By Aishah Mohd. Nasarruddin, trainee lecturer in women's health development unit, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Drifted and Forgotten

The flourishing of prostitution in Muslim countries is a paradox that we often overlook as a problem of our ummah. As prostitution is condemned and forbidden in Islam, and these women, to an extent, are marginalized and invisible in our community, many of us are not aware of the magnitude and realities of this problem. We do not consider them as a cause worth fighting for as we do for the betterment of the poor, abused, homeless, oppressed and ailing. To make matters worse, misinformation is widespread and the voices of former prostitution victims are systematically silenced.

Among the factors contributing to the widespread practice of prostitution among Muslim countries include:

  • The denial of the existence of such problems in our community
  • Spreading of the truth impedes men's comfort and pleasure in using women
  • Hindrance of profitability of the industry, especially for those players who are politically connected
  • Prostitution is too horrible of a practice, a highly stigmatized taboo subject, that people would rather not hear details about

Majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do. The reality is quite the contrary for many of them. On many occasions, deprivations, conflicts, and difficult circumstances often lead to desperation, and desperation forces these women into the practice of prostitution. Many are uneducated women who live in poverty and possess few marketable skills. My research finds that prostitutes are many times:

  • single mothers making ends meet for their children.
  • victims of incest and sexual abuse.
  • manipulated homeless teenagers.
  • displaced sufferers of human trafficking.
  • They are distraught girls with failed early marriages.
  • They are refugees who fled from their war-torn countries.

While we criminalize them for living in adultery, spreading diseases, disrupting family institutions, and giving birth to innocent, illegitimate children who suffer for having dishonorable mothers, we fail to see the other spectrum of the consequences of prostitution. The consequences are not only devastating to the society, but also to the prostitute herself as a person. It completely destroys her already shattered life, being reduced down to a depersonalized, sexual object.  She develops a personality where she is unable to develop trust in relationships and slowly numbs herself, to the point where she loses the ability to feign attachments to anyone or anything.  In order to survive this overwhelming, daily ordeal, she dissociates from her real self, originally as a defense mechanism; sadly, it reaches to the point of complete shut down, where she is stripped of her identity, and over time, she disappears.

In addition, where violence against women is considered, prostitution is usually exempted from this category. However, the health effects of prostitution are similar; injuries, infections, and psychological stress are suffered by women subjected to prostitution as well as other forms of violence against women. Apart from sexual violence, prostitutes experience physical violence by their pimps, brothel owners, and clients as a means to keep them under control. Homicide is a frequent cause of death for women in prostitution. They are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervical cancer, not to mention their risk of unwanted pregnancies, which often lead to a lack of prenatal care or unsafe abortions. Moreover, they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and, eventually, may resort to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. The vicious cycle then continues.

I believe that no woman in her right mind would want to be a sex slave.  In  prostitution, research involving nine countries revealed that when the prostitutes were asked, 'What do you need?', 89% responded that they desired to 'leave prostitution' (Farley, 2003). This was followed by 'job training', 'home or safe place', 'health care', 'individual counseling' and other supportive measures.

But what about those women who openly confess they enjoy being prostitutes? Let it be known, few prostitutes who have come to profit from advocating the legalization of prostitution, writing columns in porn magazines and websites, and scheduling appearances on talk shows should not hold water to the overwhelming number of prostitutes who silently suffer from prostitution. Some leading pro-sex work advocates of legalized prostitution have been convicted on pimping charges although they themselves claim that they are common prostitutes and are not involved in organizing crimes against prostituted women. Even sex worker rights leader, Carol Leigh, has said herself in a 2004 debate, “95% of my friends want out of prostitution.”

 

Recently we interviewed a prostitute new to the 'job', joining this year. She is a 29-year old single mother, divorced, with three children, and with no financial support. During the day she takes care of her children, and at night she leaves them with her sister and goes to 'work'. Every night she goes to her pimp's house which serves as a prostitution site and meets her clients there. On average she has three clients per night, majority of whom are married men. When we asked her why she chose this job, she replied that it's the only suitable job for her that pays enough to support her children. When we asked her whether she wants to get out from it, she answered “if it's possible I want to stop doing this right this moment. I live in constant fear and worry that I might be caught by authorities”.

Fortunately, prostitution is illegal in most Muslim countries, the exceptions being Turkey and Indonesia.  However, despite its illegality, there are hubs in our own soil making millions out of the industry. Inadequate law enforcement, economic instability, poor planning to improve standards of living, and the community turning a blind eye to prostitution make this problem difficult to control. Moreover the pimps and traffickers bribe authorities to sustain the illegal operations, and there are even authorities who take advantage of the prostitutes. The woman I mentioned earlier told us that there were police and even religious officers who come to them as clients.

