The International Resource Network (IRN) at the IASSCS Conference in Madrid

In July 2011, The International Resource Network participated in the VIII International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) Conference, entitled “Naming and Framing: The Making of Sexual (In)Equality” in Madrid, Spain.

IRN and International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) organized a special panel entitled “Promoting Sexual Justice: Advocacy, Front-line Activism, and Academic Research—lessons learned, emerging opportunities.” IRN Panel participants included Mark Blasius, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), Rosamond King, a Professor at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and chair of the CLAGS Board Committee for the IRN who launched the Caribbean region of the IRN, and Jasmin Blessing, IRN Latin America Coordinator.

On the IASSCS side, participants included Abha Bhaiya, the Director of the Africa Regional Sexuality Resource Centre (ARSRC) in Nigeria and one of the founding members of Jagori, a feminist organization set up in 1984 in Delhi, Richmond Tiemoko, as well as Dorothy Aken ‘Ova, the founder of the International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCREASE). Although Dorothy was not able to attend in person, her presentation was read by Richmond on her behalf.

This panel staged a discussion on the kinds of knowledge activists and researchers require from each other with relation to gender and sexuality in order to work towards the common goal of social justice. Panelists addressed questions including: How can public space best be used for collaborative efforts in research, policy advocacy, and front-line activism toward sexual justice? What are the opportunities and challenges for intercultural, interregional, and global conceptualization and promotion of sexual justice in the different regions? How can we develop sustainable media and synergies between those working for LGBTI issues and those working on gender and sexuality studies more generally?

Bhaiya’s presentation emphasized the issue of sexual justice for multiple sexual identities, focusing on the ways in which these individuals cannot maintain vitality if communities of people that experience this exclusion, discrimination, subordination do not work together. She found that the intersectionality of issues and movements are not only important but imperative for evolving global practices that address all forms of domination.

Blasius discussed another set of challenges, particularly how me might work to not reproduce discriminatory practices by and through developing advocacy strategies and media to exclude those who do not have access to technology or literacy skills.

King discussed the potentials and challenges of creating responsive media research methods as well as internet based research and activist approaches in the Caribbean IRN. She showed how the IRN has a great potential for international interaction to disseminate and access information as well as to connect people and communities.

Following the conference, IRN members participated in a post-conference workshop organized by IASSCS and the Kartini Asia Network where they discoursed on connections between sexuality, research and advocacy. The workshop brought together activists and researchers from the sexual rights movement from five different regions of the globe to share their experiences. What came out of that workshop was a detailed set of recommendations for conducting research, media advocacy, as well as becoming actively involved with communities. The workshop was unique and worthwhile for the sharing of experiences and hard work of so many activists from different parts of the world. The event was an ideal environment to promote the work of the IRN and to connect with scholars, activists working in the field of sexual rights. Many lessons were learned for the IRN and the participating organizations that will strengthen the effectiveness of their establishments.

The IRN Special Session and a variety of websites and media that were shared at the IASSCS conference have been posted on the IRN website: www.irnweb.org