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sexuality: critical to addressing poverty and food insecurity

ARROW Thematic Paper 3 on Sexuality-1

Sexuality is a defining aspect of being human. How individuals choose to express their sexuality has ramifications on their health, well-being, participation in, and contribution to societal development (Hawkins, Cornwall, & Lewin 2011). While it holds the potential to tackle tenacious issues such as eradicating poverty and hunger, mainstream development discourse has largely ignored issues of sexuality. The absence of any reference to sexuality—aside from addressing HIV and AIDS—in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is one such oversight. As we approach the deadline for the MDGs this year, around 1.2 billion people continue to live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day, and 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger (MDG Report 2014; FAO 2014). The number of people classified as living in multidimensional poverty is even higher, pegged at 1.5 billion (UNDP 2014).

The year 2015 also marks the launch of a new set of universal goals—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the post-2015 development agenda currently being crafted, of the 17 proposed goals, the first two goals focus on the themes of poverty elimination (goal 1) and ending hunger (goal 2), showing they remain relevant (Open Working Group [OWG] 2014). Yet, it is disturbing to note that despite the lobbying from women’s groups and LGBTI 1 activists, sexuality is still missing. While the goals are seen to be more progressive in comparison to the MDGs and incorporate the “elimination of all forms of discrimination,” promote “inclusive development,” and “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health,” it does not explicitly mention human rights, particularly sexual rights. While access to information and education is mentioned under indicator 3.7 (goal 3), it does not clearly state comprehensive sexuality education. This omission is indicative of the continued uneasiness development agencies and governments have with sexuality and sexual rights.