A wedding in Kyrgyzstan is a huge celebration. For most girls it is an event they await from their birth. Parents spend a great amount of money preparing the dowry and the feast. However, there is one moment that can ruin not only the outcome of the event and the fate of the bride, but also tarnish the family honor - the display of the first night bed sheet. A great disgrace befalls a woman whose sheet remains clean. Ironically, at the same time it is expected that the man should have had a sexual experience before the marriage, and it is a great shame for him to be a virgin at his wedding. These traditional views vividly display that women in Kyrgyzstan not only lack sexual rights, but are even stigmatized for their choices.
I attended a public forum entitled “Palestinian Queer Activists Talk Politics” in San Francisco’s Mission District. More than 20 groups including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Middle East Children’s Alliance sponsored the forum, moderated by lesbian Chicana activist and writer Cherríe Moraga. The discussion featured three speakers: Abeer Mansour works for Aswat, a feminist queer Palestinian women’s group dedicating to “generat[ing] social change in order to meet the needs of one of the most silenced and oppressed communities in Israel; Sami Shamali, who resides in the West Bank, represents Al Qaws, which aims to develop a “Palestinian civil society that respects and adheres to human and civil rights and allows individuals to live openly and equally, regardless of their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity”; Haneen Maikey, based in Jerusalem, is Al Qaws’ director.
The Violence is Not out Culture campaign condemns the brutal murder on 26 January 2011 of LGBT human rights defender, David Kato, of Uganda and extends its condolences to his colleagues at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). David was a long term activist for rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Uganda, and was a highly respected and admired human rights defender within his community and worldwide.
The names in this story have been changed to protect the women's identities out of concern for their safety. Five years ago, Fatima was 23 and studying law in Lahore, Pakistan. She wore blue jeans and a loose shirt and sported short boyish hair. That was the first sign she wasn't a typical Pakistani woman. She leaned in to share a secret she had revealed to only a few other people before: "I'm lesbian," she said hesitantly.
Control and Sexuality by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalisation of sexuality, gender-based violence and women’s rights activism. The Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network present this comparative study and feminist analysis of zina laws as a contribution to the broader objective of ending violence in the name of ‘culture’. Attached is the whole book, available for download for free. Please do consider making a donation to WLUML.
In August 2006, a 27-year old pharmacist started blogging anonymously about her futile hunt for a husband in Mahalla al-Kubra, an industrial city 60 miles north of Cairo in the Nile Delta. Steeped in satirical humor, the blog of this “wannabe bride” turned into a powerful critique of everything that is wrong with how middle-class Egyptians meet and marry. The author poked fun at every aspect of arranged marriage -- from the split-second decisions couples are expected to make after hour-long meetings about their lifetime compatibility to the meddling relatives and nosy neighbors who introduce them to each other. She joked about her desperation to marry in a society that stigmatizes single women over the age of 30. She ridiculed bachelors for their unrealistic expectations and inflated self-images while sympathizing with the exorbitant financial demands placed on would-be husbands. Thirty suitors and four years later, the pharmacist remains proudly single at 32, refusing to settle for just any man.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) has reported an increase in the number of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) teenagers coming forward to ask for help from them: This year, the FMU has dealt with 29 confirmed cases of forced marriage involving gay men and women. Last year, the unit offered support and advice to nearly 1,700 cases in total. Just how many of those involved lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) victims is unknown, because not everyone is willing to divulge their sexuality. However, it is thought this emerging trend is just the tip of the iceberg, as more gay men and women seek assistance.
The peace group Women in Black announced today that last night around 1:30 am, two young men invaded the organization's headquarters and with a hammer attacked men and women activists in the kitchen. This incident took place just before the holding of the Pride Parade in Belgrade, which indicates that homophobia is the motive of the attackers, a statement declared. "That it was not a matter of a random incident was proven by the young men entering the room loudly calling for 'faggots' among those present, and looking for a fight," the Women in Black statement added.
I have to admit it's always hard to ever approach homosexuality here in Egypt. Homosexual people (or behavior) here is usually seen as one of three views: deviant people who deserve to be punished or even executed; sick people who need medical attention; or normal people only with a different sexual orientation (hardly ever adopted or expressed, even by gays themselves).
I hesitated to write about the upcoming account of events, but I felt it's too disturbing to ignore. The story goes as follows:
A young boy, Kareem (16 year old) was walking by in downtown area, Cairo. He was followed by four guys who were shouting insults to the young boy calling him a faggot. The boy just ignored their insults and kept going, the thing that seemed to provoke them, so they chased him until they caught him and started slapping and beating him violently (they were older and much stronger). It's not very clear why they decided to be that violent and abusive; although it seems to be basically driven by homophobia as Kareem's appearance looked “different”. Kareem screamed and ran towards police informers nearby but they didn’t bother to help the boy.
A month-long film festival featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) issues will open on Friday in Indonesia, the only such event screened anywhere in the Muslim world. The Q! Film Festival represents one of the largest gay pride festivals in Asia with more than 150 films, fringe events on sexuality and LGBT-themed book launches planned for six cities across this predominantly Muslim country.