‘Chay’ is for What?

Last week, I was introduced to Chay magazine – a brand new Pakistani magazine (just about to publish their first issue) that covers the topics of sex and sexuality in Pakistan. The first of its kind in the country. Their mission statement states:

Having observed in Pakistani society, a disturbing tendency towards fear and shame around issues of sex and sexuality – that is to say, around a normal human interaction – the founders of Chay Magazine feel that sex and sexuality should enter the public discourse. The taboo and silence around sex and sexuality are oppressive on all of us, irrespective of gender, and lead, at the very least, to unhappiness in our daily lives and, more often, to violence, shame, depression, ill health and general social malaise. We at Chay Magazine endeavor to bring to the Pakistani reading public a place to converse about those things we are most shy of. Our hope is that, through this, we can become braver and stronger, more powerful, self-assured, and just and fair members of society.

Why ‘Chay’? Before encountering the magazine I knew ‘chay’ was a letter of the Urdu alphabet but I was not aware of any other significance. Chay Magazine explains it. Chay is short for ‘chootia.’ Chootia means ‘of the vagina’ , or as they describe ‘of the cunt.’ So yes, this magazine is translated as ‘Of the Cunt’ Magazine. This appears to be the Pakistani way of re-claiming the often-offensive, often-loved word, similar to the way many Western feminists have re-claimed the word ‘cunt.’ Additionally, they tell us how the letter ‘chay’ is also for many other words related to sex and sexuality.

The magazine, from its submission page, appears to have an intellectual and scintillating sensibility. It does not appear to be a salacious magazine or cheap attempt to be dirty. But rather an effort to discuss issues of sex and sexuality in a mature and educational way, but still have fun with the topic. All this within the context of a society that has traditionally not allowed such dialogue. For instance, they are looking for pieces on the topics of sex, the politics of sex, promiscuity, and marriage. Such topics encompass issues pertinent to women such as domestic violence (or as I prefer to call it, intimate partner violence), rape (including marital rape), feminism, religion and sex(uality), and sex work, among others.

Like every human being on this earth and every piece of writing they may produce, Chay magazine has its own perspective and agenda. And their agenda is clear – sex and sexuality are normal. Everyone experiences them. Not talking about such a central aspect of our lives is detrimental to the health of our society. Talking about the issues surrounding sex and our sexualities will make us better as a society. Considering Pakistani society has increasingly higher rates of violence against women perhaps confronting and talking about the issues in an open and frank forum will help stop and reverse the increasing numbers. Anything that can help at this point should be welcomed. Additionally, it would be welcoming to see this be a friendly arena for those of alternate sexualities to gain support from and educate others.

The concept is definitely new to Pakistan. As their mission statement reads, sex and sexuality is a taboo topic in Pakistani society. Yet there would be many people needing and wanting to discuss and engage with it. However, this is just the beginning. We’ll try to keep you updated as things progress. If anyone is interested in writing for the magazine check out their call for submissions.
  • Zeynab

    Red and black are my two favorite colors. I think the cover itself is pretty great. Or, is this the cover?Whatever.Anyway, I wish every country in the world had a magazine like this. With so many misconceptions around sexuality (especially when virginity is a prized attributed), candid and informed discussions about sexuality are necessary.

  • Natalia

    Kyla is awesome. She recently published something with us here. She is also an amazing poet.

  • Duniya

    Indeed. Very necessary. It is when societies don’t discuss it that problems surrounding it don’t get addressed properly. In Pakistan, until just about ONE YEAR ago, legally rape was placed in the same category as adultery!!! They don’t discuss it so they refuse to find out what rape means. And who suffers?Not only that but people who are not heterosexual get neglected and further ostracized. Their experiences are not validated. Sexuality is central to our lives. Instead of being ashamed and embarrased about something so natural why not have a mature discussion about it?

  • Arianne

    Indeed, it would be quite nice if the existence of non-heterosexuals were acknowledged, but I wonder if that would be a step too far even for this Pakistani magazine. Even from my experiences, growing up and going to school in VERY liberal places, discussion of sex (e.g. in sex ed class) relegated queers to the sidelines in many cases. It’s as if queers are too “different” to be discussed in the context of regular sexuality.

  • Zeynab

    Natalia–thanks for the link. Her discussion of the term “yoni” is really interesting for those of us who aren’t South Asian and don’t understand the politics behind the world.Is Kyla the editor or brains behind Chay?

  • Duniya

    Kyla is te editor and brains behind Chay.