What can we do to help?

In regions where prostitution remains legal, it may be easier to reach out to them because they are registered under the profession and therefore can be identified. For example, in Turkey, sociologists and psychologists interviewed 3,000 registered prostitutes working at brothels to determine whether they had been forced into the job and if they would prefer another line of employment.

On the other hand, where prostitution is generally illegal, it is difficult and rather unsafe to reach them. Many things can happen if you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. They fear that 'outsiders' would turn them in to the authorities to be penalized, especially the prostitutes who are linked to pimps, traffickers, and corrupt officials.  There was a case in Iraq in 2008, where Soran Hama, a journalist of the Kurdish Lvin magazine, was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house weeks after he had written a detailed report on police involvement in a major Kirkuk prostitution ring.

What we can do to reach out is put them in contact with experienced volunteers from reputable organizations such as NGOs working on reproductive and health education, or NGOs that conduct programs to keep children from red-light districts in school. By slowly reaching out and engaging with them, it is hoped that mutual trust can be built and they can be convinced that a way out is possible, that there are people who would support them and give them protection, that there are people who will not judge and stigmatize them.

We should include them in income-generating programs so that they can have a regular income, which hopefully would decrease the chance of them resorting back to prostitution. Sponsorship should be raised to enable their children to attend and stay in school, as education plays a vital role to break them free from the poverty trap and further prevent them from entering prostitution.

On a larger scale, there should be a focus shift to criminalize the buying rather than the selling of sex. The burden of punishment should be on the clients who perpetuate the sex trade rather than the women who are trapped in the situation. For example, in Sweden, prostitution is officially acknowledged as a form of male sexual violence against women and children. Swedish policy addresses the issue of prostitution and trafficking by focusing on the root cause, and recognizing that without male demand and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able flourish and expand. As a result, street prostitution has diminished. Granted, critiques have been directed to the government for making prostitution go underground and sex being sold over the internet is a growing problem; at least sources of evil cannot be accessed easily.

Rather than consistently playing the blaming game and condemning them to hell, as a community we should take whatever measures necessary to assist them to escape prostitution. These desperate individuals need our help and understanding in order to believe they can lead better lives.  They need to be pulled out from the pit so that they can regain their dignity, integrate back into society, and return to their senses, rest assured that Allah and their Muslim brothers and sisters have not neglected them.

Allah says in Sūrat'l-Nūr :

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know [24:19].

73 Responses

  1. Ibn Masood

    Sad article but true. Reminds me of Umar (radiaAllahu anh)’s child support grants via Zakat.

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  2. Nuraini

    I think this is a good article. I would like to point out that had all wali of the women sheltered her and protected her and did not oppress her either by direct abuse or by neglect and poor upbringing making her incapable of making good decisions in the real world, the vast majority of these women would not be in such a desperate situation. after all, a woman technically has her husband, failing which her father, failing which her brothers, grandfather, etc. etc. and failing all of these her neighbours and community to help a single woman without means of support or single mother. if there are women in a muslim country who are in prostitution from desperation, then not only does the community contain evil men who prey on them, but the entire family and community structure has failed them.

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    • Nazihah

      I couldn’t agree more. As a culture and society, we have forgotten the vital role and responsibility that lies with the Wali. We don’t give it the weight it deserves.

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    • Grandparent

      Assalaamu alaikum,
      Jazakumu Allahu khair. This, in my opinion, is an important article, honest and correct. The comment made by Nuraini: “…then not only does the community contain evil men who prey on them, but the entire family and community structure has failed them” is also a brilliant statement because of the added light it sheds. I’ve seen/heard of examples of women in need turned away by the Muslim community in America, where few have an extended family living near them.

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    • Ali

      Dear Nuraini

      Many of the girls are orphans who dont have a wali or family.

      Many of the girls are being abused by their wali and other family members….so they escape their family only to be lured by strangers into the industry

      and then you have families who out of poverty send their daughters out to bring some money fro the family

      Look at this:

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  3. Umm Sulaim

    ‘We’ did not criminalize prostitution.

    Who wants to have ‘registered prostitutes’ for Allah’s sake?

    Both buying and selling of sex IS illegal.

    They need to be pulled out all right, but like women who remain in abusive nuptial relationships, once they are adults, they cannot really be pulled any where, as much as I may wish to, WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.

    Umm Sulaim

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    • Umm Sulaim

      And as members of the ‘police’ and ‘religious officials’ are her clientele, what precisely is her source of fear? Her well-connected clientele should ordinarily serve to protect her.

      And the last time I checked, accusing someone of buying sex required FOUR WITNESSES (or some other viable proof). If women were accused of such illicit activities we would all be up in arms.

