New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 10:39 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Hundreds of Iraqi Women Defy Cleric to Protest Authorities











Bisma Zia and Anam Sajid (right), are Pakistani developers that were denied a visa to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. (Courtesy of IGDA Foundation)

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• Gulf Cooperation Council Reforms Are Changing Women’s Lives

• Visa Restrictions Prevented Two Pakistani Women, Anam Sajid and Bisma Zia, From Attending Game Developers Conference, So They Made A Game About It

• Women Protesters Refuse for Iraq to Be Turned into a ‘Second Iran’

• In Egypt, Renewed Outcry Against Female Genital Mutilation

• Egypt’s Aswan Women Film Festival: Blending Creativity with Women’s Activism

• 'No Society Can Progress Without Empowering Its Women,' Says Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan

• India: Muslim Woman Cremated as per Hindu Rites after Dead Body Mix up At Hospital

• For Sex Workers and Muslim Women, the Concept of Sexual Liberation Is Complex

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hundreds-of-iraqi-women-defy-cleric-to-protest-authorities/d/121064

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Hundreds of Iraqi Women Defy Cleric to Protest Authorities

February 13, 2020

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of Iraqi women of all ages flooded central Baghdad Thursday alongside male anti-government protesters, defying an order by powerful cleric Moqtada Sadr to separate the genders in the rallies.

Some were veiled, others not, still more wrapped their faces in black-and-white checkered scarves. Most carried roses, Iraqi flags or signs defending their role in the regime change demonstrations.

They marched through a tunnel and spilled out into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the youth-dominated movement in a country where vast regions remain socially conservative.

"We want to protect women's role in the protests as we're just like the men. There are efforts to kick us out of Tahrir but we'll only come back stronger," said Zainab Ahmad, a pharmacy student.

"Some people were inciting against us a few days ago, seeking to keep women at home or keep them quiet. But we turned out today in large numbers to prove to those people that their efforts will end in failure," she said.

Ahmad appeared to be referring to controversial cleric Moqtada Sadr, a powerful figure who first backed the rallies when they erupted in October but who has since sought to discredit them.

On Saturday, the militiaman-turned-politician had alleged drug and alcohol use among the protesters and said it was immoral for men and women to mix there.

And a few moments before Thursday's women's march began, Sadr once again took to Twitter to slam the protests as being rife with "nudity, promiscuity, drunkenness, immorality, debauchery ... and non-believers".

In a strange turn, he said Iraq must not "turn into Chicago," which he said was full of "moral looseness", a claim that was immediately mocked online.

While the numbers in Tahrir have dwindled in recent weeks, many Iraqi youth say the past four months of rallies have helped break down widespread conservative social norms.

Men and women were seen holding hands in Tahrir and even camping out in the square together.

On Thursday, men linked arms to form a protective ring around the women as they marched for over an hour.

"Revolution is my name, male silence is the real shame!" they chanted, then adding "Freedom, revolution, feminism!"

Some of their chants were snide remarks at Sadr himself.

"Where are the millions?" some said, referring to the cleric's call for a million-strong march several weeks ago that saw much smaller numbers hit the streets.

The rallies have slammed Iraqi authorities for being corrupt, incompetent and beholden to neighboring Iran.

"They want us to be a second Iran, but Iraqi women weren't born to let men dictate to them what to do," protester Raya Assi told AFP on Thursday.

"They have to accept us the way we are." — AFP

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/588893/World/Mena/Hundreds-of-Iraqi-women-defy-cleric-to-protest-authorities

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Gulf Cooperation Council Reforms Are Changing Women’s Lives

Issam Abousleiman

February 14, 2020

There are many examples of how the fundamental role of women in boosting economic growth has been recognized by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In recent years, the GCC economies implemented ambitious reforms to enhance women’s economic inclusion. They have improved women’s access to education, health care and employment, and have encouraged women to participate in political life. The reforms that took place in Saudi Arabia resulted in 30 women being appointed for the first time to the Saudi Shoura Council in 2013, and 17 women being appointed to municipal seats in 2015.

The World Bank’s annual report on Women, Business and the Law 2020 (WBL) highlights important reforms introduced around the world in the last two years related to women’s economic empowerment.

This year, Saudi Arabia was recognized as the global top reformer, following the enactment of breakthrough reforms supporting women’s participation in the economy. The UAE and Bahrain are among the top 10 global improvers, and across the MENA region Jordan and Tunisia scored highly, too. It is our hope that this strong reform momentum in the GCC is sustained and that we see further reforms across the rest of the MENA region. I would like to highlight some of the historic improvements that were introduced in the GCC.

