The Syrian Women and Girls sold into Sexual Slavery in Lebanon

The Syrian Women and Girls sold into Sexual Slavery in Lebanon
The Syrian Women and Girls sold into Sexual Slavery in Lebanon

Following many follow-ups and investigations, Paul, a Lebanon citizen narrates the thriving prostitution business in Beirut. It is the capital city of Lebanon associated with the sex trade. He has learned a lot about this business. On one occasion, he was captured when he tried rescuing one of the victims. As such, he was brutally punished and threatened.

Nevertheless, the business runs in long chains as the prominent government officials are also involved. Highest ranked officials of internal security forces and general directorate form part of these organizations. Due to the hidden nature of the business, it is impossible to collect exact statistics of the victims. Research shows that most of these victims upon capture are hidden in Beirut and Jounioh, a coastal town down the city.

Syrian emigrants promote thriving in the sex trafficking business

Mostly targeted victims are Syrian refugees who migrate to Lebanon in search of asylum. Most of these emigrants have suffered extreme trauma and as such vulnerable to exploitation. For instance, in 2017, of the 29 victims of sex trafficking, the majority were Syrians. Some of the Syrians i.e. women and girls are forcefully recruited from the refugee camps and introduced into the industry. Furthermore, Syrian women are discriminated against as prostitutes and as such are major targets. There have also been unfortunate situations where one of the Syrian women was married to a trafficker unknowingly.

 

The law

This unfortunate situation is compounded by Lebanon’s set of legislation which prohibits secret prostitution. As such, this business is thriving silently with the exact leaders anonymous. The rule of law commits to a month or a year punishment for persons found practicing it. Nevertheless, unlicensed prostitutes are arrested especially as the government had legalized prostitution after world war I. Consequently, no licenses have been issued to those practicing prostitution.

Since Beirut is no stranger in the sex industry, the government concentrated the harlots in one area, Mutanabbi street. However, this street was destroyed during a civil war. According to Lebanese legislation on prostitution, brothels were categorized into two; public and escort houses. Those working outside the brothels were divided into cafe girls, mistresses and ‘artists’. The latter is a euphemism for prostitutes. Needless, despite the punishment of prostitutes, hundreds of women from Morocco and eastern Europe enter the country with ‘artist’ visas.

 

The Chez Maurice victims

In 2016,75 Syrian women were trafficked and locked in Jounioh, a brothel in Beirut. They were captives for several years after which four women escaped. This brought the issue to light and as such the other victims were rescued. Therefore, the brothel owner was arrested. However, he was later released on bail. The case known as Chez Maurice led to mixed reactions from commentators. They felt it was unjust to free the culprit. Especially when the victims expressed what torture they underwent while in captivity. Another said she even wondered if truly there was a law against human trafficking in the country. It’s quite saddening that no action has since been taken following cohearsed captivity.

 

No trust in the system

Human trafficking and sex business are linked to the authorities above. To a point whereby one of the human traffickers admits he has the government in his pockets. Often, victims do not seek help or report their misfortunes. Attempts to do so may result in more torture. At the same time, there are no outreach programs to help in cases of emergency. Moreover, Syrian women who attempt to report are dismissed as just prostitutes. To top it all, the official statistics of such victims do not add up to the actual reported cases. As such this lack of transparency does not convey the magnitude of the problem.

Actions to curb the problem

There is a significance in attempting to help women in such situations. For instance, in 2011, the U.S. government monitored if Lebanon was complying with the standards to combat human trafficking. Pressure from the legal agenda, Lebanon civil group, led to the implementation of new trafficking law. Dima Haddad has also come up with a regional task force to counter human trafficking in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan. They also arrested a former head of ISF following allegations of having a connection with the prostitution ring.

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