Sexuality and Gender Based Violence

The only linkage between sexuality and violence against women that we as women’s groups have recognised so far is in terms of sexual violence. Nirantar’s trainings, materials and advocacy highlight other critical linkages between sexuality and gender-based violence (a term that includes all violence based on gender, such as that faced by transgender people). One of the critical linkages between sexuality and gender-based violence is that many women who experience violence because of their sexuality — including women who are attracted to women, widows in sexual relationships, women in relationships that cross caste and religious barriers, and sex workers — are excluded from existing violence against women programmes.

The second linkage between sexuality and gender-based violence that we highlight is that currently violence against women interventions are ill-equipped to deal with sexual differences/conflict. Many women approach violence against women programmes because their husbands want anal/oral sex which they consider to be ‘unnatural’, violent acts.  It is also difficult for case workers to deal with cases of bigamy and the conflicting interests that these entail. The third linkage between sexuality and gender-based violence is that one of the reasons why survivors of violence return to abusive husbands is sexual needs, which they feel can only be fulfilled within the sanctioned space of marriage.  The fourth linkage with a sexuality perspective is that it helps distinguish cases of consent from non consent, particularly in conflict situations where the so-called ‘honour’ of the family is considered to be at stake.

Having engaged with issues of sexuality in our work and activism, Nirantar had various curiosities and excitements in mapping the discourse around sexuality over the years. This mapping sought to create a space for a “coming together” of various different conversations around sexuality in India towards a positive political integration sexuality discourses. This report draws on conversations on sexuality among activists and development practitioners based on a series of semi structured interviews conducted in 2013-2014. Through the mapping we present a critical appraisal of existing approaches at the level of understanding sexuality alongside concrete thematic recommendations.