Queer Lawfare and Political Backlash in Comparative Perspective

In India debates on homosexuality and queer rights have been fueled by recent court cases: In 2009, the Naz Foundation judgment of the Delhi High Court effectively decriminalised homosexuality. Four years later, in December 2013, the Supreme Court surprisingly overturned the decision on appeal, holding that it was up to Parliament to decide whether to decriminalise homosexuality. Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court took a very different course in a judgment affirming the rights of transgender people. This has left India’s sexual and gender minorities in a somewhat ambiguous and unclear state. The Indian case with its interaction of legal, social and political dynamics, is interesting in its own right but is also part of a global picture where sexual and reproductive rights are increasingly judicialised and politicised. Actors on all sides – often with strong international partners – use domestic and international courts as arenas to advance their aims. Many countries have experienced a strong political backlash where alliances of political and religious leaders have succeeded in turning these moral-political issues into salient political markers and vehicles for voter-mobilization. In Latin America, abortion is the most contentious issue, in Africa and parts of Asia it is homosexuality, while in Europe and the US it is more across the board, with same-sex marriage as a central focal point. But the dynamics and the actors in each case are very similar.

This talk will present early findings from a comparative research project on Sexual and Reproductive Rights Lawfare: Global Battles coordinated by the Centre on Law and Social Transformation in Bergen, Norway.

Siri Gloppen is Director of the Centre on Law and Social Transformation, Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, and Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI).