In light of the increasing prominence of women’s health care issues in national politics, the University’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender is hosting a Sex and Justice Conference this weekend to promote discussion on the many forms that sexual injustice takes in today’s society.

Multiple campus departments are also involved in the conference, which began Thursday and will continue through Saturday. By focusing on the intersection between sexual identities and other factors, such as race, the conference aims to change the conversation on how sex and justice are intertwined.

The conference will focus on intersectionality, a feminist sociological theory that examines how institutions, such as gender, race and sexual orientation, are connected. The theory holds that a person’s multiple identities are not mutually exclusive and cannot be examined separately from each other.

Leading academics, legal experts and activists invested in the causes will give presentations and lectures. Topics range from “The Right to Know: Public Documents and How to Access Them,” to “Controlling Deviant Sex,” to “How Criminalization Affects People Living With HIV in Ontario.”

The conference will also feature smaller workshops and panel discussions between lectures. On Saturday, there will be a catered brunch and film screening of “HIV is Not a Crime,” a film that investigates laws that treat HIV-positive individuals unfairly.

Robert Suttle — a conference speaker and member of the Sero Project, a not-for-profit human rights group working to end the stigma attached to HIV — said learning from the presenters who study other topics has been a highlight of the conference so far.

“To have other people come and speak about other issues that are somehow related, yet we don’t really focus on, is a big help,” Suttle said. “A lot of times you think you’re the only one … talking about certain issues.”

He said the conference seeks to unite scholars who focus on sex issues with those who study justice issues, which provides a rare opportunity to learn about the topics in a new context.

Public Health student Tori Adams, who works in the University’s Sexuality and Health Lab, said she attended Thursday’s lectures because of her work with sex, social justice and non-profit organizations.

“Hearing about the political climate in a bunch of different areas, I’m disconnected with what’s happening,” Adams said. “I don’t really know a lot about the specific state laws … but I’ve been learning a lot, I’ve been taking a lot of notes.”

LSA junior Audrey Armitage said she came because she is interested in social justice issues, as well as sex positivity, a movement that promotes the acceptance of all sexualities. She said she was particularly inspired by the “Who’s Family?” workshop she attended Thursday which discussed how the 1980s, the drug wars and HIV shaped homophobia in the black community.

“It was just a really, really good conversation,” Armitage said. “It’s good to talk about the intersectionality of all of these issues … about how they all fit together.”

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