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Mixed reactions on KT's report on lesbians

Voices By Meraj Rizvi, Eman Al Baik And Amira Agarib
Filed on December 23, 2005

DUBAI The report on the spread of lesbianism in the UAE, especially in 'women's only' educational institutions, published in Khaleej Times yesterday has evoked mixed responses with many hailing the boldness of the University of Sharjah students for highlighting the issue.


But a few people opined that such 'abnormal behaviour' in women should be kept under wraps in order to protect their future and family reputation.

Khaleej Times spoke to a cross section of people, particularly from the Arab world, who admitted that 'female homosexuality' had existed in their societies, but never surfaced publicly because people chose not to discuss such issues openly.

However, it needs to be dealt with through debates, discussions, awareness programmes, right from the school years. Hushing up the matter is no longer the solution. Reprimanding and punishing women with lesbian tendencies is not the solution either, they said.

Rashida Badri, former assistant director of Private Education in Dubai warned against such behaviour and open discussions, " because the UAE is a conservative society and hearing about such issues will hurt people, specially the girls themselves and their families."

"I admit it is a serious problem and we have to find a solution. However, punishing girls with such abnormal sexual tendencies is not the solution. Lesbianism is a disease and it needs to be treated medically or through therapies and counselling and even by discussing the problem, but I do not agree that such an issue be discussed so openly like in the West where it is not considered a social problem. Both female and male homosexuality has found social acceptance in the West, but it cannot find such acceptance in the Islamic countries," she said, hoping the authorities will deal with the problem more carefully.

A Counsellor at the Ajman University of Science and Technology says the phenomenon is not common in the UAE and there are probably very few women who have such abnormality, since most others strictly conform to the Islamic teachings and culture.

"Personally, I have only one such case brought to my knowledge at the university so far, but the university officials monitored the problem closely and one of the girls, the dominant partner, was treated and later moved to another hostel," she said.

She said that universities have qualified women staff supervisors and social workers to monitor the female students and to prevent any negative behavioral traits among them.

Hissa Abdul Rahman bint Mohammed Al Madfa, a member of the Sharjah Consultative Council and a former educationist admitted the existence of the problem in the society, which she thought was five per cent.

She said the Family Committee of the Council listed this issue in its agenda and actually started discussing it with the Mothers Council of the Sharjah Educational Zone. The Mothers Council will investigate the issue including the causes in order to derive solutions that would help eliminate it, she added.

Hissa said that monitoring the actual magnitude of the problem should begin with surveying such cases in schools. "These cases can be easily discovered in schools by the administration by observing the behaviour of students. After knowing who are involved in abnormal behavior, the school should investigate the causes behind the behaviour by directly talking to the students and their parents, she explained.

Reports should be submitted to the Mothers council and Family Committee to collaboratively recommend the necessary solutions. Widespread programmes that aim to educate the family including mothers and fathers as well as young women about the existence of such cases and how to prevent their occurrence should be carried out.

"Parents should be made aware of the seriousness of the issue and the probable complications when their daughter comes up with a boyish attitude in dressing and appearance," said Hissa.

" Unfortunately, parents of young women with abnormality either keep a distance from their daughters or they are ignorant to the extent that they think it is a kind of harmless fashion."

An Islamic Education schoolteacher said on condition of anonymity that she received some questions from her girl students on different gender related matters but none was about this particular problem.

However, if the problem does exist , it should be openly and daringly discussed to prevent it from developing into a phenomenon in society, she added.

Dr Hussein Mubarak, a psychiatrist at Zulekha Hospital who hails from Iraq referred to Lesbianism as a sexual perversion and said it was not a new phenomenon. "There has been a trend, but nobody talks about it openly, or consult a psychiatrist for help. Sometimes, it is the family members who consult us on abnormal social behaviour among their girls which is manifested in forms of depression, anxiety and abstinence from marriage."

Dr Mubarak believes that such problems can be dealt with medically and by discussing the issue with the affected women. Medically, we treat such women with the' behavioral aversion therapy,' a treatment administering drugs intravenously, the psychiatrist disclosed.

He said the growing cases of female homosexuality was not a problem limited to the UAE or the Gulf countries, it is a global problem. While some societies have given it their lawful acceptance, the Muslim world cannot allow its blatant prevalence, he added.

He refuted the suggestion that segregation of boys and girls from an early age in schools and in social gatherings in the UAE resulted in this problem. "Segregation is not the issue in the western countries, but such trend continues to prevail there." he said.

Among the factors responsible for this increasing problem is that the UAE society failed to keep pace with the fast-paced economic progress.

However, he stressed the need for sex education to be made part of the academic curricula in schools in order to kill the curiosity of young men and women about sex.





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