Muslim Wire

Sex slaves in Asia

Posted in Society by muslimwire on October 19, 2009

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Although old days are already gone and people are becoming more and more concious about their rights, which has already resulted in total ellimination of sex slavery in various countries in the world, the trend is still continuing under various names and banners.

In Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, sex slavery is continuing under the garb of Temporary Marriage, which is popularly known as Mut´ah Marriage. It is continuing in a number of Arab nations as well as some of the tourist hot-spots in Asia.

Sexual slavery is the organized coercion of unwilling people into different sexual practices. Sexual slavery may include single-owner sexual slavery, ritual slavery sometimes associated with traditional religious practices, slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes where sex is common, or forced prostitution.

In general, the nature of slavery means that the slave is de facto available for sexual intercourse, and ordinary social conventions and legal protections that would otherwise constrain an owner’s actions are not effective. For example, extramarital sex between a married man and a slave was not considered adultery in most societies that accepted slavery.

The term “sex slave” and “consensual sexual slavery” are sometimes used in BDSM to refer to a consensual agreement between sexual partners.

According to the Rome Statute [Article 7 [2][c)] sexual enslavement means the exercise of any or all of the powers attached to the “right of ownership” over a person. It comprises the repeated violation or sexual abuse or forcing the victim to provide sexual services as well as the rape by the captor. The crime has the character of a continuing offence. The Rome Statute’s definition of sexual slavery includes situations where persons are forced to domestic servitude, marriage or any other forced labour involving sexual activity, as well as the trafficking of persons, in particular women and children.

Sexual slavery encompasses most, if not all, forms of forced prostitution. The terms “forced prostitution” or “enforced prostitution” appear in international and humanitarian conventions but have been insufficiently understood and inconsistently applied. “Forced prostitution” generally refers to conditions of control over a person who is coerced by another to engage in sexual activity.

In 1949 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others [the 1949 Convention]. The 1949 Convention supersedes a number of earlier conventions that covered some aspects of forced prostitution. Signatories are charged with three obligations under the 1949 Convention: prohibition of trafficking, specific administrative and enforcement measures, and social measures aimed at trafficked persons. The 1949 Convention presents two shifts in perspective of the trafficking problem in that it views prostitutes as victims of the procurers, and in that it eschews the terms “white slave traffic” and “women,” using for the first time race- and gender-neutral language. Article 1 of the 1949 Convention provides punishment for any person who “[p]rocures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person” or “[e]xploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person.” To fall under the provisions of the 1949 Convention, the trafficking need not cross international lines.

The line between forced and voluntary prostitution is very thin, and prostitution in and on itself is seen by many as an abusive practice and a form of violence against women. In Sweden, Norway and in Iceland it is illegal to pay for sex [the client commits a crime, but not the prostitute], as these countries consider all forms of prostitution to be exploitive or de facto slavery, and place emphasis on suppressing the demand for sex services, by prosecuting the customers and the profiteers.

Many individuals and organisations believe that prostitution [or the activities which surround it] should be kept illegal; they argue that legalized prostitution does nothing to improve the situation of the prostitutes and leads only to an increase in criminal activities and human trafficking. Many feminists are also opposed to prostitution, see feminist objections to prostitution.

However, the the criminalization of voluntary prostitution is condemned by sex workers’ rights advocates, who argue that the decriminalization and extension of labor rights to sex workers is more effective in ensuring their general wellbeing than any form of prohibition. Sex worker activists, however, oppose systems of regulated prostitution [such as in Nevada in Unted States], as they see these approaches and these tight regulations as degrading and oppresive for the sex workers; instead they lobby for full decriminalization.

Forced Prostitution:

Forced prostitution, also known as involuntary prostitution, is the act of performing sexual activity in exchange for money on a non-voluntary basis. There are a wide range of entry routes into prostitution, ranging from “voluntary and deliberate” entry, “semi-voluntary” based on pressure of circumstances, and “involuntary” recruitment via outright force or coercion. Sexual slavery encompasses most, if not all, forms of forced prostitution. The terms “forced prostitution” or “enforced prostitution” appear in international and humanitarian conventions but have been insufficiently understood and inconsistently applied. “Forced prostitution” generally refers to conditions of control over a person who is coerced by another to engage in sexual activity.

Enticement to and maintenance of all forms of involuntary prostitution is regarded as international offence under customary law based on the uniformity of national legislations, as well as from official pronouncements in international fora and other relevant treaties.

In 1949 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others [the 1949 Convention]. The 1949 Convention supersedes a number of earlier conventions that covered some aspects of forced prostitution. Signatories are charged with three obligations under the 1949 Convention: prohibition of trafficking, specific administrative and enforcement measures, and social measures aimed at trafficked persons. The 1949 Convention presents two shifts in perspective of the trafficking problem in that it views prostitutes as victims of the procurers, and in that it eschews the terms “white slave traffic” and “women,” using for the first time race- and gender-neutral language. Article 1 of the 1949 Convention provides punishment for any person who “procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person” or “exploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person.” To fall under the provisions of the 1949 Convention, the trafficking need not cross international lines. The 1949 Convention penalises the procurement and enticement to prostitution as well as the maintenance of brothels, and has been ratified by 95 member nations including France, Spain, Italy and Denmark; and not ratified by another 97 member nations including Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The line between:

The line between voluntary and involuntary prostitution might be fluid. William D. Angel finds that “most” prostitutes have been forced into the profession through poverty, lack of education and employment possibilities. Kathleen Barry argues that there should be no distinction between “free” and “coerced”, “voluntary” and “involuntary” prostitution, “since any form of prostitution is a human rights violation, an affront to womanhood that cannot be considered dignified labour”. However, proponents of sex workers’ rights argue that some adult sex workers make a relatively free decision to go into prostitution and that they should be at liberty to do so.

The effects of keeping prostitution illegal are not clear, and are suject of ongoing debate and controversy. Those who support the prohibition of the sex trade argue that all forms of prostitution represent an exploitation of women, thus all forms of prostitution should be illegal; they also argue that legalizing and regulating prostitution has very negative effects and does not improve the situation of the prostitutes: many women who work in licensed brothels are still controlled by outside pimps; many brothel owners are criminals themselves; the creation of a legal and regulated prostitution industry only leads to another parallel illegal industry, as many women do not want to register and work legally [since this would rob them of their anonymity] and other women can not be hired by legal brothels because of underlying problems [for example, drug abuse]; legalizing prostitution makes it more socially acceptable to buy sex, creating a huge demand for prostitutes [both by local men and by foreigners engaging in sex tourism] and, as a result, human trafficking and underage prostitution increase in order to satisfy this demand.

Others however believe that the criminalisation of prostitution is very harmful and contributes to the increase of human trafficking and sexual slavery. Martha M Ertman and Joan C. Williams argue that criminalisation of voluntary prostitution in many parts of the world greatly contributes to involuntary prostitution and human trafficking. This is because criminalisation limits the number of individuals taking up the professions voluntarily [deterrence is a primary justification for criminalisation] and because criminalisation means that those who coerce, trick, or force others into prostitution can earn great profits. Ertman and Williams argue that were prostitution is legal, the likelihood of market saturation by willing providers and the concomitant price competition would reduce, and possibly remove, the profit motive for procurers to victimise others. Also, where voluntary prostitution is illegal, victims of forced prostitution often cannot obtain help. In most countries, including international trafficking destinations, prostitutes are considered immoral, and are arrested rather than assisted, regardless of how they have entered the profession.

Global Scenerio:

In Europe, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the impoverished former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children. Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery. It is estimated that two thirds of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters of whom have never worked as prostitutes before. The major destinations are Western Europe [Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, UK, Greece], the Middle East [United Arab Emirates), Asia, Russia and the United States.

In 2002, the US Department of State repeated an earlier CIA estimate that each year, about 50,000 women and children are brought against their will to the United States for sexual exploitation.

In the Middle East, a significant problem in human trafficking for the sex trade industry — much of it involving women from Eastern Europe. Eastern European women are also trafficked to Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

A high number of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, while others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran. In Syria alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, have become prostitutes. Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. The clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East High prices are offered for virgins.

Turkey operates municipal brothels and offers this as the only legal way to independent sex workers to work in them, the example of which is seen in many countries such as Germany and Greece. These institutions, called Genelev in Turkish, excercise a franchise on sex work.

In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand. The US State Department has rated Japan as either a ´Tier 2´ or a ´Tier 2 Watchlist´ country every year since 2001, in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports. Both these ratings implied that Japan was [to a greater or lesser extent] not fully compliant with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking trade. Currently an estimated 300,000 women and children are involved in the sex trade throughout Southeast Asia. It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price. Further in Japan, fatal prejudice and the absence of anti-discrimination acts often drive a transwoman into forced prostitution. In Cambodia at least a quarter of the 20,000 people working as prostitutes are children with some being as young as 5.

