Enter any bookshop in the West and you will find hundreds of books discussing sex – from the explaining-how-to variety through psychological tomes and onto the downright steamy.
However, in the Muslim and Arab worlds, such publications are virtually non-existent. One notable exception has reared its head in the United Arab Emirates.
The author, Widad Loutah, has received death threats, accusations of blasphemy and more since she self-published The Elements of Intimacy a month ago.
Loutah is used to controversy from her day job as a social worker in and around Dubai’s Family Court. She spends much of her time dealing with issues between couples. A significant part of her book is based on her experiences in dealing with court cases.
One of the key points she is trying to make with the book is that many of the couples would not have had to turn to the courts had they received correct sex education prior to and during marriage.
Since 2001, Loutah has been part of a small team affiliated to the court offering marriage-guidance counseling. She does not apportion all the blame for divorces to men. In many cases the wives make unreasonable financial demands on their husbands, she has argued over the years.
Whilst clearly supportive of women’s rights in marriage, Loutah is a traditional Muslim, choosing to wear the full-face veil – the niqab – when in public. Indeed, she was quoted by local media as criticizing the wife of former British premier Tony Blair, Cherie, when she questioned the value of wearing a head covering.
The UAE is a natural location for a campaign for education about marriage and sex, says a regional analyst at The Media Line. The country’s divorce rate is the highest in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman), at some 46 percent. Some 13,000 couples ended their marriages in 2004.
Since 2005, UAE women have been allowed to petition the courts to grant them a divorce. Few countries in the Arab world have a similar system in place.
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