Launch of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Over here you can find the new site for “Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation”. Please consider signing up in support of it.
Speaking for myself, I’m proud to be involved. I stand in support of freedom for women, gender equality, and secularism – the values that the movement stands for. I stand against misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women – the things that it opposes. I’m proud to make that statement along with the other establishing signatories, who would disagree among themselves about much else but are united on these fundamentals.
Notice that there is nothing in the statement of what Fitnah is against that includes women’s voluntary choices about clothing – such as voluntary choices to wear burqas and similar garments. Some signatories to the statement would doubtless wish to see certain form-enveloping garments banned, but the statement itself does not go that far, and I would not have signed it if it had. It opposes “compulsory veiling”. Again, there is nothing in the statement that expresses opposition to pornography, erotica, or consensual prostitution, or to any other kind of freely chosen, consensual sex work. This is not an anti-sex or anti-sex-work declaration. Still, there seems to be some doubt about the motives behind it – at least as evidenced by some flak I recently received on Twitter from a sex-workers’-rights quarter – so let me just briefly point out that the purpose is to oppose actual, tangible oppression of women, especially in the name of religion, and most specifically by Islamism or political Islam.
That’s not to deny there might be some signatories who have goals that I’d disagree with, or even that some might seek in some contexts to stretch the meaning of certain words, particularly the word “trafficking”. Indeed, I imagine that the signatories would vary greatly among themselves on their goals, their interpretation of feminism, and many other things. But the general direction of what is being talked about here is clear enough. The people behind it are ex-Muslims opposed to Islamism, the treatment of women by Sharia law, and the like. Hence the strong statement, “We are Islamism’s worst fitnah!”
But given the flak, I should state for the record that my understanding of “sex trafficking” is sex-related human trafficking. Human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings in violation of the rights of those human beings through such means as fraud, slavery, physical and economic coercion, etc. Human trafficking is not a synonym for people smuggling, which is often something sought by the people concerned (e.g. to flee persecution or war zones). In essence, human trafficking involves trading people as commodities against their will. Like many other terms, “trafficking” can be abused by extending it more widely to cover things that I (for example) don’t necessarily have a problem with and don’t want to ban.
All I can say is: don’t shy away from opposing a genuine evil just because some people take the expression for it and abuse it for other, dubious causes. Sex trafficking as I’ve defined it is a real and large-scale evil in our contemporary world, and we can’t shy away from opposing it or naming it merely because some people would abuse the term. To be clear, you are not being “trafficked” merely because you choose to take up employment as a prostitute, a nude model, a stripper, a porn actor, etc.
If anyone still has a problem, here’s an undertaking. If I ever see a declaration or manifesto from the pro-sex movement that, on a straightforward literal reading, I can agree with in its entirety, I will be prepared to sign it, just as I’ve signed the Fitnah statement. It’s quite possible to be pro-sex, in the relevant sense, which includes supporting the rights of sex workers, as well as opposed to such enormities as sexual slavery. This distinction is pretty basic, so let’s not take an attitude that obscures it.