Sexuality, Gender Roles, Marriage


In connecting feminism across all the different countries it is clear that there are contradictions between the text of the Qur'an and Islamic practices. In discovering Arab feminism we find that not only are the interpretations of women's sexuality in the Qur'an changing among Arabs and Arab Americans, but also Western interpretations of Arab women's sexuality are very different from reality.


Iraq: Sexuality in Iraq is more fluid than we are led to believe by popular media sources. Here is a page on different forms of sexuality in this country.

Palestine and Israel
Women's roles have changed since the start of the conflict and they have become more active participants in the liberation movement with both men and women. See Activism in Palestine/Israel.
The topic of sexuality and reproductive rights is a very private issue and not much information can be found about it for Israeli and especially Palestinian women. Palestine reportedly does not have female genital cutting or legal abortion, and the marriage age is moderate.

Lebanon
Although Lebanon seems to be more "western" than the other countries, there are still sexual taboos and specific gender roles that exist. One of the biggest taboos is premarital sex. premarital sex is not uncommon, but it is definitely not discussed. It is more accepted for men to have premarital sex, but if women are even thought to have, then shame is hung over them and their families and it is very hard for the woman to find a husband. Virginity is taken very seriously in these societies, it is seen as one of the most important characteristics of a woman, if not the most important. People will pay hundreds of dollars to have a reconstruction surgery of the hymen. Single mothers are greatly frowned upon when they even exist. Most of the time, unwed mothers are simply unheard of. Women would rather have abortions than deal with the shame and seclusion that comes with being an unwed mother. Recently, there have been studies that show that as much as 50% of the younger generation has pre-marital sex, more so in the more prosperous communities.
Along with premarital sex, homosexuality is also a great taboo. Once again, it is more accepted for men to have homosexual relationships, whereas it is unheard of for women to live together simply as roommates. Recently, there has been a surge in GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) community activities. Homosexuality is illegal for both men and women, so the government to trying to ban the activities that promote acceptance for the GLBT community. These recent activities have not only given the GLBT community courage to start speaking out, they have also given men and women in heterosexual relationships the courage to speak about the problems that plague their sexual lives. As a young woman from Beirut said, "The silence makes hypocrites of everyone." (Farah. Beirut, Lebanon. Cairo Youth Break Sex Taboos. Heather Sharp BBC News, Cairo. Retrieved 4-23-07)
There are also many other organizations that are working towards equality for women, homosexuals, and organizations that prevent violence against women. Lenanese Organizations



**Syria**: In Syria the laws between the Government and Religion do differ. By reading a piece of this information from the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000, February 2001 one can get an idea of what this difference effect has. "The Constitution provides for equality between men and women and equal pay for equal work. Moreover, the Government has sought to overcome traditional discriminatory attitudes toward women and encourages women's education. However, the Government has not yet changed personal status, retirement, and social security laws that discriminate against women.
Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups are subject to their respective religious laws on marriage, divorce, and inheritance (see Section 2.c.). In addition some secular laws discriminate against women. For example, under criminal law, the punishment for adultery is twice that as for the same crime committed by a man. "Honor" crimes (a euphemism that refers to violent assaults with intent to murder against a female by a male for alleged sexual misconduct) do occur.
For Muslims personal status law on divorce is based on Shari'a (Islamic law), and some of its provisions discriminate against women. For example, husbands may claim adultery as grounds for divorce, but wives face more difficulty in presenting the same argument. If a woman requests a divorce from her husband, she may not be entitled to child support in some instances. In addition under the law a woman loses the right to custody of boys when they reach age 9 and girls at age 12."

Sexuality Story: Rim Zahra gives a personal account on how Syrian society has a strict moral rule, in regards to female virginity

~*~ Syria Homepage ~*~

Saudi Arabia
Consistent with traditional Islamic guidelines, gender roles in Saudia Arabia are often seen by the outside world as being archaic and excessively conservative. Like most Arab and Islamic states, a great deal of social pressure is put on people to conform to these standard roles. Saudi author Zaynab Hifni is one of a few author who write on such topics as sexuality. A clip from one of ther interviews can be seen here. Additionally, a number of Saudi women have managed to find a place in jobs historically reserved for men. More on this can be seen on the page titled Important Women in Saudi Arabia

Morocco
The Moudawana reform is one of the most important current issues concerning gender and marriage roles for women. In Morocco, anything other than a heterosexual relationship is seen as taboo. Homosexual acts are against the law, but it is not at all uncommon for men to have sexual relations with other men, especially before marriage.
Women's sexuality in Morocco is strictly controlled by societal and familial expectations. One Moroccan woman published an erotic novel under the psuedonym Nedjma (Star) and refuses to reveal her real name or anything that might identify her in fear that she might actually be stoned in the streets of Morocco. Her book was published first in french (she couldn't get it published in Arabic), and then in english in 2005, called The Almond. She acknowledges the king's efforts to create a better life for women and sexuality through the Moudawana reform. Her book is not strictly autobiographical, but supposedly contains actual stories of Moroccan women through her main character. The book discusses issues such as the loss of virginity and a woman's sexual "awakening". (Leick, Romaine. Erotic Novel Breaks Muslim Taboos. Spiegel Online International. March 2, 2005.http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,344444,00.html) Slowly, a place is being made for women in the freedom of sexuality in Morocco, but there is still a long way to go before women achieve the sexual freedom they are fighting for.