Updates from One Day, One Struggle: Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies

IGLHRC believes that a vital part of our mission is supporting the work of activist organizations and allies by disseminating important information on human rights issues affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end we are reposting the following announcement from one of our partners.

On November 9, 2009, a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and activists across the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia carried out "One Day, One Struggle" events to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights. Below are some of the campaign updates, including the national launch of a pioneering research on sexuality and rights; a panel and cultural show on what it means to be a hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh, a discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran, and a queer-straight alliance meeting in Pakistan.

Bangladesh: Pioneering research is being done on sexuality and rights in Bangladesh

The Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS (CGSH) at the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University shared the findings of a trailblazing research project on sexuality and rights in urban Bangladesh. This exploratory study, the first of its kind, maps the manifold and changing understandings of sexuality, identity and rights among university students, factory workers, and sexual and gender minorities in Dhaka city. Dr. Dina Siddiqi, Sexuality Network Coordinator and Visiting Professor at the CGSH presented research findings on sexuality and rights in Dhaka. Other speakers were Dr. Sabina Faiz Rashid and Dr. Anwar Islam from the James P. Grant School of Public Health, Dr. Hilary Standing from the Realizing Rights Research Consortium, and Dr. Firdous Azim from the BRAC University Department of English and Humanities. A total of approximately 100 participants including journalists from the Bangladesh media, leaders of groups representing people of marginalized sexual orientations, independent researchers, anthropologists, public health professionals and NGO representatives were also present at the panel.

Bangladesh: Discussing the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran

Naripokkho organized a panel discussion entitled "Sexuality and Our Rights" which was moderated by Naripokkho member English professor Firdous Azim. Tamanna Khan, the president of Naripokkho and Shuchi Karim, a doctoral student at ISS in the Netherlands working on female sexuality in Bangladesh gave short presentations that were followed by an open discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran. Approximately 30 Naripokkho members participated in this event.

Bangladesh: Being hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh

Rangberong and Shochaton Shilpa Shangha organized a panel followed by a cultural show, both of which addressed specifically the hijra (transgender) community in Bangladesh. The panel hosted the speakers Ivan Ahmed Katha, the transgender president of the Shochetan Shilpa Shangha Association, Roksana Sultana, a journalist from BBC World, Nasrin Akhter Joli, the Deputy Director of the Hunger Project - Bangladesh and Mumtaz Begum, the former president of the Sex Workers' Association. Police brutality and other problems faced by hijras on a daily basis were the main discussion topics of the panel. The cultural show afterwards included a musical performance specific to the hijra community that documented "why and how they became hijras, how this played havoc with their lives and how it is that they still love men."

Indonesia: New Aceh law violates Islam and women's right to bodily autonomy

GAYa NUSANTARA together with the Center for Marginalized People (CMARs) and Tarbiyah Faculty of Moslem Education from IAIN Sunan Ampel University held a public seminar entitled "Qanun Jinayat: Is it still relevant for Indonesia?" More than 70 people including teachers, students and NGO representatives participated in the event that took place in IAIN Sunan Ampel University. Keynote speakers for this seminar were the Moslem thinker Guntur Romli from Jurnal Perempuan, the critical feminist Endah Triwijati and the moderator Ahmad Zainur Hamdi, professor at IAIN Sunan Ampel University.

Panel participants discussed the application of the law "Qanun Jinayat" in the local government of Aceh as a violation of Islam and the Islamic law because instead of punishing crimes like murder and theft it criminalizes homosexuality and physical (i.e., dating) and/or sexual acts of women. Participants stressed that the law is based on weak and/or false hadiths and is in violation of especially the LGBT individuals' and women's right to bodily autonomy and freedom of expression. It was also stressed that in Islam, there is no explicit law against or punishment for homosexuality and that Islamic scholars and ulema have different opinions and perspectives on these discussions.

Malaysia: Penal Code Section 498: Out of Date, Out With It!

All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Empower, Sisters in Islam (SIS) and Women's Aid Organization (WAO) organized a press conference in the city of Petaling Jaya, Selangor to draw attention to Section 498 of the Malaysian Penal Code on "Enticing or taking away or detaining with a criminal intent a married woman". The press conference marked the start of a media campaign to draw attention to and call for the abolishment of this law which assumes that married women lack the ability to think for themselves and therefore discriminates against women's right to control their own sexuality and bodies.

This event marked the beginning of a longer and more sustained campaign to lobby for the repeal of the law. Tentative plans for further action including more public awareness raising and lobbying parliamentarians at the next parliamentary sitting were agreed upon by the end of this event.

Pakistan: Promoting dialogue and building queer-straight alliances

The Organization for the Protection and Propagation of the Rights of Sexual Minorities (OPPRSM) participated in CSBR's "One Day One Struggle" campaign by holding an event called "Bring a Straight Friend Along". The aim of the event was to start a dialogue between the queer people of OPPRSM and their straight friends and allies about how friendship survives the coming out process and how straight friends handle the news that their friends are queer.

Firstly, a short play which wove together the personalities and stories of two queer men and two queer women who spoke in monologues about their lives, loves and beliefs was performed by OPPRSM members. This was followed by a staged improvisation between two members, portraying a straight man discovering that his friend is gay, and reacting argumentatively. After bringing out a few of the most prominent arguments, the performers changed the direction of the improv to one of interactive nature, allowing the audience to be visibly involved within the improv. This allowed the audience to enter the performance and take sides, supporting and defending points made by both characters. Overall, the event was a great success, and the discussion generated was centered around the nature of proper support for a friend, and the boundaries between support and approval. Encouragingly, the straight people present voiced their opinion that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and that their queer friends deserve their full support and understanding.

See additional information about the "One Day, One Struggle" event »