Barbara Klugman


The author proposes that the paradigms within which struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are waged fail to engage with those dimensions of sexuality and reproduction that are inscribed into the broader organization of social and economic life nationally and globally. In the case of reproductive rights she argues that the possibility of delivering quality reproductive health services is determined not only by ideological struggles regarding people’s right to control their sexual and reproductive selves but also by the extent of the state’s commitment to delivery of services as well as global factors influencing state capacity, such as debt, or the impact of international trade agreements and corporate policies on costs of health commodities. Yet reproductive rights activism does not seek alliances with others concerned with questions of state capacity and accountability for provision of services to the public. This is evident in the presentation of parallel events at the WSF, rather than the inclusion of health services including sexual and reproductive health services as part of the discussion on the dominant themes of the WSF regarding both citizenship and globalization. In relation to sexual rights, the author argues that the dominance of identity politics as the paradigm of mobilization leads to failure to recognize that many of the impacts of discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender diversity are also experienced, albeit in different ways, by other marginalized groups, whether immigrants, poor people or different ethnic groups. The use of an essentialist identity paradigm prevents the development of alliances around the more fundamental problem of lack of access to the benefits of full citizenship for all of those who do not fit the hegemonic norm. She proposes that an effort to rethink these challenges would contribute towards the development of alliances at the World Social Forum and beyond to challenge those factors that ultimately undermine both sexual and reproductive rights.

Author Biography

Barbara Klugman is a Senior Program Officer on Sexuality and Reproductive Health at the Ford Foundation in New York. Previously, she directed the Women’s Health Project at the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She draws on a history of political activism, research and capacity building around social justice, including on the intersections between gender, race and class in shaping sexual and reproductive rights and health.