Archive | February 2014

Criticism of Last Post

1. Need to expand on international outrage after Daniel Zamudio’s death. Including headline titles would be useful here, perhaps. (Use googlenews).

2. Also need to go more in depth  explaining instances of hate crime after 2012, how it was addressed and how the bill functions.

3. Finally, need to do further research and exposition of cultural responses to the bill and assess possible increases in openness of topic discussion.

 

 

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Chile post-2012: A very short and limited exploration

 After Michele Bachelet’s election in 2006, LGBT groups hoped the more liberal president would usher in better conditions for members of the LGBT community. The year  before, an anti-discrimination bill had been introduced in Chile’s Chamber of Deputies.That bill, which passed shortly after the outrage of Daniel Zamudio’s death, did not pass until seven years later. In fact, it was hardly even discussed. [1]

Daniel Zamudio’s death had become a source of international outrage that lead to what many consider a pivotal moment in the achievement  of LGBT rights in Chile. 

Yet, history has shown that the passage of a bill does not always change societies’ view and cannot act to totally prevent discrimination. So, what were the results of this bill? How has Chilean society changed or moved towards change? 

How are things changing:

Since that time, Chile’s first openly gay politician was elected (in 2012): Jaime Parada. This year, the Santiago Times interviewed him on his opinions of the state of LGBTQ issues and other political matters of Chile. Parada’s assessment of the potential progress in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Chile was largely hopeful. Unfortunately, however, the prompt for this interview was not the result of progress [interview found here].A short time before the 2014 interview, a young man named Esteban Parada (it is unclear if Jaime and Esteban were related) was murdered in  the Bellavista area. Fortunately, however, his murderers were captured by the homicide unit– though it is unclear if they have been tried yet [2].

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Evelyn

At the same time, in 2013 an openly gay author received a literary award for his criticism of Chilean pop culture and his depiction of the complexities Chilean life including issues of gender and social class. [3] A Photographer, Paz Errazuriz depicted an image of a transwoman simply called Evelyn on the cover of her newest book on photography in an effort to display more nuanced narratives of those who claim the identity of woman in Chile [4]

 

 

Questions about Kink: Egypt

Fetlife is one of many kink websites on the internet and has gained the reputation of being one of the more community focused BDSM websites on the internet.

It may be interesting to learn if other kink websites are censored in Egypt– holaunblocker, an extension intended to help circumvent internet blocks (and something I used to access my netflix account while abroad–shhhh) claims that the website “collarme”, a popular personal ad and BDSM community website is blocked in Egypt. Does this affect membership? How reliable is the number from fetlife? These kink websites are also entirely in English, how might language barriers prevent accessibility to information about safe, sane and consensual BDSM practices for those interested? Is there an equivalent term in Arabic?  How do societal gender and sexual identity norms affect the way Egyptians view BDSM culture?

Recently I spoke with several of my American friends who indicated an interest in BDSM and the BDSM community– many of them were unaware of local resources or of websites like fetlife which helps promote BDSM & Kink relationships. In a previous post, I talked briefly about the documentary ‘Libido’ which asserted that many adolescents, without proper education, turn to the internet. How many of that population are able to access good educational materials on BDSM in Arabic?

It would be interesting to interview Egyptians on their thoughts on this.

 

 

LGBT issues: Gay men in Egypt

“Uh, look I guess it’s fine as long as they don’t hit on me,” those were the closing remarks of the high school student sitting next to me at lunch. For some reason, I can’t remember why, we had decided to discuss our feelings on LGBT issues. Often times, in my small town that conversation was restricted to “Is it ok or not?”. The student who closed with those words had shifted uncomfortably when it was his turn to speak had opened with a long, sustained bout of silence and ended with ” I don’t like them. I mean, I guess they’re ok. I just don’t want them hitting on me all the time, y’know?”

Four years later, as I walked through an unfamiliar street in Cairo, lead by a new friend I found myself suffering from a bout of Deja vu.     “Oh, so you go to Saudi Arabia for work?” I had asked.
    “Yeah,” he had responded. Then, after a pause, “There are a lot of gays in Saudi Arabia.” 
    “Uh, ok?” I looked toward him, perplexed. “How do you feel about that?”
My friend  launched himself into a long speech detailing how they all hit on him all the time, how they shouldn’t because it made him uncomfortable and how they were all perverts.
Quietly I had responded “Why should you think they should know that you aren’t gay? How is this so different from you asking out girls? Why do you assume that all gay men are attracted to you anyway?”

There it was. The same uncomfortable shift and look away. The same struggle and the same finish “Look, it’s fine as long as they don’t hit on me.”

Earlier that week I had been speaking with another friend who considered himself a devout Muslim. “It’s unnatural,” he had said to me, “being gay”.
No matter how many counterpoints I brought up, he deeply believed that being gay, being lesbian, being trans was against God. He didn’t indicate hatred toward them, he felt they could be saved. While the country was unfamiliar, the conversation was all too familiar. Several of my Christian friends at home had uttered similar sentiments during similar conversations at home.
There’s this notion that Arabs are wholly different in their feeling toward LGBT rights and issues; that their dislike is somehow different from the dislike found in Western countries. Yet, when I spoke with my friends in Egypt I found their responses to be quite similar to those I found in conservative and liberal cities at home.

To be clear, I am not belittling in any way the challenges that an individual who identifies as LGBT faces in the Middle East. Being an LGBT individual is a criminal offense and often comes with great stigma. Those arrested are

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subjected to humiliation, beatings and sexual assault. One journalist, while interviewing police officers after an arrest of fourteen men, found the police officers took great pride in what they considered to be “protecting the moralities of the state”.

