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Reclaiming and Reframing Sexual Rights in Muslim- Majority Contexts: The Role of Individual and Collective Movements in Shifting Patriarchal Discourse and Practice

Sexual Health
Leila Hessini

Some of the most innovative strategies to advance gender equality and sexual 69 rights come from women scholars and activists in Muslim-majority contexts. Using an inclusive approach to sexuality and building on international consensus agreements, Muslim scholars and activists are documenting and centering the diverse realities of those most marginalized by mainstream discourse, chal- lenging discriminatory laws and policies, and building collective movements to strategize and share scholarship and practice. They are using new and innovative technologies to reach young women, developing coalitions to link and strengthen efforts across the Muslim world, and influencing strategies used to affect women’s rights in other religious traditions. In the context of heightened Islamophobia in the United States and elsewhere, giving visibility to these efforts is essential as they demonstrate that there is no singular, unique interpretation of Islam or even such a thing as a “Muslim world.” Moreover, efforts by Muslim women and collective organizations to reframe and reclaim progressive interpretations of religious scriptures and Islamic law and integrate these with international human rights standards could be informative for activists in the United States. This paper covers efforts to influence landmark events such as the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW), transnational initiatives, and advocacy at regional and local levels.