Register Now: SRI Conversations: Colonialism & Sexual Rights

Published on августа 11, 2023
Event date

Join us for this exciting series of conversations hosted by the Sexual Rights Initiative on the political economy of sexual rights. These engaging discussions explore how macroeconomics profoundly affects sexual rights and share ideas on effective strategies to address these challenges within social justice activism, including advocacy in UN human rights spaces. By bringing together a diverse group of activists, scholars, and advocates, this virtual conversation series aims to build cross-movement collaboration and global partnerships.

Our first conversation will be on the following theme: legacies and contemporary forms of colonialism, imperialism, and occupation, and their impact on sexual and reproductive rights.

Join us for this exciting online event on 14 September 2023 from 15:00 to 16:30 CET.


Anthea Taderera, Advocacy Advisor - UPR, Sexual Rights Initiative


  • Alisa Lombard, Lawyer, Lombard Law
  • Winnet Shamuyarira, Coordinator of the Guns, Power and Politics: Extractives, Militarisation and VAW, Womin.
  • Omar Khatib, independent researcher and organiser specialising in queer politics and settler colonialism

Interpretation in Spanish and French will be provided.

Register now for this event using the form below.



The recent shift in popular political discourse from ‘postcolonial’ to ‘decolonial’ critique and strategies signals an important development in our understanding of the impact of historical and ongoing forms of colonialism, imperialism, and occupation. It better captures the insight that these forms of oppression are far from being historical artefacts and that they, in fact, continue to shape and influence contemporary political, economic, and social relations and practices all over the world. There is a growing consensus in anti-colonial movements that a decolonial approach is needed to address the harms caused by both historical colonial policies and processes as well as their thriving afterlives as neocolonial and neo-imperial ideologies and practices.

We are familiar with the mobilisation of individualistic rights discourses by countries of the global North to cast certain non-western societies as premodern and thus to justify military and economic wars against them (historically and now) and, in turn, the often cynical mobilisation of discourses of tradition and culture by non-western societies to deny some groups of people, and women across all groups, basic rights to bodily autonomy. With the exception of such manipulation of human rights discourses and agreements, sexual rights are seldom seen to have a relation to historical and contemporary forms of colonialism, imperialism, and occupation despite the fact that the realisation of all human rights, including sexual rights, is profoundly and negatively affected by these forms of ongoing domination and oppression. 

Thus, countries impoverished through direct colonial rule often retain colonial-era laws or enact further unjust laws that disenfranchise certain groups of people; the criminalisation of sex work, abortion, and homosexual conduct in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean is one example of the lingering effects of colonial-era discrimination dressed up as modern morality. In addition to direct colonial legacies that are adopted by the governments of independent countries as a strategy for oppressing marginalised communities, neo-imperial trade policies, bilateral trade relations between coloniser and colonised countries, and multilateral trade and financial agreements continue to benefit colonising nations in the global North as well as the post-WWII superpower, the United States of America, and a small number of elites from the ex-colonies. 

Domination through trade sanctions, aid conditionality, and debt repayment results in economic colonialism and dependence long after countries become politically independent, and this has a direct impact on the ability of states to fulfil their human rights obligations towards their own people, including sexual and reproductive rights contained in global agreements, which global North states monitor without a sense of irony. Under these conditions of economic stress, sexual rights are often among the first to be sacrificed or even decried as western aspirations; regressive gender ideologies and the scapegoating of marginalised populations are also easy tools of populist control when previously colonised countries find themselves unable to meet the needs of their people. 

Military intervention, including coups to dislodge elected governments, and economic bullying is used to secure access to oil, gas, minerals, and other natural wealth from ex-colonies and from subjugated indigenous areas in wealthy nations, for territorial and strategic advantage, as in the Middle East and East Asia, as well as for direct occupation for ideological, military, and economic dominance, as in the case of Israel’s apartheid state. These and other strategies for dominating and extracting wealth from the global South diminish the ability of targeted states to protect the rights of people and, further, create crony leadership and client states whose leadership attaches its loyalty to elites in the global North rather than to the people they swear to serve. 

Human rights systems at national, regional, and international levels are often unable or unwilling to address the deleterious effects of unequal political and economic relations on the bulk of the population in the global South and on marginalised peoples within the global North, including indigenous and racialised communities and economic migrants and refugees; it is no surprise that access to sexual and reproductive rights are the most compromised among these communities. In an increasingly polarised and unequal world, an individualistic and decontextualised conception of rights results in an incomplete understanding of the ways in which sexual rights remain a convenient proxy for geopolitical tensions.