For as long as humankind has organized into coherent communities, sex and sexuality have played central roles in forming the nature of societies and governments. But only recently, within the past century or less, has the competition or selection of man vs. woman determined the nature of government, its citizens, and the way the two interact. We asked our panel of global experts how the interplay of gender and sexuality has affected their respective societies.

Last summer, I met a tired Congolese woman. She’d just had twins—no small work—and in the shrug of her body, you could see the other births the woman had been through. Eleven children, she said, was enough. She wished she could stop. Years earlier, at a women’s rights workshop in the same province, a young man with legal training—equal rights go over better when explained by...

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