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DISC Distinguished Lecture. Gender and Sexuality in the Islamic Culture

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003), lawyer, and human rights activist
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
7:00-8:30 PM
Amphitheatre Rackham Graduate School (Horace H.) Map
Shirin Ebadi will argue that despite the cultural, social, political, and governmental differences in Islamic countries, they all have one thing in common: patriarchal culture. This male-dominated culture is far stronger in Islamic societies than in the Western world and poses serious challenges to the perception of gender and its related laws and regulations.

She will share her view that in this culture women are considered to be second-class citizens. They are humiliated on the one hand, but seen as a symbol of family honor on the other. Issues such as honor killings and FGM should be analyzed considering that they happen due to the importance of the family, which is dependent on women.

With regards to sexual orientation, she will also discuss how the patriarchal culture rejects homosexuality. In a same sex relationship for men, there is a difference between the passive and active partners. Namely, the passive person would face a harsher reaction from society because he dishonors his masculinity. This is an example of how patriarchal culture justifies itself by any means possible and interprets the holy book in a way that justifies discriminatory laws.

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and human rights activist. On October 10, 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights - especially women's, children's, and refugee rights. She was the first Iranian to ever receive the prize. Ebadi became Iran's first female judge when she was just 23 years old. She also became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to be awarded the Nobel peace prize. Despite initially supporting the Iranian revolution like many Iranians, Ebadi soon became its scourge. Although described as "the worst nightmare of Iran's hardline clerics," her fight for human rights, particularly those for women, is not anti-religion. "I am against patriarchy, not Islam," she says.

Demoted to a secretary in her own court by the regime, which considered women unsuitable to be judges, she set up her own pro-bono law practice to focus on injustices in the legal system, acting for political dissidents and on child-abuse cases. Despite being put on a death list by the regime, Dr. Ebadi became the country's most high-profile human rights activist, founding the Human Rights Defenders Centre and helping to found the One Million Signatures Campaign. This grassroots campaign collected 1 million signatures from women in support of changing discriminatory laws. The campaign has won numerous international prizes (including the 2009 Reach All Women in War Anna Politkovskaya Award), but its members have also been harassed and even jailed.

Shirin Ebadi lived in Tehran, but she has been in exile in the UK since June 2009 due to the increase in persecution of Iranian citizens who are critical of the current regime. In 2004, she was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the "100 most powerful women in the world." She is also included in a published list of the "100 most influential women of all time."

Ebadi will be introduced by Bridgette Carr, clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan.

Abstracts reflect the views of our speakers, which may be varied. We expect a lively discussion.

Part of the series Contemporary Islamic Identities. Visit for full series details.
Building: Rackham Graduate School (Horace H.)
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Activism, Diversity, International, Law, LGBT, Middle East Studies, Muslim, Public Policy, Social Justice, Women's Studies
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Global Islamic Studies Center, International Institute, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, Law School

The Global Islamic Studies Center organizes a number of public events each year such as lectures, conferences, and films, many in collaboration with other U-M units. Please use our searchable events calendar for information about upcoming programs sponsored by GISC and the Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar (IISS).