Of course, there's nothing to stop the UAE papers publishing unflattering stuff on Oman (in fact, its the usual source of breaking Omani News). But it was nice to see a relatively real investigative story [sounds true, contains actual quotes and research, anonymous sources, well written] on Muscat Prostitution, sent in by Omani stringer Saleh Al-Shaibany, in the Khaleej Times.
Photo: The Golden Tulip - The dragon is told that those in Muscat looking for some temporary companionship might consider a trip to the bar...
So well done Saleh. More stories and more depth too please. (Next time try to talk to the girls themselves, maybe something on who the pimps and madams are, who are the typical customers, relationship with ROP, etc, etc, etc.)
Countering the Illicit Rackets
1 May 2009
Nanda Mohan, escorted by a policewoman, had bruises all over her face when her employer sent her to a local clinic last week. She said a taxi driver who demanded more money beat her up. Her employer knew better. He said she was part of a prostitution ring organised by an expatriate woman in the seedy parts of Muscat.
Mohamed Al Khair, the 34-year-old engineer employing Nanda as a housemaid, said he followed her that Friday after she climbed in the taxi at six- thirty in the morning. She was the only passenger.
“I received a tip from my neighbours that Nanda gets in the same taxi every Friday that was waiting a 100 metre from my house. So I followed her to Hamriya and saw her entering a house run by an Arab ‘madam.’ I called the police and they raided the place.”
Such occurrences are never reported in the local papers because editors have “unwritten guidelines” not to do so from the Ministry of Information.
“Prostitution is rife in Muscat. There is also a high quality prostitution racket in the classy hotels. It will never be published if we write about it. Editors know where not to transgress. It is as simple as that,” an Omani reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
“Most of these foreign women do it willingly to earn extra money but some are lured for jobs that never materialise. They have no choice but to engage in prostitution. They can’t leave because their passports, by law, are held by sponsors. They can’t go to the law because they would not be believed and may end up in prison,” Sanjeev Prabhu, a Muscat-based car tyre salesman said.
Smartly dressed young women from India, Philippines and some Arab countries like Morocco and Lebanon sit in the lobbies of Muscat hotels waiting for arranged corporate clients.
They come to Oman on a visit visa arranged by friends and even relatives. They offer sex for an average price of $300 a night.
“If they are smart, they can end up being long-term escorts of senior corporate managers,” Prabhu added, saying,” just go to these hotels and you can see these women sitting alone in the lobby just waiting for their clients. Hotel managers know that but they put up a blind eye. To them, it is just a business….”
Many see this as part of human trafficking that the government is trying to crackdown but with little effect.
Under a new Omani law passed in September, people convicted of human trafficking can now face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 rials ($260,000). There was previously no law against human trafficking. Earlier this year, Oman formally protested against a US State Department report that ranked the sultanate, along with fellow Gulf States Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, among the worst in failing to combat human trafficking.
“It makes sense now to restrict the issuance of visiting visas to single women from certain countries. This class of sex offenders is rising since it caters for high paying corporate people, “Khair said.
But Khair warned that the housemaid prostitution ring that caters for labourers and other lowly paid workers would be hard to clamp down.
Foreigners comprise about a quarter of Oman’s 3.2 million population, according to the Ministry of National Economy figures. There are over 100,000 housemaids in Oman and 250,000 labourers. But experts say the actual number of lowly paid foreigners is much bigger since they enter Oman illegally or overstay their visas.
Maryam Saif, a banker, said that many Omanis frequently complain about their housemaids offering sex for money in their family homes while their sponsors are out in their offices.
“My husband and I both work. Our children go to school. The house is empty in the morning and I have caught my housemaid with a man in bed a few months ago. According to the houseboy next door, it had been going on for a year. She was actually running a prostitution business in our house. It is that bad!”
Many Omani families now opt for Muslim housemaids, mainly from Indonesia. But there are scandals about them, too.
“Don’t be fooled by the hijab (a Muslim dress worn by women from head to toe). My Indonesian housemaid was caught in one of those seedy places after a police raid one Friday.
Religion has got nothing to do with it or even marriage. Some of them are married with husbands in their countries,” Fathiya Khalfan, a computer IT engineer said.
Saleh Al-Shaibany is an Oman-based writer
For those who live too far from Seeb and the Tulip, you will find a few ladies at Al Jazzal, the English-themed pub within the more centrally located (Government owned) Intercon Hotel.