While sexuality has been taboo in the Arab world for many generations, it has finally become a topic of conversation. Social media has become a place where women can express themselves and discuss topics related to sex - a void that's huge, considering the lack of sex education in the region. In an effort to change the conversation, women are taking it upon themselves to fill the void by talking about their personal experiences.
While it is a common misconception that Arab countries have strict anti-gay laws, many of them do not. A good example is the United Arab Emirates, which has a law against men posing as women, and has prosecuted transgender people for having sexual intercourse in mixed-gender spaces. In addition, 15 countries have unequal ages for consent. This includes a higher bar for same-sex couples than for those of different sex. The report also cites countries that are more progressive, like Canada, in terms of allowing gay sex.
Many Arab states have made significant strides toward gender equality in recent decades, but this progress will only be sustainable if the discriminatory policies of the past are revised. While Saudi Arabia recently reported the largest improvement in business and legal rights for women, the country still required female guardianship in order for women to get a passport or even choose a place of residence. Women were also required to follow the wishes of their husbands. In other words, the recent repeal of these laws is no cause for celebration.
Women in the Middle East are often under the gun in terms of rights. In the UAE, rape victims can face jail and deportation, and unmarried women can even face deportation. Similarly, in Qatar, unmarried women are subject to a strict male guardianship system. In addition, men need permission to marry, travel abroad, and work in certain industries. Even in Bahrain, rapists are allowed to escape criminal punishment by marrying their victims.
A recent study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union showed that 82% of women parliamentarians have experienced some form of psychological intimidation. Nearly half of them have received a threat - ranging from rape to death, beating to kidnapping to death. And in some cases, they were murdered. Despite the laws, this issue is still a pressing concern in the Arab world.