Friday, June 8, 2012

Sex Trafficking | WISE Muslim Women


Summary of the Issue

Current Issues: Sex TraffickingKabul, Afghanistan. 2008. An unidentified Afghan prostitute fixes her head scarf to cover her face as she was photographed in her Madame's house. Afghanistan is one of the world's most conservative countries, yet its sex trade appears to be thriving. Photo Credit: Farzana Wahidy/AP Images.

Sex trafficking is a human rights violation and identified as a modern form of slavery.1 In general, victims of sex trafficking are routinely either lured away with promises of a better life in a different country, sold by family members, or kidnapped.2 They are often drugged, imprisoned and tortured if they attempt to escape, and many who do manage to return to their families are turned away because of the social stigma attached.3 According to the US State Department 2010 Human Trafficking Report, 12.3 million adults and children are trafficked into forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution.4 Around 56 percent of these victims are women. The US State Department Annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) ranks countries in order of how they tackle trafficking and those in the lowest tier are sanctioned. In the 2010 report, Iran, Mauritania and Kuwait were amongst the Muslim-majority countries whose governments did not comply with the minimum standards.
Even though in Islam sexual relations should only exist within the confines of a legitimate marriage, sex trafficking still occurs in the Muslim world. Unequal access to education, war, dire poverty, limited opportunities, and other forms of gender discrimination increase women and girls’ vulnerability to being trafficked. For instance, many women who fled Iraq to Syria during the US invasion into Iraq, have been forced into prostitution.5 Similarly, in war-torn Bosnia, women were trafficked and sold throughout Europe for forced prostitution. Furthermore, many women often emigrate to other countries for greater economic opportunities but are forced into prostitution.6 For instance, in Saudi Arabia, women from Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, and other countries are routinely trafficked for sexual exploitation, and others are kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers.7Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia not only lacks adequate anti-trafficking laws but also does not provide victims with the much needed support.
The United Nations Trafficking Protocol requires that state parties address the root causes of trafficking by alleviating poverty, unemployment, social shortcoming, and gender discrimination. For instance, migrant workers predominantly from Southeast Asia in the United Arab Emirates compromise 90 percent of UAE’s private sector workforce. Women from these countries travel willingly to work as domestic servants and administrative staff. However, some become subjected to restrictions of movement, withholding of passports, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse.8
Most women who are victims of sex trafficking and exploitation will not report these horrendous crimes for fear of social stigma. There is often not enough provided to these women to restore their dignity and health. In some Muslim communities women are responsible for upholding family honor. Thus, any sexual activity by a woman, regardless of the circumstances, could lead to an honor crime.9The Qur’an states: “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both.”10 (4:135).

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