 

In 2012, Egypt’s first “gay” magazine released it’s first, and only, issue: Ehna (or “Us”).  Up until May 24th 2012, the magazine creators had posted near daily on facebook which featured supportive quotes and posters. May 24th featured one statement: “We must close down for security reasons”. Since then, the page has fallen silent and no more has been released.

Still, it is faulty to assume that the LGBT, or more specifically gay community, can or should be defined by one magazine. The web is littered with stories of gay men struggling with their identity, in the same way gay men of any other nation do. There are stories of those trying to reconcile their religion and their sexuality and their are stories of young men accepting their identity and realizing they “aren’t alone”

I recently read an article, written in 2012 that asserted Egypt’s LGBT movement was fading.  Frankly, I think it is a mistake to write off LGBT activists in Egypt. Ehna, the magazine, may have been shut down but LGBT_Egypt opened an account on twitter and, with the internet, Egyptians were able to discover other LGBT magazines like Morocco based publication Aswat Magazine.

In some ways, I wonder if Egyptians have grown more comfortable speaking about LGBT issues. Personally, I’m not sure having spoken only with two people on the issue. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to further speak with police officers, with civilians and with activists alike to see how attitudes toward gay men are changing in Egypt, as they are changing in the world.

**As a note, I do realize that while I have used the term “LGBT”, I have spent the entire blog speaking on the gay community exclusively. I do realize that this community may receive a large amount of the attention when speaking about the LGBT community and do intend to write a blog on the lesbian, bi and trans community as well (provided I am able to find enough information).

“Women already have rights” or why it’s important to talk about sexual harrasment

“IF SEXUAL HARASSMENT ENDS BY IGNORING THE ISSUE, WHY HASN’T IT ENDED AFTER YEARS OF SILENCE?”

I was sitting in a hip smoothie shop on the 26th of July street in Zamalek. Artists like Ingrid Michaelson and the Arctic Monkeys, bands even Americans would consider ‘hipster’ played softly over the speakers set up near the iPad tablets customers used to order their personalized smoothies. The place was decidedly geared toward the younger demographic and always attracted a younger, “cool” crowd. It had become a haunt for the study abroad students who, unaccustomed to the heat, took refuge in smoothies and air-conditioning.

At one point, as I sat preoccupied with my latest smoothie creation a young Egyptian approached me. We struck up a conversation and at one point he asked me “So, what do you hope to do?”

“Well, I want to work with women’s rights,” I replied. He laughed and said “Women already have rights. What else are you going to do?” Now, perhaps this comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I was shocked at derisive he was with the notion of women’s rights work.  As I continued the conversation I realized his comment wasn’t due to lack of awareness, but to his understanding of the worthiness of prestige of the work. Whether he thought it wasn’t worthy because he was cynical of society’s ability to change or for other reasons I will never know.

Only the night before I had finished a conversation with an Egyptian friend who had worked to found an organization specifically aimed at preventing the most violent forms of sexual abuse. Unlike the man in the smoothie shop, my friend felt that work to prevent sexual violence (in addition to other women’s rights issues) was not only worthy but wholly necessary for Egypt. Later that night, as we sat in lounge chairs surrounded by other friends debating the likelihood that the 30th of June would result in any sort of progress for Egypt, I struck up a conversation with him about his earlier comments. There he informed me that he was a member of one of several networks aimed at preventing sexual violence during protests: Imprint.  In an interview Imprint  one imprint founder claimed that these attacks, though sexual ones were not based in sexual desires. He said harassment had come to be viewed as a badge of honor. That it was based primarily in violence and that the solution was not to react with violence but with reason. “Men are quite open to being talked to by other men,” the founder said. “We come up against a lot who argue back of course, saying ‘she was wearing this or that’, but around eight out of the ten men we speak to ultimately get persuaded.” 

My friend often spoke of the frustrations of his work. There were times that the throngs of people, tightly woven together, prevented him from reaching the young woman being harassed. When I asked him to speak to cases, he explained how he and his fellow patrollers formed what he called a ‘protective wall’ around the woman whom he helped to escape as the other men attempted to engage the perpetrators.

When I later asked him about women patrolling he responded “There are some. None in our group. There have been times in others that the woman who was part of the patrol was also harassed,” I nodded, absorbing his descriptions of the chaos of the protests. When patrolling, each member needed to be considered part of a whole organism. “It would be difficult to protect others if you are spending more energy on protecting yourself or others in your groups,” I said in response to his statement. He nodded. “Every order has to be followed immediately otherwise we won’t be able to do our job.”

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More images like this can be found HarassMaps facebook website. All questions begin “If the reason for harassment then why..”

Last year HarassMap*, an organization dedicated to ending “social acceptability” of sexual harassment launched a social media campaign aimed at “dispelling myths” surrounding sexual harassment. The quote above was one of the many questions and myths HarassMap’s social media followers submitted.

According to an article in the guardian,  the Egyptian government under Mubarak removed sex education from secondary school curriculum in 2010. While this may seem shocking, the article goes on to say that the curriculum schools did have often barely covered the basics of reproductive health and hygiene and only 4% of adolescents felt they learned adequate information about sex from their parents. 

In many ways, these statistics bring to mind the experiences mentioned by the students featured in “Libido” and it begs the question: How important in sex education?  How does silence affect sexual culture in Egypt?  

Next up: healthy forms of sexual education in Egyptian culture.

To be clear none of this should indicate that people in Egypt deserve to be thought as “other” than anyone else. Sexual abuse is not exclusive to Egypt and Egyptians are perfectly capable of addressing this topic themselves. In fact many are through organizations like Harass Map, Tahrir Bodyguards, Imprint, the Nazra Center for Feminist Studies and so much more.

* English site found here