On 9 November 2009 the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) organized a historic campaign bringing together a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and activists across the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia. As part of this simultaneous campaign entitled One Day One Struggle, tens of organizations from 11 countries held public demonstrations and meetings to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights.
During the 1-Day Campaign that created a milestone event in the history of the sexual and reproductive rights movement, activists held 16 simultaneous yet diverse events, each focusing on the pertinent issue of their respective local and national contexts and all underlining the fact that sexuality is not a private issue but a site of political struggle. The Campaign showed that even if we are in different continents, working on different aspects of the issues related to sexuality, we are united in our quest to realize sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Muslim societies.
Coordinated by Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, the previous international coordination office of the CSBR in 2009, the Campaign was designed to raise public awareness on sexuality and SRHR in the local contexts, and contribute to advocacy efforts on the national levels to counter the rising conservatism, fueled by militarism, increasing inequalities, the politicization of religion and Islamophobia that have strengthened patriarchal and extremist religious ideologies, which use sexuality as a tool of oppression.
A major goal of the Campaign was also to make the struggles of SRHR advocates in Muslim societies visible at the international level. Contrary to the coverage in Western media, the Campaign once again showed that there is not one single definition or description of “Muslim society.” The variety of issues raised during the Campaign portrayed the huge diversity of practices in different Muslim societies. For instance, advocates in Palestine campaigned against a widespread violation of women’s sexual and bodily rights in the Middle East, namely the so-called “honor killings” which is a practice almost unheard of in Southeast Asia. While homosexuality is still a criminal offence in many countries of the Middle East, the LGBT communities in Bangladesh held panels, discussions and culture shows to bring more visibility to their struggles. Providing a glimpse at the courageous work undertaken by SRHR advocates in these societies, the Campaign shed light on the variety of our struggles that depend on the practices within our specific contexts.
As the first such international campaign from our regions, we hope it has also helped show the strength of our solidarity across continents and will set a precedent to increase awareness and understanding of sexual and bodily rights in Muslim societies regionally and internationally.