Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Comments: Recent Events in the UAE

The statement that the Interior Ministry of UAE is considering the use of "male hormone treatments" to "direct men away from homosexual behavior" highlights the way in which a medico-psychological discourse is playing a stronger role in discussions of homosexuality (and human rights concerns related to gay rights abuses) in the region.

The Human Rights Watch report ("In a Time of Torture" - Scott Long) on the "Queens Boat" case in Egypt released in March 2004, included a section entitled "Bodies and Evidence: The Motives, and Medicine of Torture." In discussing the decision to pursue "anal examination," Dr. Ayman Fouda, the deputy director of the Forensic Medical Authority, references the work of Dr. Tardieu (a nineteenth-century forensic doctor):

“Habitual pederasty” was a secretive, internal tendency. Yet its very skill at occluding its existence drove Tardieu to seek signs which would make it “recognizable”: the “knowledge of which will permit the forensic doctor, in the great majority of cases, to direct with sureness the pursuits which involve public morality to such a high degree.”

I think that when you consider the information from the recent UAE case and "Queen Boat" case together, an evolving medical discourse seems to be of increasing concern to human rights (gay rights) advocacy in the region. [Sidenote: Something else I find interesting in this quotation (that references "public morality"), Long's discussion of "pressure of proof" and the "policing of urban space" - that I bring up later on in this posting - is the issues of the visibility. I think the privileging and the sexual politics of visibility are an important factor in understanding gay life in the region. I intend to pursue this topic in my research on contemporary homosexuality in Beirut, Lebanon.]

I would highly recommend Afsaneh Najmabadi's recent research on trans-sexuality in modern Iran; she argues that a confluence of psycho-medicalized discourse with particular Islamic notions (relating to 'true sex'), starting in the 1940s, has gained national dominance and is directly affecting the acceptability of trans-sexuality. (This research is forthcoming in an article in Social Analysis, Summer 2005 and her project entitled "Sexing Gender, Transing Homos: Travails of SExuality in Contemprary Iran.")

Of interest is Bruce Dunne's research on transformations of sexuality in modern Egypt. Discussing the surpervision and reform of prostituion and homosexual practices in Egypt, Dunne notes that "The mordernizing, interventionist state which arose in the 19th century deployed new, often European-insprired disciplinary measures... [that] led to a gradual shift from fiscal to medical regulation and stricter policing of urban spaces and forms of popular expression" (Dunne, Bruce. "Sexuality and the 'Civilizing Process' in Modern Egypt." Unpublished. 352: Georgetown University, 1996.)

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