Sarraltmuslimah's picture

There are Just no Good Muslim Women Out There

I shouldn’t take this any further. Apart from not being true, it’s a diatribe that obfuscates something deeper (just as the parallel, but unnervingly more standard retreat, "Where are all the good Muslim men?" does). The degree of intelligent, sincere, socially conscious, and admirable Muslim women I meet is staggering, many of whom in a previous life I wouldn’t have hesitated asking out to dinner to get to know better. Yet, I find myself simply put off by Muslim women.

I need to be honest; it isn’t just Muslim women, but the whole relationship process in Muslim communities that utterly perplexes me. I can’t help but feel as though I am wandering aimlessly confused through two concurrent tempestuous storms – that of the normal bafflement that marks emotional relationships between people, and that of the Muslim relationship paradigm, the absurdities of both obscuring my ability to progress to something meaningful.

This is exacerbated by the context from which I come. As someone who converted to Islam, the difference in male-female dynamics can be astounding. More than the physical barriers that I learned to adopt, it is the emotional ones that have proven the most difficult. Charles Blow wrote an article for the New York Times last year on the demise of dating in American relationships, where he described the dissolution of traditional dating and the shift to ‘hooking up,’ where you “just hang out with friends and hope something happens.” Approaching relationships from this background, and then inverting it to fit the Muslim experience that, even when it involves dating seems to be primarily focused on practical matchmaking, is difficult. It takes what was a personal, intimate, organic process and changes it into something that feels hollow and decidedly detached. I miss how things used to be.

arvan's picture

Who Stole The Tarts? Sex Work and Human Rights

Who Stole the Tarts?
Sex work and Human Rights
By Sandhya Rao & Cath Sluggett

From CASAM: The Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation (SANGRAM)

Question:  What happens when advocacy and legislation in defense of human rights assimilates and perpetuates human rights abuses in the form of societal negative judgments of sex workers? 

The answer:  Sex workers often end up no better off than they were before and now they can add human rights advocates and human rights laws to the list of people and institutions working against them.


The title of this monograph and all the chapter headings are drawn from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Besides the allusion to tarts, the pejorative term for sex workers, the farcical fantasy of Alice’s adventures in the mythical Wonderland seems an apt reference to the unfamiliarity of the terrain, and Alice’s experiences echo much of our experiences in writing this paper.  Coming as we do from decades of work using the human rights framework, it is indeed difficult for us to critique it.  But we see the need to revisit this framework and do a reality check as to where it has succeeded and where it has failed.  The successes are well documented and therefore we choose to dwell on areas where it has not delivered as promised.  We claim that the human rights framework is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to address the problems faced by some populations, in particular the sex workers. We do not claim that it has failed entirely here either. However, there is a need to take into account the issues highlighted in this monograph.

In addition the title reflects some of the absurd ways human rights are constructed and applied to sex workers.  The attitudes of morality that surround sex work are mirrored in much of the tale.  From ground experience, the human rights framework, in the context of sex work seems to be as farcical as the trial in Alice in Wonderland. Human rights, their violations, and lack of access to the universal justice that it purports to offer, and indeed the framework itself, is the focus of this paper.  How does it work with sex workers?  Through a literature survey and by talking to sex workers in unstructured interviews, this paper critically engages with the dilemma that human rights presents to those in sex work.  The paper attempts to inspire a lively discussion on this topic rather than provide answers.

(Introduction from "Who Stole The Tarts?")

Please download and read the full document here: Who Stole The Tarts (.pdf)

If you want more information or have some resources to offer in assistance, you can contact SANGRAM by email at

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