Bahrain: ‘sin city’ no more?
The Gulf country was the only one from the region named in a list of sin cities produced by Ask Men magazine last year, and the government isn’t happy about it.
March 31, 2009 11:50 by Aarti Nagraj
Islamist MPs in Bahrain are demanding strict action against what they call “sinful activities”, reports Gulf News. In a list of the Top 10 Sin Cities released by online magazine Ask Men in April last year, Manama came eighth.
“We are shocked to know that Manama has been ranked eighth among [the] world’s top 10 ‘sin cities’. It is a very sad situation for our country that prides itself on its political and human rights records because we wanted Bahrain to rank among the top countries in political, social or economic achievements. Now we need to tackle the issues of prostitution and other immoral activities that have vastly undermined our reputation,” one of the MP’s said.
Indeed, Bahrain’s problem with prostitution is the stuff of legends.
“Prostitution is rampant in the hotels and nightclubs, and the streets are filled with “massage parlors.” Bahrain is a destination for sex tourism,” says an article on The New York Times published earlier this week.
Even as far back as 1937, the Bahraini authorities were aware of their burgeoning problem with prostitution. According to a local blogger, Babbling Bahraini, the country issued a government notice on February 8, 1937, which reportedly stated the following:
- All immodest prostitutes are ordered to live in prostitute places and they
are not allowed to stay in honorable places in Manama and Muharraq.
- The places assigned to the immodest prostitutes is (fareeg madree waish) x
district in Manama and x (madree waish) district in Muharraq.
- Owners of the honorable places are responsible in a court [of law]
if they allow immodest prostitutes or gamblers.
- If within one month from this date, any immodest prostitute is found
staying in an honorable place and hasn’t moved to the prostitute
district will be prosecuted in court.
- Any foreign prostitute caught violating these orders will be banished
A report released by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights in 2007 found that more than 13,500 persons from Bahrain were registered on websites as either offering or seeking sex. It also found that more than 50 websites in the country are affiliated with prostitution networks.
But steps are being taken to rectify the country’s image. In January 2008, the government enacted a law that prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; it applies to cases where people are “recruited, transported, relocated, sheltered or received for the purpose of taking advantage of them.” Violators of the law face fines ranging from BD2,000 to BD10,000 ($5,300- $26,500) along with a prison term of up to 10 years.
One of the articles in the law also asked the foreign minister to set up a national committee to suppress human trafficking and to protect the victims.
In May last year, Bahraini authorities announced plans to impose travel bans on persons charged with prostitution, adding that the restriction will also extend to those who force women into prostitution. That law has not been passed as of yet.
What will the Bahraini government have to do to rid the nation of its ‘sin city’ reputation?