UPDATE: International: “One Day, One Struggle” to Promote Human Rights across Muslim Societies

Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR)

On November 9, 2009, a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and activists across the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia carried out bold events to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights. As part of the historic international campaign “One Day One Struggle” organized by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), over 20 organizations held simultaneous public demonstrations and meetings to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights and sexuality is not a private issue but a site of political struggle.

Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways a founding member and the international coordination office of the CSBR coordinated this one-day Campaign and is now working on the overall documentation of the Campaign that was simultaneously held in 11 countries. Meanwhile below and attached you can find a few examples of the activities that were carried out as part of the One Day One Struggle:

PALESTINE: Joining forces against the Wall and Femicide
MADA Al-Carmel (Arab Center for Applied Social Research) and Muntada (The Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health) launched a media campaign to highlight the bodily and sexual rights of Palestinian women in the shadow of the Israeli colonial policies such as discriminatory laws including the “citizenship law” and the construction of the “Apartheid wall.” The goal of this initiative was to empower women to speak against the violation of their sexual and bodily rights by the colonial policies of the Israeli state which deny women free choice of their partner and separate Palestinian families. As part of this media campaign, articles were published on local newspapers, interviews were given to local and international radios and a press release was sent to national and international media.

The nongovernmental organization Women Against Violence (WAV) organized a series of events to bring the public’s attention to the subject of Femicide (honor killings). During the first 9 days of November, WAV carried out a public outreach and awareness raising campaign which ended with simultaneous public demonstrations in different university campuses and town squares in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva. The public was invited to light candles to commemorate victims of Femicide and information brochures were distributed to passers by. Finally, WAV capped its participation in "One Day One Struggle" international campaign with the screening of Maria's Cave directed by the Palestinian Director from the West Bank, Buthaina Khoury. This screening was marked by a great success with hundreds of men and women of all ages coming from different sectors and locations taking part. Maria's Cave was chosen by WAV to focus on the issue of honor killings which took 112 women’s lives in the past 23 years in Palestine. The screening came to emphasize the activists’ conviction that these victims once had a life and they were killed for just being women who tried to follow their aspirations. (please see attached for the banner designed by WAV)

BANGLADESH: A first for the queer members of Bengali society
Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) arranged an event titled “Jaago” (Wake-up) with a movie screening followed by an informal public forum targeting the Bangladeshi LGBTT community and its supporters, selected media, other supportive NGOs and the public. Torch Song Trilogy was screened to a diverse audience and was met with enthusiasm by both queer and straight participants. These two BoB events aimed to increase affirmative awareness and visibility on sexuality, initiate a dialogue around marginalized genders and sexualities, strengthen the bond among the LGBTT community and increase the alliance between queer and straight members of Bengali society. One remarkable aspect of these activities was that BoB organized a public event for the first time since its foundation. (please see attached for the event pictures)

Bandhu Social Welfare Organization had a lively discussion on different sexualities and identities as part of the international “One Day One Struggle” campaign. In this event called “My Body, My Choice, My Rights”, LGBTT community members and their friends shared experiences and ideas about sexuality, identity, norms and freedoms. (please see attached for the event pictures)
TURKEY: Feminists and LGBTT activists stand together against the unjust justice
Feminist Collective and LGBTT Human Rights Platform supported by the Women’s Platform for the Reform of the Penal Code and Women’s Platform against Sexual Violence and the Istanbul LGBTT Community Initiative organized a street performance and a panel to protest the sentence reductions given by Courts to the perpetrators of crimes against women, homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals with the pretext of “unjust provocation” based on a Penal Code article. The unjust application of this article was demonstrated by a silent street performance displaying how the killers justify their murders at the Courts by claiming that their wife refused to have sex with them or by blaming a transvestite for not being a woman or claiming that they were provoked by the short skirt a woman was wearing etc. Following the performance and the press release, feminists and LGBTT activists marched together to the panel on the same subject that was attended by a diverse group of lawyers, activists and NGO representatives. (please see attached for the event pictures)

LEBANON: Talking of sexuality in Lebanon
MEEM and HELEM organized a one-day seminar with speakers Rasha Moumneh (Human Rights Watch), Dr. Faysal El Kak, Hiba Abbani (Helem) and Nadine Moawad (Feminist Collective) that was held at the American University of Beirut (AUB) to engage a wide spectrum of people in a discussion surrounding sexuality. Dr. El Kak spoke about sexual rights as a framework for sexual health and stressed the importance of introducing sexual rights in private and public services and in school curricula. Ms. Moumneh addressed sexuality as a form of social and political control on the social, state and international level. Ms. Abbani explored the relation between the Lebanese sectarian system, the family unit and oppression. “When religious institutions affect laws, sexuality is oppressed,” she said, especially that of women and LGBTIQ groups. Ms. Moawad tied the issue of sex to morality and underlined the power dynamics it gives way to. As sexual rights are considered less important than other human rights, such as the right to safety, security, food and shelter, she posed the question “why is sex so controversial?”

November 9 also became the launch of another Campaign by MEEM: Operation: Sex Change that continued until Nov. 20th (Transgender Day of Remembrance). The campaign has drawn the attention of 2,736 people around the world, who have changed their names/sex on Facebook and have been discussing transgender issues with their friends to break the invisible walls surrounding the discussion on sex changes and transsexuals.

CYPRUS: Joint effort against sexual violence and homophobia
Feminist Workshop (FEMA) and the Initiative against Homophobia (HOKI) organized a film screening followed by a discussion session on the “Crimes against Morality” chapter of the Criminal Code in Northern Cyprus. The evening started with the screening of the movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 days, a 2007 Romanian film written and directed by Cristian Mungiu that tells the story of two students, roommates in a university dormitory, who try to arrange an illegal abortion. After the screening, there was a short discussion regarding abortion rights in Cyprus and later on, the participants formulated their demand for a holistic reform of the criminal code with the aim of abolishing the article that criminalizes homosexual relationships and bringing severe sanctioning for crimes such as sexual assault or rape. Overall, the evening was a good example of joint solidarity between the two organizations and it provided a new stimulus for activists in reviewing the Northern Cypriot Criminal Code from another perspective. (please see attached for the event pictures)

About the CSBR: Founded in 2001, the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) is a globally renowned solidarity network of progressive NGOs, and premier academic institutions in the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Initiated by a conference organized by Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, CSBR has grown to include more than 38 organizational members from the diverse countries of this region. In 2007, its co-founder Pinar Ilkkaracan and the Coalition received the Peter and Patricia Gruber Women’s Rights Award. In 2008, another of its members, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, became a recipient of this award as well. CSBR is a vital resource that actively advocates promoting sexual and bodily rights in Muslim societies, produces and disseminates research and publication on these issues and conducts an annual CSBR Sexuality Institute.

For more information about the Campaign and for interviews, please contact the WWHR-New Ways at irazca.geray@wwhr.org or by phone +90 212 251 0029.
Visit to learn more about our work and accomplishments: www.wwhr.org/csbr.php

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