      Umm Sulaim

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      • AishahMN

        Not all police and religious officials are corrupt.

        Of course there are ways to do it, not just run to anyone and accuse them of selling/buying sex.

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    • AishahMN

      I’m talking about prostitution policies practised by countries, not Islamic laws.

      Yes, the idea is to understand their situations and help them to escape, with their consent of course.

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  4. Farhan

    Great article. A weak economy results in these things. I loved the suggestion of job training, that’s very good ma sha Allah.

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  5. Ahsan Arshad

    The basic problem I believe here is that we muslims are not willing to talk about this “problem” openly – the solution lies ahead of this initial step.
    When I opened this article, my sister caught a glimpse of the title and not knowing that I am a regular reader of muslimmatters.org questioned me “what are you reading” in a shock. Even after explaining a bit about the website, she left…
    From our islamic sources we know that the Prophet is reported to have said about a prostitute going a jannah for feeding a thirsty dog with water by making a significant effort – I often thought about it and concluded that the women mentioned in the hadith would have been forced into this “profession”. And Allah know best

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    • Maurizio Pescatori

      I would like to congratulate you for the wise words you just said.
      May I add this anecdote: you are all surely familiar with Prophet Issa.
      In his own words, through Luke 7, 44-47: (Issa enters the house of a reputed prostitute to rest after a long day’s journey, and the woman has such an emotional experience she weeps and literally washes Issa’s feet with her own tears; Simon, Issa’s Follower, is scandalized that Issa should enter such a house, but is rebuked by Issa himself)
      “7:44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 7:45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 7:46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 7:47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
      The woman’s “love” is not physical, much less sexual love,but love meant as repentance.
      To condemn a prostitute because she is such is like condemning a drowning man because he cannot swim.
      Hypocrisy.

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  6. Yasir Qadhi

    Thank you for the article sister.

    Prostitution is a sad reality in all lands – there were even prostitutes in the city of Madinah in the Prophetic era, and there continue to be operating prostitutes in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah:
    http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article504375.ece

    So if even the holy cities are not protected, what will be the case elsewhere?

    And yes, most of the time these women are forced into such circumstances because of dire need. Its a taboo topic to talk about, and I’m happy (as usual!) that MM has contributed to some public awareness about it.

    Yasir

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    • Mehzabeen (iMuslim)

      I remember reading of a case during the caliphate of Umar, radiallahu ‘anhu. A poor women was coerced into sleeping with a shepherd in exchange for some food or water. Ali radiallahu ‘anhu said she should be freed, as she was forced into the act. I don’t have reference for this narration unfortunately… do you?

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  7. Yasmin

    Jazakallah khair for shedding light on this very sensitive and often overlooked subject! I think that you did so in a very powerful and informative manner!

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  8. Siraaj

    Salaam alaykum Aishah,

    Jazakallah khayr for this piece, very eye-opening. What are your thoughts on criminalizing both sides, both the prostitute and the john?

    Siraaj

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    • AishahMN

      Waalaikumussalam warahmatullah Siraaj.

      I understand that there is a concern regarding voluntary prostitution but in muslim countries I don’t think that is the main reason why this industry sustains. In my opinion the johns should definitely be penalized but for the prostitutes it should be determined on a case-by-case basis. They should be interviewed and their backgrounds should be investigated to determine whether they are forced into prostitution or not. Take victims of human trafficking for example, I can’t imagine how can we criminalize them when they were actually kidnapped and abused in the first place.

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  9. shiney

    May Allah Reward all those involved in the writing, editing, approving, and publishing of this article. This is one subject that if someone had not shed light on, I would have probably forever remained ignorant/careless about. We always hear about Muslims starving and dying because of war and famine but seldom do we hear of our Muslim sisters who are forced to do this heinous crime. May Allah help these sisters find a halal living and May Allah Protect them and forgive them. Ameen.

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  10. Abdul

    When ever a Human being deviates from the Path of Allah, he or she is in trouble in this world and hearafter, Poverty cannot be an excuse to defend prostitution. Allah is the sole Provider ( la ilaha illa allah), The Prophet ( peace be Upon him ) went through many hardships,

    Females who are forced into prostitution should be rescued, but there are many prostitues who give thousand silly reasons to defend prsotitution. the most silly reason is poverty, I donot sympathise with the females who make different excuses. we all struggle hard to meet our need, What important is are you using HARAM or HALAL ways to meet your needs( You wont get more or less then what Allah has provided), I wont be going to a pimp to council a prostitue, I might get into the sinful act myself by doing this, I would rather try to spread the Message and the laws which Allah made to make ones life easy, I would work on building the Imaan of the community, once they get the Imman they will understand the meaning of PARDA and the woint even get cose to Zina,

    Those females who are already into prostitution willingly/unwillingly should be counselled, showing sympathy would only make them feel that whatever they are doing might be right.