Saudi Arabia increased its score on the WBL index by 38.8 points in the past two years and moved up 60 positions. Saudi Arabia enacted groundbreaking reforms in six of the eight indicators covered by the index, a few of which have caught global attention. The country allowed for more freedom of movement for women — they no longer need permission from a male guardian to travel abroad or to obtain a passport. The Kingdom also amended the Civil Status Law to allow a woman to choose where to live in the same way as men, and allowed women to be head of the household in the same way as men.

New legal amendments protect women in the workforce from discrimination, including criminalizing sexual harassment in employment, prohibiting employers from dismissing a woman during pregnancy and maternity leave, and equalizing the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, thus extending women’s working lives, earnings and contributions. Saudi Arabia also encouraged women’s entrepreneurship by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services.

Around 6 million Saudi women over the age of 21 are benefiting from these changes. The reforms, which were led by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, reflect the government’s understanding that women play a major role in achieving Vision 2030’s goal of increasing women’s labor force participation from 22 percent to 30 percent.

The UAE has the second-largest improvement globally on the WBL index of this year and implemented changes in five of the indicators measured. The reform effort has been a continuation of reforms that were led by the Gender Balance Council, the federal agency responsible for implementing initiatives to enhance women’s representation in the country’s private and public sectors. Important reforms made include allowing married women to apply for a passport without the written consent of her husband, prohibiting discrimination based on gender in employment, introducing penalties for sexual harassment in employment, lifting restrictions on women’s work at night and in certain industries, and allowing women to be head of the household in the same way as men.

In Bahrain, the continuing reforms were led by the Supreme Council for Women, which introduced the adoption of provisions on sexual harassment in employment such as criminal penalties for perpetrators. Bahrain also began allowing women to be recognized as heads of their households.

These successful reform programs are making significant improvements to women’s lives and are inspiring the region to advance on this agenda, especially as Dubai gears up to host the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) MENA Regional Summit on February 16-17, 2020 as part of their Global Women’s Forum. We-Fi is a World Bank-housed global platform dedicated to advancing women entrepreneurs in developing economies through a collaborative partnership of 14 governments and other institutions. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been key partners to We-Fi, pledging $100 million to the initiative. Through commitments such as these, we hope to see the reform momentum sustained in the GCC and women’s economic participation continually increase.

• Issam Abousleiman is the World Bank regional director of the GCC countries, Middle East and North Africa. His regional expertise includes Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East regions.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627436

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Visa Restrictions Prevented Two Pakistani Women, Anam Sajid and Bisma Zia, From Attending Game Developers Conference, So They Made A Game About It

By Elise Favis

Feb. 13, 2020

Anam Sajid and Bisma Zia were thrilled when they received invitations to attend the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC), a massive San Francisco-based event in March that attracts game design talent from all over the world. Through a scholarship awarded by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), they were given passes to the conference. There, they could network with big-name developers, as well as attend keynotes and workshops on game design. It was a phenomenal opportunity for the young, up-and-coming game designers from Islamabad, Pakistan. It soon dissolved, however, when their visas were rejected, preventing them from traveling to the United States.

“When my visa was rejected I thought maybe it was because of some mistake I made,” Sajid, 22, told The Washington Post. “But when Bisma’s visa also got rejected, who had a completely different experience, we thought it probably had something to do with the fact that we are Pakistani.”

Zia’s visa rejection fell on the same day as a global game jam organized by the IGDA, an event in which participants compete to create a game in an allotted time. The two joined and made Trying to Fly, a game about repairing what they see as a broken visa system. Zia, 25, said she had “huge feelings of frustration, annoyance and sadness” that she initially didn’t want to explore because they were “all very raw at the time.” In the end, though, the two felt it would help to funnel those tumultuous feelings into something positive.

“Funnily enough, only a couple of days before our rejections, Bisma and I were discussing making a game together,” Sajid said.

In the game, players take the form of a bird, which “represents the applicants’ dreams and aspirations for the future,” according to Trying to Fly’s download page. Then they are asked a series of questions about employment, their ethnicity and where they’re from, just like Zia and Sajid were asked during their embassy interviews. Depending on how you respond, you will either be accepted or rejected.

Travelers like Sajid and Zia have long faced increased scrutiny from customs officials when attempting to enter the United States.

Sajid and Zia are not the first international would-be attendees for GDC that have been unable to attend because of immigration issues. In 2017, developers from Iran, Syria and several other countries were unable to attend. Conference organizers promised refunds to those affected.

