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Professor Sara Matthews-Grieco (left) and
Dr Maheshvari Naidu.

Dr Maheshvari Naidu, Senior Lecturer and Anthropologist in the School of Social Sciences in the College of Humanities, has just returned from Italy where she was invited to deliver a public lecture to faculty and students within the Women and Gender Studies department.

Naidu said that this was a follow up to her previous invitation in 2012 where she delivered a lecture sharing feedback around a Gender and Reproductive Health Project that she was heading at the time with three of her masters and doctoral students.

Naidu was invited this time round to speak about ‘LBGT Identities in an African Context’. The invitation was extended by Professor Sara Matthews-Grieco, a senior Professor in the Women’s and Gender Department in Syracuse University (SU), Florence.

Professor Sara Matthews-Grieco teaches in History and Women’s and Gender Studies. She was responsible for the creation of the Women and Gender Studies focus at SU Florence, and has recently expanded courses in LBGT issues, in the context of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Florence. 

Naidu contextualised her recent Lecture within the context of an empirical study that she had carried out with religious women who held alternate sexual orientations, and their experiences within institutionalised religious structures.

‘The invitation from Syracuse University was ideal as their Women and Gender Department adopts an intersectional and transnational approach to the study of gender working from the premise that an analysis of gender and gender oppression is placed both within a global and intersectional framework,’ said Naidu.

Gender hierarchies and practices take shape in relationship with ideas about race, class, cultural identity, sexuality, nationality, and religion, and can also reveal significant variations and differences that exist in the world.

Naidu shared her findings with women within mainline institutional religions, who self-identified as being both gay and religious, sharing narrative insights from her study, which indicated the levels of marginalisation and discrimination experienced by the women within religious structures.

‘Syracuse University, Florence draws from its mother campus in the United States and the American students were a receptive audience wanting to gain a perspective on alternate sexualities in an African context.’

‘Unlike many of the other African states, South African has one of the most progressive laws around the non-discrimination of LBGTI individuals. However, the reality on the ground is still far removed, and extreme forms of violence against lesbians and homosexuals in the shape of horrific so called “corrective rape” crimes appears to be on the increase.’