Join the campaign: My body – my rights!
For the past 30 years, we have had many cases related to sexual oppression. Therefore, we are pleased to launch a new nationwide campaign, “My body – My rights,» adapted to the current situation and needs. Feel free to contact us for more information and to order promotional materials.
Throughout history, women’s sexuality has been invisible and non-issue. Women have been regarded as virtuous wives, mothers, or virgin daughters, dedicated to household chores. Their role has been closely linked to the stability and reproduction of the family.
We have lived in a patriarchal world – a world designed by men. Women who showed interest in sexual openness were referred to as “slut”, “whore” and “prostitute.» Sexual vulnerability among men, however, was rarely discussed with this type of negative words and concepts. While male virgins are often ridiculed, women’s virginity is seen as a virtue.
These gender roles, embedded in our cultures and reinforced through family patterns, religion, authority figures, and the media, create social pressure and exercise control over women’s sexuality. In Norway, we can confidently say that there has been a positive development in women’s sexuality and self-determination in the last 20 to 30 years. Nevertheless, women are still expected to show more restraint than men when expressing their sexuality. Young girls, even today, experience being judged or condemned for their sexual openness.
Several factors help maintain the oppression of women’s bodies and sexuality, such as economics, religious and political systems, and cultural practices. Political laws and religious rules help suppress women’s right to self-determination in some countries. For example, in Poland and many other Catholic countries, women fight for contraception and accessible abortion. In many Muslim countries, women are not allowed to wear anything other than very loose clothing, and they must cover their heads and faces in public places not to attract the attention of men. Many victims of rape struggle to convince the judicial system of the abuse. In Norway, we hope to get the Consent Act in place soon.
When patriarchal norms and values control women’s sexuality, their bodies are displayed for male pleasure, and women are not allowed to express their desires and joy independently. The situation is even more complicated for women and young girls with a minority background. When immigration to Norway began in the 60s and 70s, the experiences of immigrant women were marginalized. They were treated as wives, and gender was ignored as a category that shapes migration experiences. It is only recently that social research includes women’s experiences and emphasizes gender in migration analyses.
In the last 30 to 40 years, we have seen gender and sexuality often come up when discussing migration but often as a problem in the integration debate. While the integration of immigrants earlier was mostly about language skills and work, integration today is mainly about the control over minority women’s sexuality through cultural traditions. The negative social control forced marriages, female circumcision, in particular, receive a lot of focus. In these debates, immigrant men are often presented as oppressive, while immigrant women and young girls are portrayed as victims who need help. In such public discourse, sexual diversity among minorities becomes invisible, and girls’ and women’s need to assert themselves sexually is undermined.
Since the 1990s, the MiRA Center has empowered women and young girls and increased awareness of female sexuality.
We have had three clear objectives:
– At a societal level – increase knowledge among the support institutions, schools, and health services about the challenges of minority women and young girls.
– Among the minority population – information activities and awareness.
– Empowerment of women to make their own choices. Create safe meeting places where women and young girls with different cultural backgrounds can meet across generations and strengthen each other.
The MiRA Center established the Young Girls’ network “Let me speak” early as 1996. Girls with a minority background created several nationwide campaigns, including “Violence is not my culture.» In 2001, the center initiated a school campaign and established a good relationship with several schools. Through the school campaign, we encouraged girls to speak up and say aloud what they thought about the body and sexuality and that they have the right to decide over their own partner’s choice.
In collaboration with Sandaker School in Oslo, we created a pilot project in 2001 where we had a counselor at the school one day a week to work with girls on gender discrimination, racism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, body, and sexuality. This collaboration was very successful, and our idea of having counselors in the schools was later included as a proposal in the action plan against forced marriage. Partnership with Sandaker school continued until they got a minority advisor through IMDi full time.
For the past 30 years, we have had many cases related to sexual oppression. Therefore, we are pleased to launch a new nationwide campaign, “My body – My rights,» adapted to the current situation and needs. Feel free to contact us for more information and to order promotional materials. E-mail us on email@example.com
You can also look on our publications translated into English here.