Reflections on the Sexuality Policy Watch conference

Guest post by Jamison Liang

Photo courtesy of Jamison Liang

As a graduate student in cultural anthropology whose research focuses on how international, national, and Islamic law have been applied to issues of gender and sexuality in the Indonesian province of Aceh, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to partake in the recent conference, Sexuality and Political Change: A New Training Program hosted by Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW).

The meeting took place in Rio de Janeiro from March 18-22 and brought together 17 individuals from around the world who do research on sexuality in the global south and look to link their work to movements of political and social change. Sexuality Policy Watch, a Rio and New York-based organization, serves as a global forum for researchers and activists who engage with policy debates and initiatives on sexuality, gender, sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, and LGBT activism. This pilot program aimed to provide a forum for participants to share our research and experiences while reflecting on the intersection of theory, research, and change in the realm of genders and sexualities.

One factor that made this conference so important for me—but also challenging—was the diversity of the participants both in interests and backgrounds. Attendees came from Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Brazil, India, Egypt, the Philippines, Cameroon, China, and Mexico, among others. I was one of two Americans. We ranged from current graduate students to established professors to queer activists to UN lawyers and had expertise in areas including sexual health, LGBT rights, migration, and sex work.

In forums such as this, it is always helpful as a space for knowledge sharing, but it is undoubtedly difficult to negotiate how we translate all of our local identities and nationally-bound political structures into terms and strategies that have currency at the transnational and international level. Continue reading “Reflections on the Sexuality Policy Watch conference”