Advancing Sexual Rights in the "Developing World": The Politics of Human Rights Interventionism

London, 30 March 2012 

The Equal Rights Trust and the Human Rights Lawyers Association invite you to a panel discussion: Advancing Sexual Rights in the “Developing World”: The Politics of Human Rights Interventionism
10 May 2012, 18:30-20:00
The Bloomsbury Suite, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ

What is the appropriate role of international human rights and humanitarian organisations in the “developing world”? If international human rights and humanitarian actions are to genuinely be a strategy for solidarity, what should be their premises and their rules? Are there cases where solidarity in defence of human rights is “wrong” or unhelpful? Are there certain cases, involving the most culturally sensitive rights related to sexuality, where the appropriateness of international intervention requires special consideration?  

In October 2011, during the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, threatened to reduce development aid to countries that criminalise homosexuality. A few weeks later, the Obama administration announced that they would use all available mechanisms, including measures related to development cooperation, to promote the rights of LGBT persons. These announcements revived the debate on the appropriateness of aid conditionality as a tool to promote human rights in the “global South”, particularly those related to sexuality and gender. 

At the same time, the legitimacy of other human rights interventions by organisations based in the “global North”, such as foreign lawyers involved in strategic litigation, or overseas researchers publishing human rights reports on countries of the “global South”, remains a controversial issue, which, while much talked about, is under-theorised. 

This panel discussion will address questions about the ethics of aid conditionality and of human rights interventions, focusing on issues such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality, sex workers, female genital mutilation, family planning, abortion, and early marriages, as well as sexual minorities’ rights. 

The panel will include:

  • Sonia Correa, Brazilian researcher and activist, co-chair of Sexuality Policy Watch, a global forum composed of researchers and activists from a wide range of countries and regions of the world.
  • Jonathan Cooper, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, a London-based organisation which exists to help local groups and individuals challenge, through test case litigation, the legality of laws which criminalise private consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex.
  • Sylvia Tamale, a prominent Ugandan academic lawyer teaching at Makerere University and a human rights advocate who has been at the forefront of the campaign against the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.

The discussion will be moderated by Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of The Equal Rights Trust (London) and Visiting Professor at the Central European University, teaching Human Rights Politics.

To reserve a place at the event, please email: