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Human trafficking upsets morality claim of Arab states

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (

Most people have become familiar with sex trafficking in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, however less people are aware of sex trafficking in the Arab world. However it happens and in poor countries such as Yemen, it is almost common.

SANAA, YEMEN, (Catholic Online) - Yemen is both a source for victims as well as a hub for the international exchange of humans sold into sex slavery. The imported victims often come from Ethiopia and Somalia, lured by promises of a better life in the Gulf States where many expatriates go to work.

Domestic victims are typically young women who run away from home or are sold into the practice by their families, which are typically impoverished.

Once victims are enslaved, they remain bound to their captors by virtual chains, sometimes reinforced by local customs and laws. Although Yemeni law allows 10 years imprisonment for human trafficking, it also imprisons those labeled as prostitutes.

Yemeni natives are often subjected to threats from their own families, who claim dishonor after the woman is caught. On rare occasion, these threats are made good and little is done to bring the killers to justice.

In other cases, girls as young as 15 can be married to foreigners, typically Saudi men, who then take the women back to Saudi Arabia only to abandon them on the streets.

Those who stay behind to work in brothels, are routinely beaten and abused, not to mention repeatedly raped.

Every step of any journey they take, whether across the sea or the desert, there is danger. Danger of rape, danger of beatings, and danger of death from their captors or from the elements, even when they pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, some 103,000 people were trafficked into Yemen in 2011 alone. Those are just the ones they were able to record. The actual numbers may be much higher.

Still, people, mostly women, come by the boatload, hoping to escape poverty and violence in the Horn of Africa and to find jobs and a little bit of wealth in the Gulf States, which are prosperous as any western nation.

Although the problem is unlikely to improve anytime soon, small, private groups are starting to pay attention to the plight of these victims. Some of the most vulnerable, and most fortunate, have managed to find temporary homes in newly-founded shelters.

The shelters offer education and health services to women who have known nothing but abuse all their lives. Some shelters even work to smooth family tensions for former sex slaves, allowing them to return home without fear of being murdered by their own kin in an honor killing.

Although very little is discussed of human trafficking in the Arab states, which often purport to be committed to a form of morality, it should be understood that some of the most brisk trade in humans goes on there. The Arab states are by no means paragons of purity and virtue.

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