Johannes Rutgers’ Lecture 2011: Will the Arab Spring lead to a sexual revolution?

While many politicians and policymakers are addressing issues such as democratization and economic reform, the Johannes Rutgers’ Lecture extensively explored possible opportunities to increase sexual freedom after the Arab Revolution.

Arab Spring and sexual freedom

The Arab world is in revolt and confused. Large groups of people are rebelling and demanding more political freedom. What is fascinating about these developments is what this could mean for the personal freedom of people in the Arab world. Taboos, traditions and religious rules still uphold the wall of fear surrounding social and cultural matters.

This applies even more to everything that is associated with sexuality and is an acute problem especially for the large group of young people in Arab countries: Currently, it is often very difficult to freely choose a partner. Moreover, marriage is still the only acceptable way for young people to enjoy their sexuality. Precisely because of the poor economic situation young people often have to wait for years before they can marry. They are expected to put their desires and curiosity on hold.  

Johannes Rutgers’ Lecture 2011

While many politicians and policymakers are addressing issues such as democratization and economic reform, the Johannes Rutgers’ Lecture extensively explored possible opportunities to increase sexual freedom after the Arab Revolution.

Petra Stienen and Mohammed Cheppih

Petra Stienen (Arabist, publicist and advisor) and Mohammed Cheppih (Islam expert, trainer and advisor) carried out a duo lecture. Both painted a lively picture from their own perspective of man-woman relations in the Arab world and how sexuality is dealt with.
Petra Stienen for example told the audience that not only the Western World has a negative image of how the Arab world deals with sexuality. Turning it around, people in the Arab World are astonished how ‘women are displayed disrespectfully in shop windows in the Netherlands’ (referring to window prostitution).

Mohammed Cheppih wondered if  “our wish that the Arab revolution would also lead to a sexual revolution was the same wish being expressed in the Arab world.” He thinks it particularly important that men and women become aware that the relationship between the sexes can change.  

Would you like to know more?

  • Watch the video of the Johannes Rutgers’ Lecture 2011
  • Read the factsheet about the sexual and reproductive health of youth in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Read the article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide: English /Arab.