Global Resources

Poverty and sexuality: what are the connections?

Author: S. Jolly
Publisher: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Publication Date: Jan 2010

Although the interconnections between sexuality and poverty are under-studied, there is an emerging literature by researchers, activists and organisations, which has been drawn together in this Sida publication. It examines the relationship between these two themes – providing an overview of each separately, and discussing their linkages. This includes looking at: the ways in which sexuality norms can have material impacts; how economic status can affect sexual expression; as well as the role of globalising economies, national governments and the development industry in shaping sexuality norms. The influence of these norms in access to health services, work and livelihoods, education, and family home/housing are addressed in depth. This paper also contains a review of literature, much of which is by Southern authors, including grey literature, organisational reports, etcetera.

One of the key messages in this document is the need for economic policies and poverty reduction practices to take sexuality into account, warning of the potential exacerbation of exclusions and inequalities, as well as reduced effectiveness if it is not. Also, poverty can increase vulnerability to sexual rights abuses – for example, poor people in Northern Nigeria are more likely to be charged with sex crimes (e.g. illicit sex and sodomy). International development bodies are called on to examine any heteronormative assumptions in their structures and programming, such as those based on models of heterosexual marital/family relationships. Heteronormative activities need to be examined for their possible exclusion of groups who suffer stigmatisation – such as sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) – or potential reinforcement of oppressive and unequal relationships. There is also a section outlining the recognition of the interconnections between sexuality and poverty in Sida’s policy framework.