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    • Ahmed Brown

      Females who are forced into prostitution should be rescued, but there are many prostitues [sic] who give thousand silly reasons to defend prsotitution. [sic]

      Someone else can quote the statistics, but I think the vast majority of prostitutes are either a) forced into it and/or b) enter it due to poverty. It seems the ones defending prostitution represent a very small minority. Don’t let a few individuals color your perception of an entire population.

      …showing sympathy would only make them feel that whatever they are doing might be right.

      Sympathizing with a person is not the same as condoning their actions. Showing sympathy means you show you care for your Muslim brother/sister and want to help them get out of their situation.

      I know the idea of a woman prostituting oneself can seem very odd but then again we’ve probably never been in the prostitute’s situation. Imagine a divorced/widowed woman who is stricken with absolute poverty. She has kids to feed but cannot afford food. They are starving. If she doesn’t get them food soon, they will die. It’s easy for us to say “she should trust in Allah” while we sit behind monitors and internet connections. A mother will do anything for her children and for some that includes becoming a prostitute. Do you think she wants to do this? No. Listen to interviews with prostitutes; I think you will find the vast majority do not wish to be in this line of work.

      Do we support what they do? No. Can we understand why they do it? Yes. Understanding the reasons behind their situation is the first step to bringing a solution.

      http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/slaverya21stcenturyevil/2011/10/20111010134454998749.html

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      • AishahMN

        Well said Ahmed. Yes we are trying to find solutions and adressing the root cause based on realities, not condoning their actions. Two different things.

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    • Gibran Mahmud

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      We must show simpathy but we must also be strong in enforcing Allah’s law. In many cases, women aren’t actually FORCED. This behavior is not acceptable at all.

      We cannot put all the blame on the women because of their situation and the fact that others are responsible. But bearing that in mind, we cannot excuse this act. They do share in the blame except as Allah wills and Allah knows best each situation.

      Christians talk in this type of manner. “Blame the sin not the sinner”. This is not correct. The sin needs to be condemned, and the sinner held responsible.

      We should obey Allah and follow His command to enjoin on right and forbid wrong. But we should not transgress the limits like our predecessors and follow their ways.

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      • Mik

        Something about the way you say this just sounds barbaric, and not merciful at all. It is no wonder people view Muslims the way they do.

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  11. Veiled

    The need to raise awareness on this matter is so vital in this day and age, when it’s so prevalent in many Muslim countries and in the homes of many Muslim families. JazaakAllah khayr for the article, as it’s a certain step in that direction.

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  12. Marcello Fernandes

    Many prostitutes in wealthy countries are imported from poorer countries. They are often brought in by professional smugglers — the same people who bring in drugs, weapons, and other illicit contraband. In these cases, the most effective means of restraining the spread of prostitution is to stop these smugglers at the border. In the United States, Detroit was considered the easiest entry point along the northern border for smugglers. Asian and Eastern European prostitutes were common in the area. The authorities have since strengthened border security in the region (much to the annoyance of travelers), and the problem has noticeably diminished in the last few years. Domestic prostitution, run by domestic criminal organizations, is still a significant problem. But at least we’ve disrupted the supply chain and made sex trafficking a less profitable business. And perhaps saved a few lives in the process.

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  13. abu takfir

    While I do agree that some women are forced into prostitution because of circumstances, but we cannot say that all women are prostitutes because of circumstances. Some women do really enjoy prostitution and making money off it.

    Most importantly, how do you define prostitution?

    In college, when I go to the gym, I see many women who come there to work out in revealing clothes. Just because they are not sleeping with men for money, we do not call it prostitution? What is the difference between sleeping with a lover and sleeping with a random man for money? In the former you get “love” back, in the later you get money back.

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    • AishahMN

      Sex workers are defined as “female, male and transgender adults and young people who receives money or goods in exchange for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally and who may or may not consciously define those activities as income-generating” (UNAIDS, 2002)

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  14. Hamza21

    Fortunately, prostitution is illegal in most Muslim countries, the exceptions being Turkey and Indonesia.

    You forgot it’s legal in Senegal but only because the dangers of HIV infection that is rampant in Africa. Without the epidemic rise of HIV infections in Africa prostitution would have never became legal in Senegal.

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    • AishahMN

      Thank you for pointing that out Hamza. It slipped my mind that Senegal is a muslim country.

      There are pro and cons when it comes to HIV and legalization of prostitution. I think legalizing prostitution will only sustain the industry. HIV spread is the by-product of prostitution, to reduce HIV we have to reduce or abolish prostitution, not legalizing it. To mandate health checks and certification only to women and not for their clients is ineffective and discriminatory.