  • Ezzah

    While I think it’s great to start an intellectual conversation in PK about these lifestyles…I think the name of the magazine already puts people into a status quo of fear and embaressment. If we truly want to reach those who are not comfortable reading/talking about these issues, I think we need to consider that audience when we come up with a name for such a magazine (or any media). I am happy to see the “mission statement”, I just hope that’s what they intend to deliver. Is it “mature” to call a magazine “cunt”…or in the same group as the word? I guess that depends on the audience, but even those who are mature would possibly find this title a little over zealous. -wendeth, Lahore

  • Anonymous

    another attempt to increase immorality and shameless by the progressives in pakistando they do not know that haya is part of iman

  • Duniya

    anonymous:Talking about issues of sexuality allows people to confront the problems that exist in society. If we do not confront and discuss sexulity how will we stop the problem of sexual assault which is rampant? How will we learn about and learn to respect people who are not heterosexual? How will we help couples deal with intimate issues? How will we normalize sexuality? Humans have sexualities. Why act as if we don’t?

  • Anonymous

    “Why act as if we don’t?”yes it but it should stay in the privacy of the bedroomsecondly what about haya ?How will we learn about and learn to respect people who are not heterosexual?why should we respect people who are involved in sinful and haraam activity and seek to legitimise it? should we not hate the sin ?

  • Zeynab

    Anonymous, please read our comment moderation policy. It’s not up to us to decide what others do is a sin; it’s up to Allah only. Just because we don’t like something someone does doesn’t mean we should treat them with any less respect: all of Allah’s creatures (whatever their sexuality) deserve respect.

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,Anonymous has a point. We don’t have to guess what is sinful behaviour or not, Allah subhana wat’ala made it clear. That’s the purpose of receiving revelation.Pulling out the ‘comment moderation policy’ in response is clear example of how this site stifles the voices of conservation commentators.

  • Arianne

    “why should we respect people who are involved in sinful and haraam activity and seek to legitimise it?should we not hate the sin ?”Muslims are already hated enough by Western conservatives. Do you really want Western liberals to now hate Muslims because they can’t support the rights of a persecuted minority taking part in a victimless “crime?” Good job at making friends. Go see: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3026642541888393312&q=muslims+britain+gays&ei=dUsfSKTEFIr2rQLMuKnBAg&hl=enand explain exactly why you want this to be the face of your religion.

  • Duniya

    anonymous:If a woman is being raped by her partner in the privacy of her bedroom she should have a society in which she is able to, without shame and fear, seek help. If we leave sexuality to the privacy of their bedroom then she will not have the courage, based on support from her society, to get the desparately needed help. Haya (shame) takes second (or third or fourth)place when it comes to the safety of a woman. Her safety, integrity, and repsect are more important. We cannot judge people who are not heterosexual. In fact, there have been arguements made that homosexuality is not haram in Islam. The verse in the Qur’an is said to refer to the raping of male travellers by male hosts – not consensual homosexual sex. Just another interpretation and one we may need to consider when engaging with the issue. You don’t have to believe but you should know that such an interpretation exists.

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,Arianne – Oh no! I have to water down my religion so that the nice ‘liberal’ non Muslims will like me.That is such an asinine remark. Trust me, western liberals hate us already and I have no interest in changing my religious beliefs in order to be liked.Duniya – That interpretation is batil. There is so much within fiqh about following the safety of the majority opinion, that such a weak interpretation can be negated in exactly the same manner that some of the heinously anti-women interpretations can be negated. Fiqh is a science.As for the magazine, it’s a written by liberal people aimed at a liberal audience. How will it change anything?Let’s break it down.Sexual liberation does not automatically translate into sexual justice for women.India had the Karma Sutra. Did it help them treat women any better?Using the U.K as an example, sexual permissiveness occurred from the 60′s onwards. It had no effect on anti-rape legislation. Marital rape was not outlawed until 1989, forced oral sex or penetration with an object was classed as rape until 2003. These legal changes did not happen through a more open sexuality but through sustained petitioning of the legal system.The conviction rate for rape remains at 6%.Yet I can pick up any magazine and it will be full of sexual discussions/ material. All that it seems to have created is pressure for women to have ‘porn star skills’.As seen above sexual openness and improving the legal system are two goals with little overlap. We have an Islamic duty to dismantle opression. What good will a talking shop do?As Muslims, we look to solutions within Islam, bearing in mind that the haraam can never lead to the halal and vice versa.There is no doubt that modesty is a highly valued characteristic within Islam. We also know that sexuality was discussed openly. So how did this fit together?The key was intention. People asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) questions about sex, because they wanted to live as good Muslims in every area of their lives. Within Islam it is acknowledged that sex is an important part of any marriage and in the hadith there is a lot about bedroom ettiquette in order to keep both spouses satisfied.However, some people do have problems and rather then a magazine, I think specially trained counsellors would be more helpful and private then the pages of a magazine.Islamically discussing sins or sinful behaviour is strongly disapproved of. If this magazine does this, then people would be right to criticise it.

