Breaking from usual practice, I am cross-posting a piece from Akshay Khanna writing as part of the Participation, Power and Social Change blog over at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Akshay is writing in response to this statement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron where, in a nutshell, he threatens cutting off aid to countries that still ban or make homosexuality illegal.
The controversy has begun – a BBC report has already cited an angry response from the Government of Uganda and more are surely to come. Aid conditionalities have a long history – the era of structural adjustment and austerity conditions is still with us, particularly in Africa, where the brunt of Cameron’s threat is clearly directed. So the question arises: how is this similiar or different to the conditionalities of other imperatives to “reform”? Parallels to the Bush administration refusing to fund organisations that also provided abortions, for example, or supported sex workers rights, even in countries where both of these were legal, echo strongly here as well.
I also want to raise, in addition to Akshay’s comments here, a broader contemplation about gay rights (not sexuality rights) and the legitimacy that they seem to have attained as an acceptable global human right that’s non-negotiable and circulates globally in a particular, recognisable form. This is, of course, a good thing in many ways except that this near universal legitimacy seems to come only when the idea of “gay rights” are absolutely divorced from movements, identities, gender, questions of economic and social class, and other contestations. Akshay is right to argue that queer politics in India has sought to reconnect and hold onto these interconnections but, increasingly post the 2009 judgment in India as well, it has, by all accounts, become harder and harder to do so as it becomes easier to claim rights and benefits as and for gay people, privileging sexual orientation over our other identities.
Here’s Akshay’s opening salvo then, which will hopefully start off debate and responses.
I’m quoting the first paragraph and then linking to the rest of the piece on its original blog.
Aid Conditionality and the Limits of a Politics of Sexuality
For activists and advocates of sexual rights, the very recognition of sexuality as a valid aspect of ‘development’ or of rights itself, has been a slow and thankless battle. As such, yesterday’s statement by David Cameron confirming that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic policies might ostensibly be seen as a ‘victory’ of sorts. And yet there is something more fundamental at stake here – the idea of ‘sexuality’ as political object and the perpetration of a racialised discourse of difference that highlights the colonial continuities in ‘Development’.
Read the whole article here.