Cristina Maria Coimbra Vieira, Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education, University of Coimbra, Portugal
This text relates the intense and deeply vivid experience of an almost invisible group of women that suffer multiple discriminations and remain almost absence of public discourse because of the burden that intersectionality represents for them, including the risk of being killed: they are women; they are Arab; they are not heterosexual… so they are seen as extremely transgressors according to traditional social and religious values of their/our patriarchal and conservative society. We cannot consider such an issue “their” problem, because it represents a cruel violation of human rights and it is an indicator of how many women but also many men suffer around the world for being prohibited of living genuinely their lives.
The document that was written by Rima Abboud, one of the founders of the Aswat organization, presents in a very loud way the situation of lesbian women in Palestine and highlights the need to use subtle and “underground” ways to give to these women the sense of protection they need. This opportunity of having voice helps them to develop the awareness that they are not alone and that there are in Arabic world other women that prefer to have a same-sex partner for romantic relations, without feeling ashamed or guilty. The work of Aswat is potentially very powerful for the capacitation of these women and for the affirmation of the community of lesbian people in Palestine and surrounding countries. The creation in Arab language of specific terms that did not exist before and the use of common concepts to express and characterize the experience of LGBTQI+ people are crucial contributions for the visibility of other forms of sexuality that don´t fit heterosexual norms. What is not named doesn´t exist. The symbolic power of language may be seen as a strategic tool for these organization to fight against their forced silence and their reclusion in their own community. The possibility of being regularly in touch with other organizations reinforces the Aswat insertion in the field and the publication of a specific magazine helps to disseminate information that may be crucial to many women that are not able to participate in the meetings (or that are even doubting about many aspects of their life, as sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.).
The use of narratives and the biographic methodology in individual and community empowerment may raise ethical issues, as Rima Abboud cleverly signed, because women may be unconsciously compelled to expose their private life before strangers. However it is well-known that these kind of strategies of community intervention and participatory research may have such side effects, and because of that their use should be carefully prepared. The process of sharing life experiences is a learning opportunity for all people involved and it requires maturity, critical thinking and a deep feeling that we are responsible for each other, no matter our personal differences or contexts of life.
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