  • Zeynab

    Safiya, the point of the comment moderation policy is to make this a safe place for those who can’t find safe places elsewhere.If you keep your opinion about homosexuality (whether you feel it’s Islamically backed up or not) to yourself, who gets hurt? Not you, and no one else. If you publish your opinion about homosexuality that happens to paint people who identify this way as sinners, who does it hurt? Not you. But it hurts them, it maligns them from a community that they identify with. And I don’t think that’s right. You make good points about the discussion of sexuality versus the rates of things like rape in Western cultures. But I don’t think Chay’s intention is to discuss different style to wax your privates. I think it’s intent is to dispel myths that many people have around sexuality (despite all the hadith and Quran’ic injunctions, many people still mix up cultural sexual taboos with religious ones) so that women can understand their own sexuality for themselves, rather than having someone else quote them a hadith about how they should or shouldn’t be sexual.

  • Anonymous

    Why is it “immodest” to talk critically about sex? Or about women’s bodies?Isn’t it evident that this sort of definition of “modesty” is a way of controlling women’s sexuality? If we’re not even allowed to talk (or write) about it, it doesn’t exist–or at least, that’s the idea.If anyone really feels that Chay is “immodest”, then they shouldn’t read it. Simple. No one is pushing it into their faces. This is such an obvious solution to the “problem” that methinks those who are objecting to it are feeling just a bit insecure about their sexuality…. What, anyone’s belief system so fragile that it’ll come tumbling down if they read one alternative magazine?

  • Duniya

    Feminism and feminist research encouraged and brought about research and discussions about sexuality which lead to the laws being changed. Who demanded these changes in the laws? Feminists. If it weren’t for their research and discussions of sex and sexuality none of those changes would have come about. This magazine is not a porn magazine but rather a tool to normalize and bring to light issues of sexuality which affect all people, especially women. Please read the description of the magazine and re-read the post. The purpose of the magazine should become clearer to you. It seems you have misunderstood the intent of the magazine. Additionally, I came across this again today:”If you follow the greater majority on earth they would lead you astray. They follow nothing but the conjectures of others and mislead those who follow them. Your Lord knows best who stray from the path of Truth; He knows best who are rightly guided.”-Qur’an, Al-An’am, Surah 6:117-18

  • Arianne

    “Arianne – Oh no! I have to water down my religion so that the nice ‘liberal’ non Muslims will like me.That is such an asinine remark. Trust me, western liberals hate us already and I have no interest in changing my religious beliefs in order to be liked.”Nobody is asking you to “water down” your religious beliefs. As Zeynab said, if you keep your opinion to homosexuality to yourself, nobody is hurt. However, I (and others) are asking you to respect others the same way you would want to be respected. If someone ridiculed you for your religion, I would find that person’s actions morally reprehensible, and I think you’d be completely justified in feeling offended. If someone ridiculed me for my sexual orientation, I hope your attitude wouldn’t just be, “well, since she’s sinning against Islam, she doesn’t deserve to be defended.”Some Western liberals may hate you. Some may not. You can’t paint all of them with the same brush, just like you can’s paint all Muslims with the same brush the way Islamophobes do. I’m saying that as someone who’s lived among them my entire life (and would personally consider myself one). I realize that the hatred and ignorance of some of us makes many Muslims in the world offended. Likewise, the hatred and ignorance of many Muslims offends people in my community. Is this really want you want?cheers,Arianne

  • Ezzah

    “Muslims are already hated enough by Western conservatives. Do you really want Western liberals to now hate Muslims because they can’t support the rights of a persecuted minority taking part in a victimless “crime?” Good job at making friends.”Please do not use hasty generalizations against “western conservatives”…no more than you want people using these generalizations against Muslims. Please remember….as in every group of people…there are groups who are highlighted and viewed as the “voice”….I would suspect any Muslim can understand this point, especially on THIS website. This is not meant to be defensive, just a reminder from one person to another.

  • Arianne

    Ezzah: Fair enough, that I shouldn’t have used such generalizations against Western Conservatives. However, in my [more extensive] last post I was trying to refute such generalizations using the same arguments that you made.