Applying for a U.S. visa was a first for Sajid and Zia, and they were both told during their interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad that they would not be admitted to the country.

“I was asked about my purpose of traveling to the U.S., for the GDC acceptance letter and for my travel history,” Sajid said. “Then after half a minute of typing, the interviewer returned my passport saying he cannot grant me the visa. Shocked, I stood there for a minute thinking those were definitely not enough questions to determine strong links to my homeland.”

Zia said her interview was done in English, because she’s fluent, but she said it began to take a turn for the worst when she brought up that she was employed (she works as a user experience (UX) designer at a software house, Switch Communications).

“He asked me my position and salary. I’m an entry level employee at my company, so it’s not a very high one,” Zia said. “He reconfirmed my salary at least three times. I could tell the interview was going stale now. I said everything I could think to say, but eventually I just stood there silently.”

Upon receiving visa rejections, both Zia and Sajid contacted IGDA. Zia said their contacts at the organization were “all understandably outraged on my behalf, and really supportive.”

“At the International Game Developers Association Foundation, we work tirelessly to ensure that the game development community is representative of, and welcome and inclusive to, every person who wants to make games,” the IGDA wrote in a statement provided to The Post. “We are currently looking into the recent events surrounding the visa rejections for further clarification and working to provide resources to our young scholars so they may succeed in their career goals. We will continue to support IGDA Pakistan’s platform to unifying students and developers and make programming more accessible to our global community beyond GDC.”

Elise Favis is a reporter for Launcher, The Washington Post’s video game and esports vertical. Before joining The Post, she worked as an associate editor for Game Informer, a video game magazine with a circulation of more than 7 million.Follow

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/02/13/visa-restrictions-prevented-two-pakistani-women-attending-gdc-so-they-made-game-about-it/

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Women Protesters Refuse for Iraq to Be Turned into a ‘Second Iran’

14 February, 2020

Hundreds of Iraqi women took to the streets of central Baghdad and southern Iraq, alongside their male counterparts, on Thursday to defend the role of females in the anti-government demonstrations, defying an order by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to separate the genders in the rallies.

Some women were veiled, others not, still more wrapped their faces in black-and-white checkered scarves. Most carried roses, Iraqi flags or signs defending their role in the regime change demonstrations.

They marched through a tunnel and spilled out into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the youth-dominated movement in a country where vast regions remain socially conservative.

“Whoever accuses women of being weak doesn't understand Iraq,” said protester Baan Jaafar, 35. “We will continue to defend our rights through demonstrations and participate in the decision to build a new Iraq after the demonstrations.”

"We want to protect women's role in the protests as we're just like the men. There are efforts to kick us out of Tahrir but we'll only come back stronger," said Zainab Ahmad, a pharmacy student, according to AFP.

"Some people were inciting against us a few days ago, seeking to keep women at home or keep them quiet. But we turned out today in large numbers to prove to those people that their efforts will end in failure," she said.

Ahmad appeared to be referring to Sadr, a powerful figure who first backed the rallies when they erupted in October but who has since sought to discredit them.

On Saturday, he had alleged drug and alcohol use among the protesters and said it was immoral for men and women to mix there.

Sadr, leader of parliament's Sairoon bloc, issued an 18-point code of conduct Sunday for protesters in which he cautioned against the mixing of men and women at sit-in areas.

And a few moments before Thursday's women's march began, Sadr once again took to Twitter to slam the protests as being rife with "nudity, promiscuity, drunkenness, immorality, debauchery... and non-believers".

In a strange turn, he said Iraq must not "turn into Chicago," which he said was full of "moral looseness" including homosexuality, a claim that was immediately mocked online.

Sadr, who has a cult-like following of millions across Iraq, has faced unprecedented public criticism in recent weeks for his dizzying tweets on the protests. The contradictory orders have exacerbated tensions already present between anti-government demonstrators and his followers.

'Freedom, revolution, feminism'

While the numbers in Tahrir have dwindled in recent weeks, many Iraqi youth say the past four months of rallies have helped break down widespread conservative social norms.

On Thursday, men linked arms to form a protective ring around the women as they marched for over an hour.

"Revolution is my name, male silence is the real shame!" they chanted, then adding "Freedom, revolution, feminism!"

Some of their chants were snide remarks at Sadr himself.

"Where are the millions?" some said, referring to the cleric's call for a million-strong march several weeks ago that saw much smaller numbers hit the streets.