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  15. Carlos

    Excellent article, Aishah. Such frank and mature conversation can only lead to good.

    Sexual slavery is a reality, even here in America. It primarily effects immigrant communities, a byproduct of the marginalization of illegal immigrants. Immigrants without papers are vulnerable because they are totally dependent upon others, and fear reporting crimes to authorities.

    There is an organization called Transitions Global, which works to provide alternatives for prostitutes. It seems like they do good work, and deserve our support.

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    • Carlos

      Correction: I meant to write, “It primarily affects immigrant communities.” Please excuse the spelling error.

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  16. Ani Alaf

    Prostitution and human trafficking is big business, very lucrative — but not for the women. If there wasn’t a demand by men for sex services, there would no prostitution. Women may do it for money–no one gets pleasure from being used like an object. Men use women for their own sexual vices and illicit desires, then turn around and treat the women as outcasts. When will men learn to control their sexual urges outside of marriage and take responsibility in creating the market for prostitution?
    That is the bigger question- not some silly notion that women choose prostitution because they love having sex with men and being made an outcast, while men go unpunished. Get real.

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    • Gibran Mahmud

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Women still provide the service. Men may be more blameworthy, but women still share in the blame.

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      • Nuraini

        I don’t think that is necessarily fair, considering that for a lot of the women (the ones trafficked) they really have not the choice. If you’ve been trafficked, there is nowhere to go, nowhere to run, you are beaten and raped until submission, and making them believe there is no way for them to ever return to their former, virtuous life. this is how they break trafficked prostitutes. after a while, some of these who say they are ok with it is doing it as a coping mechanism – pretending they chose the situation they were forced into provides some illusion of autonomy. facing the fact that they couldn’t escape if they wanted to drives many mad, and that’s why the drug abuse rate is so high among prostitutes. it numbs them from realising what they are doing and that they are powerless to leave. i’m sure the article had made the point that the proportion of women who want to be in prostitution is dwarfed by the proportion who want to leave if there is a way out. why don’t we help the 95% who want to leave, and then we can criticise the last 5%.

        also i think extreme poverty is indeed an understandable reason. just as a thief in dire need of food does not get his hand cut off for stealing bread, a woman who accepts prostitution to avert starvation is a qualitatively similar case. if you say that the woman does not have to prostitute if she is but strong enough, similarly the thief did not have to steal if she were strong enough to persevere to find other means and risk dying. i mean, if you could even be forgiven for pretending to leave islam when your life is being threatened, then i rather think things people do to save their lives or lives of people under their care should consider that context as well.

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      • Mustafa

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        Being forced into the practice and wanting to leave it are not the same. We cannot go the way of Christians and excessively blame the sin without holding the sinner responsible. Blame and punishment need to be apportioned correctly and executed. We cannot transgress the balance of the law.

        Muhsin Khan 24:2
        (This is) a Surah (chapter of the Quran) which We have sent down and which We have enjoined, (ordained its legal laws) and in it We have revealed manifest Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations lawful and unlawful things, and set boundries of Islamic Religion), that you may remember.
        The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. (This punishment is for unmarried persons guilty of the above crime but if married persons commit it, the punishment is to stone them to death, according to Allah’s Law).

        Differen’t things need to be taken into account. But the important thing to do is to work one a way to solve the problem without falling short of Allah’s commandments.

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      • Nuraini

        also, a large proportion of those ‘women’ prostitutes, have actually been prostituted since they were children, which was when they were trafficked. they were broken the same way as adult trafficked persons are broken. so i’m not sure exactly how one might have chosen a different way if one had been in that life since childhood – i’m talking, say, even younger than 10. or how they can be said to be responsible for ‘providing the service’.

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  17. Umm Sulaim

    Good to see so many sympathetic responses from men.

    Now here is a sweet question:

    How many men will offer assistance to needy women WITHOUT preconditions?

    Such preconditions include:

    1) She has to be your family member.

    2) She has to be your spouse.

    3) She has to be from your tribe/ race.

    Failing to fulfill any of these, … (clears throat) …,
    4) She has to be a ‘sweetheart’ or should I say ‘sweetbed’.

    Umm Sulaim

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    • abu takfir

      *Note from the Comment Moderation Team: this comment has been deleted due to non-compliance with our Comments Policy of using a real name / Kunyah.*

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  18. Nasser Kat

    Assalamu alaikum, and thank you for posting this most valuable and insightful article.

