The Time Has Come For A 'Sexual Spring' In The Arab World

Kacem El Ghazzali Headshot
Writer, activist, IHEU representative at the UN Human Rights Council
When we say that nowadays to call for sexual freedom in Arab and Muslim societies is more dangerous than the demand to topple monarchies or dictatorial regimes, we are not playing with metaphor or attempting to gain sympathy. We are stating a bitter and painful fact of the reality in which we are living.
In Arab and Muslim milieus, sex is considered a means and not an end, hedged by many prickly restrictions that make it an objectionable matter and synonymous with sin. Its function within marriage is confined to procreation and nothing else, and all sexual activity outside the institution of marriage is banned legally and rejected socially. Innocent children born out of wedlock are socially rejected and considered foundlings.

This situation cannot be said to be characteristic of Arab societies only, but we experience these miseries in far darker and more intense ways than in other countries. This is especially so because of the dominance of machismo, which considers a man's sexual adventures as heroics worthy of pride, while a woman who dares to give in to her sexual desires is destined to be killed -- or at best beaten and expelled from home -- because she has brought dishonor upon her family.
I personally know a number of professional sex workers in Morocco, who were doing this work primarily because they had been rejected by their families after losing their virginity during sexual experimentation before they had reached a marriageable age.
Sex is one of our society's most important taboos, even more dangerous than those related to religion.
The demand for sexual freedom takes us onto a road to a revolution against the miseries of cultures and institutions, because sex is one of our society's most important taboos, even more dangerous than those related to religion.
Sexual freedom leads to a reconciliation of the body with the self, and reinforces the value of transparency and cohesion within society. It enables the individual to think independently and freely. It is the triumph over taboo, and the individual's stimulation to creativity and the forging of free relationships with others.
Sexual freedom does not only mean allowing individuals to have sex outside the institution of marriage, but goes beyond that -- in ensuring the rights of homosexuals, the decriminalization of adultery, and the recognition by the state that the private lives of individuals do not concern the state at all and that individuals are responsible for themselves and have the full right to choose their sexual partners.
Sexual freedom also means the right for my sister or my mother to have sex with whomever they want, and that I should in no way poke my nose into other people's bedrooms, be they relatives or ordinary citizens.
I was one of the first to raise the call for sexual freedom in the Arab and Islamic world at the very beginning of what has become known as the Arab Spring, because I believe that accepting freedom as an existential concept is the way to ensure confidence in the kind of change we aspire to.
We cannot talk about instilling democratic values and human rights without having the courage to address ourselves with a frank and audible voice, without faith in an individual's right to choose and think, and without endeavoring to break all the taboos that distort our awareness and understanding of human nature.
If it were up to me, I would urge young people to take to the streets to demonstrate for a Sexual Spring and make our demand clear to all: "For a national day of sexual freedom."
Victory for individual freedom of choice is essential to creating a civilized generation that cannot be easily enslaved or repressed. Otherwise, we will always remain in the hold of the thieves of dreams and revolutions -- the so-called Arab Spring is a good example of that.
This blog was originally printed in Stories of Change - Beyond the 'Arab Spring
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