The rallies have slammed Iraqi authorities for being corrupt, incompetent and beholden to neighboring Iran.

"They want us to be a second Iran, but Iraqi women weren't born to let men dictate to them what to do," protester Raya Assi told AFP on Thursday.

"They have to accept us the way we are."

Other rallies took place in Basra, a stronghold for traditional tribal influences that have long limited women's role in the public sphere.

"The revolution is female," read a handwritten sign carried by an older woman in a black veil and a medical mask, to protect her from tear gas.

Over 500 have died since October under fire from security forces using live bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2131046/women-protesters-refuse-iraq-be-turned-%E2%80%98second-iran%E2%80%99

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In Egypt, Renewed Outcry Against Female Genital Mutilation

By Edward Yeranian

February 13, 2020

CAIRO - After the death of a young girl in upper Egypt during a botched circumcision, women and doctors in Cairo launched a number of protests in recent days to decry the practice, which has been officially outlawed since 2008. Government officials say, however, that they can only step in when someone formally launches a complaint.

A crowd of mostly women took to the streets of Cairo to protest the enduring but now illegal practice of female circumcision. Egypt has the largest percentage of circumcised women of any country in the world.

The protests began after 12-year-old Nada Hassan Abdel Maqsoud died from a botched circumcision in the Upper Egypt town of Assyout. Both the girl's father and uncle were arrested and held for questioning for four days, along with the retired doctor who performed the procedure. 

Since 2003, at least six Egyptian young women have died as a result of being circumcised.

Writer and sociologist Nawal Sadawi decried the practice at a recent women's forum.

She said that circumcising women is ghastly, both medically, socially and psychologically. It is deceitful, she said, to cut off a part of a girl's body on the pretext of morality. Even in Saudi Arabia, which is the center of Islam, she stressed, they do not do such things.

Dr. George Nashed, who heads the good practices committee of the Egyptian Doctors' Syndicate, told Egyptian media that female circumcision continues, despite having been outlawed in 2008.

He said that Egyptian law now bans the procedure, but it remains a customary practice, even if it is not based in religion. He said the practice is less common in Cairo, but widespread in the provinces and villages. 

One middle-aged woman in Sharqiya province, north of Cairo, however, said Islam calls for the procedure, but gave no evidence to support the claim.

She said that grandmothers and mothers and all of women have been circumcised and that's the custom. Her husband adds that all four of his daughters have been circumcised, because - in his words - "it's the right thing to do."   

Hatem el Gamasy, who wrote a book on female genital mutilation, says that religious hardliners in parliament even tried to tried to annul the law banning female circumcision when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power from 2012 to 2013.

More than 87% of Egyptian women from ages 15 to 49 are circumcised. The figure is almost as high in Sudan. By contrast, only 18.5% of Yemeni women and just 7.4% of Iraqi women are circumcised.

A group of women doctors, including Dr. Souhair, spent a day in a Cairo metro station to educate passersby about the ills of female circumcision.

She said that a woman who has been circumcised will suffer a chronic deficiency in her intimate relations.

https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/egypt-renewed-outcry-against-female-genital-mutilation

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Egypt’s Aswan Women Film Festival: Blending Creativity with Women’s Activism

FEBRUARY 13, 2020

Set at the charming and richly cultural city of Aswan, Egyptian and foreign filmmakers and artists, as well as women’s activists, gathered at the fourth edition of the Aswan International Women Film Festival (AIWFF).

The festival kicked off on Monday and will continue until Saturday, February 15, under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, sponsored by the Egyptian National Council for Women and co-funded by the European Union (EU).

More than 50 films from 30 states are featured, including two international premiers and three Oscar-nominated films, one of which is the Syrian documentary “the Cave,”, to highlight the importance of advocating women’s issues through filmmaking.

The opening ceremony honored Spanish award-winning actress and singer Victoria Abril, the guest of honor of AIWFF 2020.

The annual event also honored Egyptian actresses Nelly Karim and Ragaa El-Giddawy, and paid tribute to iconic actresses Nadia Lotfi and Magda Al-Sabahi, both of whom passed away this year.

On the sidelines, the festival also organizes several workshops and seminars for both women and men to encourage more female film directors to enter the industry and produce films that tackle women’s issues.

Among these seminars was the ‘Nut Forum for Women’s Issues’, headed by Dr. Azza Kamel, vice chairwoman of the festival’s board of trustees.

