Saturday, September 29, 2007

Prostitutes. The word is prostitutes.

Yes. Prostitutes, the female kind. In bars, on the streets, in loosely organised brothels and independent message parlours. Prostitutes. Women being paid to have sexual encounters with men. Here in Muscat.

It's so blatant that for a while there was a sort of Drive-thru prostitute service available outside the Sheraton, Which Muscati and Wife blogged about brilliantly here.

I've been meaning to write about the prostitution here for a while. The thing that finally motivated me to write a little bit on the issue today was reading yesterday's HI! magazine. In it, here was a letter from a British expatriate, regarding last week's article on massage in Muscat. The guy pretty much pointed out the obvious, that a lot of massage parlours are a front for prostitution, or at the very least that a client can expect to have more than his back massaged as part of the service.

The Brilliant folks editing HI! thought is best to edit the word prostitute, among others, out of his letter. For a start, the editing was so butchered and incoherent me want to slap the editors across the face with a heavy thesaurus and ask them just what exactly the English language ever did to them to be treated with such brazen carelessness. Second, one would either have to be insanely naive or exceptionally pious or more likely both to not be aware of the amount of prostitution here in Oman.

There are prostitutes all over Oman. There are lots of men who are happy to pay them for sex. A lot of the men refuse to use protection, raising the chances of becoming infected with STI's or HIV. They can then transmit whatever they have acquired to other prostitutes, current or future wives and possibly unborn children. You only get one set of genitals, and you should be careful where you (or the person you are married to) go and stick them.

Regardless of how You or I might feel, there will come a point in time when the government, the media, and families are going to need to have some pretty uncomfortable conversations. Conversations about Protection from STI's, Human trafficking, Contraception. Conversations about the morality of prostitution and a man's commitment to his wife. Conversations about the government's decision to cover it's eyes and then claim not to see anything.

I'll leave you with a statement from a guy, Jack* whom I occasionally see in bars. Jack has a post graduate degree, and is employed somewhere rather high ranking in the government. Jack visits Prostitutes here occasionally, and really enjoys his "family" holidays to Thailand and Malaysia. I said I hope he's using a condom, because you've gotta be carefull out there. Jack said...
"don't be stupid, I don't go for the dirty girls. You can tell by looking carefully
if they are clean and taking care of themselves."

OK bud.... whatever you say.

More on this issue after Ramadhan, including a guide to the brothels of the city, and a few stories from the working girls themselves, as told to me.

16 comments:

JP said...

Hey, nice blog Suburban. I'll post this before Omantel block your blog...

Oman will have to make some grown up decisions, something it seems the Government here tends to avoid if at all possible, and this is one of those situations. In this case, prostitution, but there are similar dilemmas on sex education, drugs, gambling, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, pre-marital sex, pornography, internet, alcohol, fire-arms, etc etc. Governments elsewhere have the same problems, and different solutions abound.

The key decision is always: outlaw it, or (somehow) legalise & regulate? The problem of course is either solution has side effects.

Banning prostitution has never worked, not anywhere, not ever. There always seem to be men who want it, and women prepared to provide it (or men prepared to force women to provide it). So banning it just drives it under ground, [or into 'massage parlours' LOL] and thus there will be crime, bribery, underage suppliers, trafficked women, disease & abuse of sex workers (and occasionally clients), and spouses who get STIs. And the penalties can vary too. Just the prostitute? Client too? What about that brothel owner who's very friendly with the police? Hmmm... Surely not in Oman...

BUT, regulating it ain't easy. It means some serious effort and compromise, and some people [especially religious ones] will insist that banning is a solution. It means deciding what exactly is legal [over 18? pimping? it gets quite explicit...] and what isn't [under 16? homosexual prostitution? residential area? next to a school?...], and how to enforce it [mandatory testing for STIs/AIDS - how often? how checked?, and does one have to pay a Muscat Municipality tax?]. Plus legalising it may just encourage it, while not stopping the downsides significantly anyway. All very difficult. And far far far too difficult for the Omani Government! And I would suggest also too difficult for the Omani population to really discuss openly.

It took some countries years/centuries to realise that legalising prostitution was perhaps preferable to the downside effects [Holland being a famous example]. And most still haven't. I don't expect Oman to do that either.

Its so much much easier for everyone to both keep it officially illegal and also pretend it doesn't happen. And just blame the disease, corruption, hippocracy, violence and abuse on those pesky 'criminals'.

After all, all those single men going to Thailand are just going for the beaches and to look at temples, er, aren't they? And everyone likes a good innocent massage, my dear, all my friends go too...