By the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines, describing Angeles City brothels as “notorious” for offering sex with children. UNICEF estimates many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex.

For the last decade it has been estimated that 6,000 – 7,000 girls are trafficked out of Nepal each year. But these numbers have recently risen substantially. Current numbers for girls trafficked out of the country are now 10,000 to 15,000 yearly. This is compounded as the US Central Intelligence Agency states that most trafficked girls are currently worth, in their span as a sex-worker, approx US$250,000 on the sex-trades market.

In Australia, even during present days, women and children are being sold as ´sex slaves´ by a number of organized racket. Some of such rackets even openly give advertisements in media to allure people in buying ´slaves´ from them. One such organization, named ´Asian Slaves´ having its office at 65 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. This company in its website says, “Asian Slave Escorts offers oriental sex slaves worldwide. We have been providing high class submissive services worldwide for more than 30 years. Our elegant slaves are typically Chinese, Japanese and Korean ladies that are willing to provide submissive services.

“Ours are students, nurses, models or have other careers; none of them are occupational sex workers. This ensures that your slave will be fresh and eager. Because they are not jaded or overworked, your service is always unique and they are able to give everything to their Master or Mistress.”

It is very strange to ascertain as to how the Australian authorities are allowing such open activities of an organization, engaged in selling women as ´sex slaves´ to people.

The Arab slave trade:

The Arab slave trade was the practice of slavery in the Arab World, namely West Asia, North Africa, East Africa and certain parts of Europe [such as Sicily and Iberia] during their period of domination by Arab leaders. The trade was focused on the slave markets of the Middle East and North Africa. People traded were not limited to a certain color, ethnicity, or religion and included Arabs and Berbers, especially in its early days. Later, during the 8th and 9th centuries of the Islamic Caliphate, most of the slaves were Slavic Eastern Europeans [called Saqaliba], people from surrounding Mediterranean areas, Persians, Turks, peoples from the Caucasus mountain regions [such as Georgia, Armenia and Circassia] and parts of Central Asia and Scandinavia, Berbers from North Africa, and various other peoples of varied origins as well as those of Black African origins. Later, toward the 18th and 19th centuries, slaves increasingly came from East Africa, until slavery was officially abolished by the end of the 19th century. It still continues today in a smaller form in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, where women and children are trafficked from the post-Soviet states, Eastern Europe, Far East, Africa, South Asia and other parts of the Middle East.

Historians estimate that between 11 and 18 million Black Africans were enslaved by Arab slave traders and taken across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert between 650 and 1900, compared to 9.4 to 14 million Africans brought to the Americas in the Atlantic slave trade.

Periodic Arab raiding expeditions were sent from Islamic Iberia to ravage the Christian Iberian kingdoms, bringing back booty and slaves. In a raid against Lisbon in 1189, for example, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives, while his governor of Córdoba, in a subsequent attack upon Silves in 1191, took 3,000 Christian slaves.

Arabs also enslaved substantial numbers of Europeans. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates, who were vassals of the Ottoman Empire, and sold as slaves between the 16th and 19th centuries. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages from Italy, Spain, Portugal and also from more distant places like France or England, the Netherlands, Ireland and even Iceland and North America. The impact of these attacks was devastating – France, England, and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. Pirate raids discouraged settlement along the coast until the 19th century.

The Ottoman wars in Europe and Tatar raids brought large numbers of European Christian slaves into the Islamic world too.

The ‘Oriental’ or ‘Arab’ slave trade is sometimes called the ‘Islamic’ slave trade, but a religious imperative was not the driver of the slavery, Patrick Manning, a professor of World History, states. However, if a non-Muslim population refuses to adopt Islam or pay the Jizya protection/subjugation tax, that population is considered to be at war with the Muslim “ummah” and therefore it becomes legal under Islamic law to take slaves from that non-Muslim population. Usage of the terms “Islamic trade” or “Islamic world” has been disputed by some Muslims as it treats Africa as outside of Islam, or a negligible portion of the Islamic world. Propagators of Islam in Africa often revealed a cautious attitude towards proselytizing because of its effect in reducing the potential reservoir of slaves.

From a Western point of view, the subject merges with the Oriental slave trade, which followed two main routes in the Middle Ages:

Overland routes across the Maghreb and Mashreq deserts [Trans-Saharan route];

Sea routes to the east of Africa through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean [Oriental route].