  • Ayesha

    I commend the efforts of those of you who tried to engage with the Fundies (fundamentalists) who posted on this note; however, through my vast experience with Fundies, I would advise that the best way to deal with them is to not engage in conversation with them. It only strokes their ego and feeds into their fundamentalist crusade. Nothing good can come of it, since you will not change their dogmatic stances. Don’t waste your energy on being patient, simply ignore their existence. It takes taqwaa to ignore them (ask me how much taqwaa it took for me to fathom their homophobic remarks and hatred for other women). When you ignore them, it rights a wrong: it dulls their voices, and hopefully soon they cannot be heard at all. When you argue with them, you simply instigate them and throw fuel into their fundamentalist fire. They take up too much space anyway, cause too much attention towards themselves, and worst yet, are probably trying to ‘save’ us “liberal Western feminists” from our potty-mouthed-hiya-less selves. Just don’t engage them, I say.Don’t waste your energy. If we spend all our time being defensive against half-witted fundamentalist degernates, how will we find the energy to work towards higher degrees of social justice (our work benefits them too, they have freedom of expression because of the work that feminists do; they get a free ride on our backs). Just ignore them in the hopes that they will permanently be erased.Your energies are precious, put them into creative efforts, rather than engaging with hatred. I do think that people such as these can be by-passed, avoided, overlooked, and left behind (as they should be).

  • Zeynab

    Ayesha, I believe this website is for ALL Muslim women, even those whose opinions we don’t like. I think dialogue is better than ignoring in some cases; you know, the concept of free market of ideas (those thare are good will survive, those that are bad will be disproven and go away). Obviously, when you add faith to that, things get complicated, but it’s not our job to discount any Muslim womens’ voices. Dialogue is important.

  • Ayesha

    Zeynab, I understand that you are trying to be inclusive and democratic. I guess we’ll just have to disagree on this one, only because as much as we like to have a “freemarket of ideas” where all ideas come to the table with equal weight, and the best ideas get taken up and the bad ideas get thrown out due to their uselessness, we know that in Pakistan, the religious/conservative/anti-woman view is the hegemonic/dominant one and the progressive views do not have the same weight or power in that society. Progressive voices are marginalized or silenced by the conservative view that is dominant and takes up a lot of space. So it’s really not a freemarket of ideas, because free market implies equality and fairness, which doesn’t exist in this case; it’s a very one-sided, biased, and controlling market that sways opinions more in one direction than another. The only way to shift the scales is to create more safe space for progressive voices to thrive. If we’re going to use economic metaphors, I guess I’m arguing for a nationalist protectionism of progressive ideas. This is what the US did in the past: close economic borders to the international industries until it’s national industries could become strong enough to thrive in the bigger pond, and then open up markets knowing that the national industries were strong enough to hold their own in the global economic stage. Don’t expect marginalized voices to thrive within a world of hegemonic-conservative paracites, we won’t stand a chance. Plus, there is a lot of energy that goes into Fundies-management. Let’s focus on ideas production and creativity, not defense. And these ideas need to take up space, so safe space must be created (I really liked that someone above explained to the conservatives what “safe space” is, they obviously didn’t learn that concept from anywhere else). It’s only your job to teach when someone wants to learn, otherwise you’re labour just falls on deaf ears. And what of this free labour of teaching that women are constantly exploited for? You are doing a lot of work when you reach out to teach minds that are permanently closed. But I think that you might have more hope for the fundies than I do. I respect that you have hope for them.

  • Ayesha

    If you are entertaining fundamentalist voices, I do not care to share the space with violent people such as these: their presence makes this an UNsafe space. Their opinions being allowed to be expressed here means that their opinions are valid somehow, making this an unsafe space for me. You can continue to try to make this a space for all voices, but I certainly won’t be engaging from this blog further, since this is clearly NOT a safe space for me (due to the comments which were allowed to be expressed above). It’s not a safe space, and therefore, it’s not a democratic space since it sanctions and legitimizes assaults to take place on some people by giving voice to fundamentalists. And if I cannot speak to or engage with this blog because it is offensive to my being, then it’s aim of trying to be “inclusive” to ALL Muslim women’s voices FAILS.

  • Zeynab

    You can’t win ‘em all, sadly. The commenter who published some of the unacceptable comments above has also declined to continue commenting on our site, for similar reasons to yours: she feels her beliefs are attacked and that it’s not a safe space. There are always going to be those who will find something wrong with us no matter how hard we try to keep a balance and make this a safe space for Muslim woman of any kind. We acknowledge a liberal bias, and work to make sure that we cover issues that are relevant to all Muslim women, even those who don’t agree with, because they’re still Muslim women. Even though the Musketeer motto of “One for all, all for one” is cheesy, I admit, and idealistic, we still strive for it. Instead of devoting all your energy to critique this one thread with a few unacceptable comments and calling conservatives names, why don’t you take a look at some of the other ideas we have going? You state that the production of ideas is what’s important…so put your money where your mouth is, sister.

  • Pingback: “Chay” It Again: A Look at the Latest Issue of Chay Magazine « Muslimah Media Watch


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