The forum included the participation of Nehad Aboul Komsan, senior lawyer and chairwoman of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, Suhair Farraj, general director of TAM foundation (Women, Media and Development) in Palestine, Amna Al-Helwa, director of the Karama Organization in Jordan, Amal Al-Basha, chairwoman of the Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF), and Marie Therese El Mir, chairwoman of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering.

“The aim of this forum is two things: to bring more awareness to women’s issues, and to analyse the challenges facing women, and how it is reflected in the cinema,” Nehad Aboul Komsan told Egyptian Streets.

The forum shed light on the issue of child marriage, which is still very much practiced and affects the lives of many girls in Egypt. According to a 2018 report by CAPMAS, 117000 children under the age of 18 in Egypt are or have been married.

“There are some who argue and say, ‘the girl accepted the decision’. We do not entrust responsibility to youth to vote until the age of 18, and in other countries until the age of 21, so how is it that we entrust responsibility to young girls, who have yet not reached full maturity, to manage an entire household and family?” Nehad Aboul Komsan highlighted during the forum.

“We do not even provide driving licenses for young girls (and boys) because we are afraid that this would endanger their lives, and yet we marry them off, which deprives them from education and opportunities for a decent life,” Aboul Komsan added.

The forum also discussed the legal concerns such as the status of child marriage which is not criminalized in Egypt. Though the Child Law raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for females, early marriage is reportedly common as the Maazoun (legally authorized person to register marriage) is allowed to marry off the girls through urfi (customary) marriage and legally register it until she reaches the age of 18.

“The problem is that legislators do not take into account as to how the law would be enforced and what are the contradictions that may exist. As a result, the legislation is weak and enforcement is poor,” Aboul Komsan noted.

The Aswan International Women Film Festival is the first women’s film festival in Egypt, the first international festival held in Upper Egypt, and the first Egyptian film festival that specializes in workshops for youth in Aswan.

“The training workshops help to fertile the social soil in Aswan -year after year – for the flowering and blooming of new tree leaves,” as stated in the festival’s website.

https://egyptianstreets.com/2020/02/13/egypts-aswan-women-film-festival-blending-creativity-with-womens-activism/

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'No Society Can Progress Without Empowering Its Women,' Says Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan

February 14, 2020

Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan, echoing the sentiments of her husband Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that Pakistan and Turkey have always stood by each other in times of difficulty.

She was speaking at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts in Islamabad at a ceremony held to distribute sewing machines among the families of thalassemia patients. She is currently on a two-day visit to Pakistan.

Emine said that Turkey has always remained at the forefront of social welfare projects in the country.

Pakistan's First Lady Samina Alvi, Managing Director of Pakistan Baitul Maal Aon Abbas Bappi and Chairperson Ehsaas Programme Dr Sania Nishtar were also present at the occasion.

The Turkish first lady said that the future of any society is "directly interlinked with health and well-being" and she hopes that no more children will suffer from preventable diseases that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

She also said that no society can progress without empowering its women. She ended by thanking the people and officials of Pakistan for their hospitality. The first lady also distributed sewing machines after her speech.

This is not the first time Emine Erdogan has shown support for Pakistanis. In 2014, she visited the country to inaugurate a hospital named after her in recognition of her concern and efforts for the area after it was affected during the 2010 floods.

In 2010, she raised funds for people affected by the floods and came to the country herself to see the conditions of the affected people.

In a generous gesture, the first lady also gifted one of her necklaces, a wedding present from her husband, to help raise funds for the flood victims. The Turkish people bought the necklace when it was auctioned and returned it to her. Emine generously gave it once again to the house of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to use it for gathering donations.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534440

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India: Muslim Woman Cremated as per Hindu Rites after Dead Body Mix up At Hospital

February 13, 2020

Evangeline Elsa

India: In a bizarre incidence, a Muslim woman was cremated as per Hindu rituals after negligence at a Lucknow Hospital’s led to an exchange of dead bodies. The incident took place at Sahara Hospital in Lucknow, the capital of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

According to Indian news website News18.com, the mortal remains of a 78-year-old Hindu woman Archana Garg and that of a 73-year-old Muslim woman Ishrat Mirza family were exchanged. They had been admitted in the hospital for some time back. Both patients died on February 11.

The article mentioned that Garg's family took what they were told was her body and went ahead with the cremation. But, a day later, Mirza's family realised that her dead body had been handed over to Garg’s kin. By the time hospital authorities realised their mistake, Mirza's body had already been cremated as per Hindu rituals.