The Arab slave trade originated before Islam and lasted more than a millennium. It continues today in some places. Arab traders brought Africans across the Indian Ocean from present-day Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan,Eritrea, western Ethiopia and elsewhere in East Africa to present-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Turkey and other parts of the Middle East and South Asia [mainly Pakistan and India]. Unlike the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the New World, Arabs supplied African slaves to the Muslim world, which at its peak stretched over three continents from the Atlantic [Morocco, Spain] to India and eastern China.

From approximately 650 until around the 1960s the Arab slave trade continued in one form or another. The Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail “the Bloodthirsty” [1672-1727] raised a corps of 150,000 black slaves, called his Black Guard, who coerced the country into submission. Historical accounts and references to slave-owning nobility in Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere are frequent into the early 1920s. In 1953, sheikhs from Qatar attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II included slaves in their retinues, and they did so again on another visit five years later. As recently as the 1950s, the Saudi Arabia´s slave population was estimated at 450,000 — approximately 20% of the population. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 black Sudanese children and women had been taken into slavery in Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1905, 1961, and 1981. It was finally criminalized in August 2007. It is estimated that up to 600,000 black Mauritanians, or 20% of the Mauritania´s population, are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour.

Bride kidnapping and raptio:

Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice throughout history and around the world in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Bride kidnapping still occurs in countries spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe. In most countries, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime, rather than a valid form of marriage. Some versions of it may also be seen as falling along the continuum between forced marriage and arranged marriage. The term is sometimes used to include not only abductions, but also elopements, in which a couple runs away together and seeks the consent of their parents later; these may be referred to as non-consensual and consensual abductions respectively. However, even when the practice is against the law, judicial enforcement remains lax, particularly in Kyrgyzstan, Chechnya, and Georgia.

Bride kidnapping is distinguished from raptio in that the former refers to the abduction of one woman by one man [and his friends and relatives], and is still a widespread practice, whereas the latter refers to the large scale abduction of women by groups of men, possibly in a time of war.

Some modern cultures maintain a symbolic kidnapping of the bride by the groom as part of the ritual and traditions surrounding a wedding, in a nod to the practice of bride kidnapping which may have figured in that culture’s history. According to some sources, the honeymoon is a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.

Bride kidnapping is distinguished from raptio in that the former refers to the abduction of one woman by one man [and his friends and relatives], and is still a widespread practice, whereas the latter refers to the largescale abduction of women by groups of men, possibly in a time of war The Latin term raptio refers to abduction of women, either for marriage [for example, kidnapping or elopement] or enslavement [particularly sexual slavery]. In Roman Catholic canon law, raptio refers to the legal prohibition of matrimony if the bride was abducted forcibly. The historical English term for the abduction of women is rape, see below; Frauenraub, originally from German, is still used in English in the field of art history. The practice is surmised to have been common since anthropological antiquity. In Neolithic Europe, excavation of the Linear Pottery culture site at Asparn-Schletz, Austria, the remains of numerous slain victims were found. Among them, young adult females and children were clearly under-represented, suggesting that the attackers had killed the men but abducted the nubile females.

In Africa the colonial powers abolished slavery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but in areas outside their jurisdiction, such as the Mahdist empire in Sudan, the practice continued to thrive. Now, institutional slavery has been banned worldwide, but there are numerous reports of women sex slaves in areas without an effective government control, such as, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, northern Uganda, Congo, Niger and Mauritania. In Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a form of religious prostitution known as trokosi [“ritual servitude”] forcibly keeps thousands of girls and women in traditional shrines as “wives of the gods”, where priests perform the sexual function in place of the gods.

In India as many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under the age of 14, have been sold into sex slavery. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favoured in India because of their fair skin and young looks. In Pakistan, young girls [sometimes as young as 9 years old] on few instances have been sold by their families to brothels as sex slaves in big cities. Often this happens due to poverty or debt, whereby the family has no other way to raise the money than to sell the young girl. Few cases have also been recorded where wives and sisters have been sold to brothels to raise money for gambling, drinking or consuming drugs. Many sex slaves are also bought by ‘agents’ in Afghanistan who trick young girls into coming to Pakistan for well-paying jobs. Once in Pakistan they are taken to brothels [called Kharabat] and forced into sexual slavery for many years. Sexual slavery also exists in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, where women and children are trafficked from the post-Soviet states, Eastern Europe, Far East, Africa, South Asia and other parts of the Middle East.

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