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November 9th was the second international “One Day, One Struggle” campaign, organized by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslims Societies (CSBR). Fifty participants from 20 human rights organizations, universities, and municipalities from 12 countries from the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia worked together to call for public attention for issues such as sexual education, sexual health, bodily autonomy, LGBT rights, sexual diversity in Islam, and sexuality and Shariah.
On the press release, it states:
Human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights have been under attack in all Muslim societies. Rising conservatism, fueled by militarism, increasing inequalities, the politicization of religion and Islamophobia have strengthened patriarchal and extremist religious ideologies.
The first campaign succeeded in stirring international public attention and was positively reviewed by national and international media and organizations, who defined it as a historical and timely event. This ad is based on last year’s campaign:
With double the number of participant organizations from twelve countries, this year’s campaign has even more support to claim sexual and bodily rights, and to carry on the struggle against violations of both rights and freedoms.
Lebanon-based groups Nasawiya, Helem and Meem launched the new website “Jismi” (Arabic for “My Body”), dedicated to the campaign. They started a video campaign focusing on bodily autonomy and sexual rights of individuals. Different websites and blogs shared supported the movement by publicizing it, and there is even a #Jismi hashtag on Twitter.
The videos on Jismi feature people of different ages, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, and professions talking about the various experiences they had in terms of sexual and bodily oppression, and the ways they were able to overcome imposed restrictions to achieve complete autonomy and independence in their sexual and bodily choices.
Lebanese feminists were the most active in participating in this campaign. Activist Nadine Moawad told AlSafir Lebanese newspaper about the goal of the campaign:
“We aim to fill the existing gap in dealing with issues of body and gender—which are always considered either private topics or taboos—because of their importance in human rights. The physical and sexual rights are looked at as political issues because they are under the laws and are monitored by the state, not to mention social constraints and cultural legacies that are of course a great pressure. All that affect relation of the person with his body and his sexuality which is always reformed by the oppressive community that takes out the freedom of choice from people!”
Egyptian participation was interestingly weak. The New Woman Foundation published the press release on their website and nothing more.
The Centre for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS (CGSH) in Dhaka, Bangladesh shared the findings of a research project on sexuality and rights in urban Bangladesh, which maps the multiple and shifting understandings of sexuality, identity and rights among public university students, factory workers, and sexual and gender minorities in Dhaka city.
I’ll go back to the first press release and quote:
Despite the differences among Muslim societies in terms of the progress made or the backlash encountered regarding sexual and bodily rights at the national levels; we believe that in the post 9/11 social and political context, religion is misused as a powerful instrument of control and sexual oppression with the goal of legitimizing human rights violations in the domain of sexuality. This indicates [to] us that sexuality is not a private issue but rather a site of political, social, and economic struggles for equality, human rights, democracy and peace at the national and international levels.
It is true that religion can be used as a tool to attack, and unless we ask questions out loud, speak our minds, and protest, religion will be misused more. The One Day, One Struggle campaign aims to raise awareness and get more men and women across the Muslim world to do just this.