

The series will illustrate how shifting forms of oppression and discrimination, including sexual and racial-based discrimination, and gender relations are part and parcel of social movement protest. Speakers from Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, USA and Asia will bring examples of ‘bodies in resistance’ in civic action and movements organizing for social change.

As with the first SRI series ‘Why sex counts’ the sessions will be designed as interactive conversations with members of SRI facilitating each session along with an invited speaker and ISS staff or PhD students engaged in a dialogue format.

For more information please contact: Wendy Harcourt and Rosalba Icaza (harcourt@iss.nl and icaza@iss.nl).

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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