    For those of us living in Muslim countries (I was for a few years) we do hear and sometimes even see prostitutes in some parts of the city. There is however such a powerful social taboo about having anything to do with them. So even if people wanted to rectify this situation. They would do so very carefully because if those wanting to help were men, they would be looked at as perverts, and if they were women, they would be thought of prostitutes themselves. Unfortunately (and this is especially true in other countries) the oppressive governance models have ensured such a environment of fear and paranoia that any form of good will or charity is considered a thousand times before engagement. If and when a just free government is in power. Many of these problems will be much easier to tackle, and maybe even solve inshallah.

    Thank you

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  19. farwin

    assalamu aliakum,

    May allah reward you for your efforts.

    you’ve hit the nail on it’s head – the onus must be placed on the community to reintegrate such vulnerbale women and not on the women. This is the way forward for the ummah, we are way behind in this struggle – international NGOS’s are way ahead integrating issues like reproductive health and HIV into their solutions. interestingly INGO lingo no longer accomadates the derogatory term ‘prostitutes’ ‘sex-workers’ is the favored term. We need to move forward with a ‘love the sinner and not the sin’ attitude. In muslim minority countries muslim sex workers are faced with a triple edged sword – they’re stigmatized for being a minority + women + sex workers, and rarely come out of it.

    I’m waiting to see how masajid in the west will take this issue up – another ground breaking ‘purple hiajb day’ or a ‘purify your gaze movement’? Insha allah.

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    • Mustafa

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      “I’m waiting to see how masajid in the west will take this issue up – another ground breaking ‘purple hiajb day’ or a ‘purify your gaze movement’? Insha allah.”

      I think actually finding and punishing brothel owners, brothel customers, and prostitutes who weren’t physically forced into the situation is more effective than a nice “raise awareness” day.

      Raising awareness isn’t difficult in this day and age. It’s actually going ahead and acting under Allah’s law that matters.

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  20. RCHOUDH

    Mash’Allah excellent article sister. Jazakillah for shedding light upon such an important but oft-neglected topic. This evil is so widespread that it even victimizes little children (both boys and girls) who are below the age of puberty. Some men are also its victims too. I believe that besides counseling the prostitutes we should call for not only punishing the pimps, brothel owners, smugglers, distributors and johns but also bring about the awareness that fornication/adultery is haraam for men just as much as it is for women. Unfortunately this stupid double standard exists within various Muslim communities where men/boys are allowed to get away with things women can’t do (eg. your brother’s dating habits are grudgingly accepted by the family with a “boys will be boys” attitude while your sister is threatened for wanting to commit haraam too). And many Muslims unfortunately harbor ill feelings towards “bad girls” where they cut off all contact with them and pretend like they don’t exist. I’ve seen this happen in my own family with one of my cousins, so right now only my sister and I keep in contact with her so as to help her change her life around (May Allah help us in this endeavor).

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    • AishahMN

      May Allah bless your effort sister.

      Yes there are also men afflicted by this problem, but their percentage is smaller compared to women.

      Child prostitution is another issue. Worldwide, an estimated 1 million children are forced into prostitution every year and most of these children are exploited by local men, although some are also prostituted by paedophiles and foreign tourists ( B M Willis, 2002). And it is more devastating for them because they are more likely than adults to lack accurate information about transmission and prevention of STIs, lack skills, power and ability to negotiate condom use and they are vulnerable to STIs due to immature reproductive tracts.

      You are right, these are what we can do to tackle the problem at hand, but inculcating iman is always no 1.

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      • RCHOUDH

        Jazakillah for that info on child prostitution sister. And I agree inculcating Iman is always the priority for all of us.

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  21. AishahMN

    Thank you for all the generous comments. It’s a complex and sad reality that we have to reflect upon, hopefully each of us can do whatever we can in whatever ways.

    And I sincerely call upon you, brothers, to be responsible protectors of women. I am not solely put the blame on men, but as I look further into many of our social issues, I figured out that you can be the problem, and you can also be the solution.

    Wallahua’lam.

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  22. Bushra

    Assalamualaikum

    Can anyone please shed some light on “The Fate of Eunuchs”? Even they are equally misinterpreted and misrepresented in the Muslim Ummah.

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  23. Abu Khalid

    Would polygamy help in this issue? You didnt mention any thing of this institution in you excellent essay.

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    • AishahMN

      I believe responsible polygamy will help as part of prevention, not as solution. Islam forbids marrying adulterers unless it is clear that they already repented and left prostitution.

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  24. Mohammad Yusha

    >The denial of the existence of such problems in our community

    Who denies it?

    >Majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do.

    MAJORITY?

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    • AishahMN

      Well, in the city I’m currently staying, which was declared as Islamic City, there are people who frown in disbelief when I told them that among my research subjects are prostitutes. It’s also among the state in Malaysia which has the highest rate of HIV, and the highest rate of women infected with HIV.

