This IDS Bulletin addresses a theme that mainstream development has persistently neglected: sexuality. Over the last decade, development policymakers and practitioners have come to endorse a multi-dimensional approach to poverty, and growing attention has been placed on achieving greater freedom, wellbeing and human rights for all. It is no longer possible to ignore discrimination, inequality and social exclusion; yet when it comes to the economic, social, political and rights implications of sex and sexuality, there is a silence. Treated as a ‘health issue’, or disregarded as a ‘luxury’, sexuality barely features in development debates, unless in negative AIDS references. Sexuality is treated as a problem which needs to be contained rather than as an integral part of human experience.
The issue shows why sexuality matters. Drawing on the inspiring ‘Realising Sexual Rights’ workshop held at IDS in 2005, the resulting innovative articles here provide diverse accounts of sexual rights conceptions, mobilisation, and new approaches to implementation. This is a first for IDS – both to host such an event and to produce an IDS Bulletin on this theme. The human side of sexuality is combined with macropolitical and analytical issues. Contributions include research into experiences of sexuality in diverse contexts and among diverse people, with personal stories of activism and initiatives that transform the ways in which sex and sexuality are experienced. The introduction draws together threads that weave across the issue, exploring their interconnections and implications for theory, policy and practice.