BEIRUT: Conversations about sexual and reproductive rights are often avoided, sidelined, heavily filtered, and their importance contested.
The global political movement ‘She Decides’ held a discussion on sexual and reproductive rights at Chams House on Tuesday night under the title “She Speaks, She Decides” bringing together youth, experts, and activists.
The event was organized by She Decides in collaboration with the Arab Institute for Women (AiW), the Lebanese American University (LAU) and Chams Network.
Zahraa Dirany, a She Decides representative, explained the significance of the event in light of the movement’s values: “She Decides, at its core believes in the bodily autonomy of women, and their freedom to determine their lives and futures.”
“It’s important to have these conversations about sexual and reproductive rights because it’s considered a taboo in our society. People don’t talk about it openly” added Dirany.
“When we speak about it freely we are overcoming this taboo, raising awareness, and paving the way for others to speak about it too” she concluded.
The event hosted five speakers, each discussing their own experiences and work in the field, while addressing the challenges we have to tackle as a society when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights and healthcare.
One of the speakers, journalist and activist Maya Dolly Ammar described reporting on sexual and reproductive rights as a liberating experience. “It’s important to demand more space for these issues in the mainstream media, a space that we are entitled to” she said.
“Most of us did not have access to sex education growing up, and when we did it was from a patriarchal viewpoint. Deconstructing what we have been taught is a very lengthy process but it’s necessary,” explained Ammar.
The discussion coincides with passage of 25 years since the first International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The findings of the discussion will be presented at the Nairobi Road Summit on ICPD25, which is taking place from the 12th to the 14th of November 2019.
According to Dirany, the aim is to hold Lebanon’s policymakers accountable towards working on these problems.
Diana Abou Abbas, Executive Director at Marsa, identified the pillars of sexual and reproductive rights as, “having access to healthcare and information, and exercising control over our bodies.”
Abou Abbas explained that the cost of healthcare and its exclusivity makes it inaccessible for several vulnerable groups, including migrant domestic workers, refugees, and LGBT people.
The speakers and audience addressed several issues, including cultural limitations, misconceptions about virginity, sexual violence, and the right to safe abortions.
Obstetrician-gynecologist, and Director of the Women Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) Program at AUBMC, Faysal El Kak told Annahar “having these conversations within a medical framework protects us from censorship in a way; unfortunately we often apply self-censorship. We police ourselves and our language, which is not easy to defeat.”
On a more positive note, he added “I do believe that we’ve improved in the last 20 years on this front. There’s more tolerance regarding pre-marital sexual relations and sexual rights activism, which we can register by the presence in the room.”
Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]
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