      And actually, I didn’t put ‘majority’ in my original article. But I guess the editor understands society’s perception better.

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      • Apricot

        Well, no offense to the editor, but words like “majority” should not be used like this unless they can be substantiated with studies or statistics. Besides that, the sentence is written incorrectly as the word “The” should precede “majority” as follows:

        “The majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do.”

        Like the other commenter, I doubt most people believe that prostitutes enjoy what they do. I am glad to know that you (the author) are not the one who used this off-putting and inappropriate word.

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  25. Jihad

    Assalamu alaikkum,

    thers a great lady called Sunita Krishnan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunitha_krishnan ), in India, who dedicated her life to rescue prostitutes from red streets and making them independent in life with solid jobs. So if somebody came in to contact with this kind of ppl who want to get out of this trouble you can contact her organisation. Muslim men and women who wants to do social service can contact her asking advice on how she rehabilitating this kind of people and what are the struggles she has to confront while doing this. Wallah I read on her , and watched her documentary , its not an easy job unlike writing this . Who is here to act(including myself)? . We are running away from religion for our own coziness.
    Anyways congrats MM .Now we have to find answer ,among loads of others, on the day of judgement for neglecting this ppl.
    As Umar (r.a) said. Wallah , If there is a camel lying dead on the shore of tigris I have to answer Allah for that. He said these when he was ruler. But to act on these there is no need of kingship. May Allah help us.

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    • Abez

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more disturbing, more moving, and more eye-opening than this on TED, ever. As a mother, it makes my heart break. I don’t know what to do except beg Allah to help, and Glorify Him for His promise of complete justice on Qiyyama.

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  26. Mohammad Yusha

    >Well, in the city I’m currently staying, which was declared as Islamic City, there are people who frown in disbelief when I told them that among my research subjects are prostitutes. It’s also among the state in Malaysia which has the highest rate of HIV, and the highest rate of women infected with HIV.

    That does not tell me about the denial of the problems of prostitution. :)

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  27. Sara

    I think the article is nicely written….however I felt that it is actually advocating prostitution in dire situations. I live in a Muslim country, which is a third world country. I know that there are many jobs like working as cleaning ladies these women dont opt to take up. I dont know what woman in her right mind would actually prefer to sell herself rather than take up some halal option which wont earn as much. The cleaning ladies in our homes are also poor with many children sometimes with husbands who dont do anything and are drug addicts, but they dont get involved in prostitution. Plus, besides their pay they get charities frequently alhamdoLillah. I can understand the problems of those who are kidnapped and forced into it but I strongly feel that combating poverty has several options available EXCEPT prostitution.

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    • AishahMN

      If I am advocating prostitution in dire situations I would have just told people to leave them alone and legalize the industry, not about finding ways to escape, sister.

      Yes they should have looked hard enough for other options, but the reality is some women still fell into it. People have different levels of iman, and I believe, for some, their iman needs to be helped. That’s the reason why ‘those whose hearts are inclined to Islam’ are eligible for zakat.

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  28. Faatimah

    “On a larger scale, there should be a focus shift to criminalize the buying rather than the selling of sex. The burden of punishment should be on the clients who perpetuate the sex trade rather than the women who are trapped in the situation.”

    JazakAllah khayr for such an eye opening article, sister.