Oh well, at least all Omani's are tested for AIDs regularly, just the same as every single expat who needs a work permit... aren't they?

More good posts Sub'!!!
JP

Amjad said...

While reading last week's issue of H! about massage in Muscat, I also thought to myself that H! forgot to point out that massage parlours offer more than just a normal massage. I didn't read this week's issue but inshallah I'm reading to today to check the expatriate's comment.

I can't believe that the authorities are not doing anything about this. I doubt that they don't know!

Navcity said...

They're also know as "health centres"..I visited muscat for a week and went for a walk outside the Chedi hotel...immediately opposite theres a 'health centre'...and they seem to operate in the month of ramadhan too.sub7anallah.

Anonymous said...

hmmm interesting blog!

Per Your Request said...

I agree with JP. There is no easy solution.

Atleast its a good indicator that wealth in the country has increased. Increase in Prostitution just means discretionary income increased.

I look forward to hearing the scoop from the brothels.

Suburban said...

JP- Thanks for the thoughtfull, interesting comment. I don't really think there is a solution to eliminate or manage prostitution. It happens, and there is little the authourities can do about it except to turn a blind eye. To actively try and stamp it out would, as you pointed out only drive it underground further. I worry about the working women, and the wives of the clients, who strike me as the real victims in the trade.

Amjad- I almost died laughing when I read the issue two weeks ago about massage. Especially the comment about from the guy about how you have to be carefull which massage parlour you go into. Understatement of the week.

Navcity- Thanks for your comment, and the oppertunity to track it back to your blog. Excellent observations there. Must have been a weird experience to wander out of the chedi and inadvertantly into a brothel. Muscat isn't all like that. Living here is usually so wholsome, it's like swimming in a bowl of Cherios.

PYR- What an awesome thought. Somebody could do a thesis on the corlative relationship between prostitution in the gulf, and discretionary income. Who says economists are square?

More from the bars and brothels after ramadhan.

Stella said...

Great blog suburban!

there are NO prostitutes in Oman just as there are no homosexuals in Iran - right?

Navcity said...

I love visiting oman immensely and I know its not all like that...I've been going since 2003. I only wish it retained more of its beautiful rich cultural heritage that seems to be eroding away to rampant consumerism.

Anonymous said...

jp said:- "Oh well, at least all Omani's are tested for AIDs regularly, just the same as every single expat who needs a work permit... aren't they?"

I've been here 4+ years and never been tested and while I have never used the services of these ladies, I know at least one guy who has and he also has never been tested.

Roco.

Suburban said...

Roco,

Interesting. As far as I was aware, all expatriates holding labor cards need to be tested for HIV/ aids annually as a condition of labor card issuance / renewal. I know my husband was just tested last week. It's a part of your physical, when they take the blood. Maybe you were unaware of it, or Perhaps things have changed in recent years. I don't know.

According to the girls, and unscientifically confirmed by my own observation, THe majority of the "clients" are Omani. I can only assume JP was pointing out the hypocracy in testing the male professional expatraite community, while leaving the Prostitute lovin' middle class male Omani population totally untested. Again, Not sure.

THanks for stopping by!

JP said...

yeah, I was being a bit sarcastic. I thought all expats with a visa valid for employment had to be AIDS tested, although - unlike in the West where you get compulsory counciling before testing for AIDS - you are often not even told its happening. That's why they take a blood sample though.

But the real risk sections of the population [Omani males who have unsafe sex (hetero & homo) and a few intra-veinous drug users] are not tested at all.

Kishor Cariappa said...

Prostitution and tourism are the two sides of the same coin, both can’t do without each other. Thanks to Sheraton renovation works, for the last 10 months I am saved of seeing ‘girls’ crossing the road in front of the hotel, and the sound of screeching/honking vehicles. The area is in peace now.

JP said...

Kishor,

I never saw too many tourists driving the cars that were taking a chinese takeaway from outside the Sheraton... Just lots of middle aged Omani guys.

I think its mainly caused by a combination of guys not getting enough, a society that discourages pre-marital sex and sex in general, and a reliable supply of desperate poor women from the 3rd world.

Not withstanding that, its not like theres a shortage of prostitutes in the USA or Europe either... Maybe its just the men bit...

JP

Anonymous said...

who needs to get saved today in oman? RayConder@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

What do you mean?

Anonymous said...

Hello. You've mentioned that you would be posting a guide to brothels in Muscat. I was wondering if you did that.

If you did, then can you please send a link.

Thanks