Police officials said that both families are currently in touch with the hospital authorities.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/india-muslim-woman-cremated-as-per-hindu-rites-after-dead-body-mix-up-at-hospital-1.1581610073463

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For Sex Workers and Muslim Women, the Concept of Sexual Liberation Is Complex

Ryaihanny Sahrom

February 14, 2020

The message that you can’t have women’s liberation without sexual liberation is practically forced down women’s throats by society, patronising men and even feminists these days. But what was originally meant to give women space for political liberation, has transformed into a marketable capitalist venture that utterly ignores intersectionality. For sex workers and Muslim women, the concept of sexual liberation is much more complex.

Modern-day sex positivity feminism manifests right now in fashion, art, film and TV shows, more than anything else. But the issue with sexuality-centred feminism as a tool for liberation is that it doesn’t entirely engage with the variety of understandings and body relationships women have towards sex and sexuality. Sex positivity feminism affirms that consensual activities are “fundamentally healthy and pleasurable”. But framing sexual pleasure as central to feminism denies entire classes of women their own experiences, thereby erasing their narratives and understandings of sex.

So, what of those who do have regular, consensual sex as part of their jobs? Sex workers often care little about the liberal imagination of sex positivity. It’s work. To view sex solely as enjoyment and for pleasure is to thoroughly disregard labour politics – it discredits sex for work rather than just for pleasure, and by extension, narrowly defines politics of pleasure that leaves no room for relationships with sex to be redefined.

Recognising valid consensual activities as a spectrum from “yes, of course, I’d love to do that!” to “eh, I’ll do it, but I’m not that thrilled just so you know” is a better means of acknowledging the more vibrant range of women’s sexual agency and autonomy. Giving consent without enthusiasm or a degree of eagerness does not automatically mean that it’s suddenly invalid or inauthentic.

Just like service staffs, and just like any other worker, sex workers shouldn’t be expected to wholly enjoy and be pleasured by every encounter. They shouldn’t be met with “you’re trafficked!” when they don’t enjoy it either. The point is: why should I be enthusiastic about something that could potentially just be mediocre? This is where our body politics have to be critically re-evaluated – sex-positive feminism doesn’t fully act in service for workers in the industry.

Thinking about sex positivity and politics of sexual liberation – it doesn’t even fully benefit women who occupy more than one marginal space at the same time, does it?

From the Burqa to the Burkini, any article of clothing Muslim women chooses to put on while simply trying to exist become hyper-politicised symbols. In the eyes of this arguably colonial feminism, the mere prospect of being a Muslim woman is often equated with oppression. Liberal-minded activists, thanks to Islamophobic tropes, perceive Muslim women as people without sexual control. It’s no surprise then, that in an attempt for liberal feminists to “free” Muslim women, Muslim women are expected to showcase their sexuality. It’s a conversation that plays directly into an Orientalist framework – one which spotlights western feminism’s binary of being suppressed and in need of emancipation.

The assertion on sexual liberation and the freedom to have sex emboldens exclusionary feminism to fit into capitalist society – the very society from which it emerged. Avid consumption of sex was the basis of the hit Netflix’s series Sex Education. With one swoop of a digital eraser, there are already attempts to position the show as “the inclusive, feminist show you need to watch” – erasing many very real experiences of young Muslims (especially young Muslim women) who reject the premise that casual, sexual pleasure has to be the centrepiece for social freedom.

The whole emphasis on sex and sexualisation in liberation movements allows the taming of radical feminism. We see it among feminist groups like Femen and many other spaces. Just two weeks ago, during a World Hijab Day conference in Sweden, a British Muslim woman presenter – one of the panelists at the conference – was targeted by a bunch of anti-hijab protestors who spoke against the hijab, regarding it as a symbol of oppression and sexism. In reality, it was an Islamophobic attack against a Muslim woman who chose to exercise her basic right to wear the hijab. Put simply, women who wish to wear things that have personal significance to them should not only be free to do so, they should have that choice respected. It’s not that hard to swallow.

You can’t conveniently fail to take the culture, class, race, and gender of people into consideration when the point of intersectional feminist liberation is to speak to the unique needs and vulnerabilities of all women, especially those who are already battling stigma and fighting against those wanting to “rescue” them. These women don’t need capitalistic gendered structures where “sex positivity” can be weaponised against them.

Our public conversations about these nuances and talks of consent, sex, and sexuality, certainly need more reworking and calibration, with a couple touches of sensitivity. And surely, sex workers and Muslim women can help to lead some of them.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sex-work-positive-education-feminism-muslim-islamophobia-hijab-a9332061.html

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