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  29. barbara

    Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know [24:19].
    Assalaam o ‘alaikum, I agree with the Holy Quran and the Swedish policy; the focus must be shifted to the demand and appetite for prostitution. In most countries where prostitution is legal, pockets of sanctioned government involvement are present; the paybacks and assured service to high-ranking reprobate clientel is thus assured to be protected too. It also serves to keep former victims under control via attacking their reputation and or children with premeditated rape and slander to use the very system to oppress. I dare to go as far as to say, a child might be selected in first grade to settle a vendetta against women who may have had the courage to stand up and or just allow people with power/and or/ to control classrooms, because the child may have already been victimized as an infant and therefore is not to be allowed to prosper healthy development. Bias, false leaks, malicious whisper-campaigns are, and where common in the rural European environment I grew up in. We were targets as dirty Polacks and I received savage beatings in school as a child to where as a result one of my eight year old kidneys bled and we had to move away at my Grandmothers urgent promptings. I was just a child then, but today I know I was a target because my Mother had been wronged. My Mother had been a German athlete in the WW2 era and we were an political embarrassment to the German government because they needed to silence the fact’ they had send 50% polish children into the Hitler arena and then just reintegrated us as Germans [falsifying our family name thus cursing us] and we the children were to made suffer oppression and abuse to keep us on the low social roster as well. Children and the young and inexperienced are easy targets. I used to feel so humiliated for my Mother and to this day one of my half- brothers hates my poor Mother as a result of this. Stigmatizing victims is evil and cruel. I thank God I know this too, and I thank God for allowing me to love and worship Him and be forgiving and understanding toward my poor shunned and wounded Mother. I glorify Him for this gift of truth! In West Germany in certain now heavy right wing areas again, doing the 1970 in home molested by their fathers children, where rhetorically raped as teenagers and then arrested by the very rapists sporting ranks and badges for prostitution and processed into the system, to be humiliated into wounded stupor and then premeditatedly socially misplaced with this kind of stigmatizing and branding, while sanctioned drug-peddlers and crooks are standing in the wings awaiting the new arrivals. This is so that the very government institutions serving as a public front to then politically and socially murder any uprising victim and or prevent libels against those high-ranking criminals who deserve to be exposed. That is to say that the prostitutes themselves are not to be allowed back to an integrated life no matter how they ended up in that arena in the first place, until social stigmata has been assured and therefore must be physiologically branded and socially stigmatized in order to destroy their credibility’s. God indeed knows this to be true and my words are a meager account of the greater reality of this! The public has been kept uninformed and or misinformed for too long about the deeper involvement of government in most instances. This form of slavery has simply NEVER in human history been properly addressed and redressed to stamp out the misery and stigmata resulting in the lives of these poor exploited individuals. And I say here, that Individuals; for depraved appetites do not just pray on women, but males and children as well. My Allah grand these victims a voice and a much needed reprieve from these sorrowful conditions prevailing to date worldwide. Oh Allaahumma innaa nata’ee nuka for these poor exploited ones and BE their Al Walee innaka kunta binaa Baseeraa ameen .Waaikumsallam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. Barbara .

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  30. Ren

    NPR RECENTLY had a show on the sex slave trade in Turkey, a muslim country. It was incredibly sad to learn that these girls are kidnapped from other countries and then have their passports taken away so they cannot excape. I can imagine no worse hell then being raped/beaten by a gang of turks who feel that they can do whatever they wish as their Allah gives them permission to treat women like dirt. How sad that any religion could agree that this is how g d views women, those he made the creators of all life..the nurturers. Imagine having to service 15 men a day, be beaten and if needing an abortion, a butcher abortionist handles it and puts you back ‘to work’ within a few hours as you still bleed…how evil, how sick, how mentally disturbed is this?

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  31. Umm Sulaim

    If they truly said ‘their Allah’ gives them the right to treat women like dirt, are there no women in Turkey for them to practice that on? Why is the ‘sex slave trade’ imposed on kidnapped foreign women and not on Turkish women?

    I expect if you really wished to understand the position of women in Islam as revealed by OUR ALLAH and practiced by OUR PROPHET and his Companions, you would dedicated as many minutes or hours studying the pristine sources of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

    Umm Sulaim

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  32. Lin

    This is a very interesting take on prostitution, which talks about the important role prostitutes (or at least one prostitute) have in helping those disabled (e.g. cerebral palsy, MS) have fulfilling lives. Disabled and confined people have the same needs and desires as us, yet are very much excluded from all normal avenues of coupling up, marriage and expressing their sexuality within a marriage. They are in effect ‘desexed’ and ‘dehumanised’ from society, which doesn’t recognise that they too deserve to have fulfilling sex lives and/or relationships like other adults. So I think what the prostitute in the article is doing is very much deserving of praise and respect.

    http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/sexual-healing-20111125-1nxkc.html

    If prostitution were to be outlawed, where would that leave the physically disabled, the mentally different, people with deformities and people who don’t adhere to societies standards of beauty/success/religiosity. What would society do about these ‘undesirable’ people who also deserve to live full lives just like any other human being?

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  33. LiveIslam

    ‘If prostitution were to be outlawed, where would that leave the physically disabled, the mentally different, people with deformities and people who don’t adhere to societies standards of beauty/success/religiosity. What would society do about these ‘undesirable’ people who also deserve to live full lives just like any other human being?’ REALLY?!! How filthy. I’m sure a large number of disabled people will disagree with you. I’ve done numerous papers on disabled people and I can tell you prostitution is not something ‘undesirable disabled people’ will agree to. I really don’t know what to say about such a disgusting assumption. Disabled people are people, they deserve to be integrated into society and efforts to eliminate the limitations imposed on them by disability and stereotyping need to be made. They should be supported to lead a normal as possible life and that doesn’t include prostitution. There are many cases where disabled people whether physically or mentally have managed to get married to those without disability and in some cases two disabled individuals have managed to find love and build a family. Instead of advocating prostitution for such disadvantaged people you should advocate elimination of stereotypes which excludes such people, equality and human rights. Aghhhhh.

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