SEXUAL EXPLOITATION UNDER THE FAÇADE OF TEMPORARY ISLAMIC MARRIAGE
Child trafficking and child marriages have been condemned globally as these kinds of practices harmful to girl’s health and violate their rights. Even though both are prohibited by law and given recognition as major policy issues in many countries, both of these are rampant in countries adhering to Sharia law instead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Despite international conventions and corresponding regional conventions, national legislation, and the efforts of numerous non-governmental, faith-based, and international organizations, many girls (especially in developing countries) are still trafficked and subjected to forced and early marriages and the measurement of this practice remains relatively unsophisticated. Some child marriages have slave-like characteristics similar to those of child trafficking and can thus be argued to be a form of child trafficking. This is because children in forced marriages are coerced into these unions and are made to engage in acts similar to victims of sex and labour trafficking.
The world faces a unique and unprecedented challenge now with the emergence of ISIS and the flooding of militant refugees in European nations leading to brutal terrorist attacks, child pornography rackets and grooming gangs (such as Rotterdam scandal), religiously motivated rapes, and of course various means of fraudulent activities involving questionable means of marriage under the grab of personal laws so as to obtain citizenship benefits. Trafficker’s first preference is the trisect of young, poor, and unskilled women who can be easily wooed with hollow promises of better-paying jobs or higher education in a country they aspire to live in.
Insofar as the Muslim majority nations are concerned, temporary marriage is the preferred form of trafficking because it carries the additional advantage of breaking the emotional spirit of women, reducing them to objects of pleasure and not a person to be loved. These temporary marriages go by the name of misyar among Sunni Muslims and mut’ah among Shia Muslims. Mut’ah marriages are contracted for a specified period of time, ranging anywhere from a few hours to a few months. Misyar marriages are not considered Islamic if they are temporary, but most of them end in divorce anyway after the husband’s holiday end.
Wherever prostitution is illegal, the act is nonetheless is committed but under the façade of misyar and mut’ah marriages. These sexual relations may very well be buttressed by an Islamic veil but the truth is obvious to everyone and these sexually exploited women are left with nothing but social stigma for the rest of their lives. While they are already denigrated as second-class citizens, the link to sexual immorality only adds insult to injury.
Several media investigation has been conducted in this regard and their cumulative findings point out wealthy Gulf national (particularly those from Saudi Arabia). These people indulge in sex/marriage tourism to marry young women from poor Islamic nations like Egypt or such nations with a significant Muslim population as in the Indian sub-continent and other Asian countries. Usually, a broker is involved in this transaction on a commission basis and a dower is paid to the family of the girl through him. In effect, it serves as the payment for the young woman. Whether practiced under Sunni or Shi’ite law, non-binding marriages take advantage of women’s economic vulnerability. These marriages often have tragic ends and after finding themselves quickly and unilaterally divorced, the disgraced women are forced into menial unpaid jobs, married to someone else by proxy, popularly called or cycled back into prostitution.
With the Islamic authorities have acknowledged that there is increasing criticism and ridicule of misyar, they continue to harp on the same broken record of the religious legitimacy prevailing over social norms. The supporters of this archaic practice contend that misyar marriage actually meets the needs of women, primarily, as if the men are so chivalrous. The claim is further topped with self-congratulating estimates of helping find husbands for widows, divorcees, and single women who unfortunately got beyond marriageable age. It is almost laughable since it is an arrangement of convenience than that of marital commitment owing to its inherently temporary and its existence being embedded into the sole purpose of pleasure.
International law, on account of its unenforceability, remains a toothless tiger. In spite of all the protocols, conventions, and declarations, a lot of Muslim majority nations have made reservations against certain provisions to the effect of not running contrary to the provisions of Sharia. In a manner of speaking, it signifies the Sharia prevails over international law. The framework itself is inadequate because it does not take temporary marriage into consideration as a tool for human trafficking and pushing women into prostitution.
In a major crackdown on 20 September 2017, contract marriages racket involving old Arab sheikhs “marrying” local teenage Muslim girls, Hyderabad Police raided several guest houses and lodges and arrested five Oman and three Qatar nationals, who were camping in the city to marry teenage girls. Two of them are in their 80s and walk with the help of sticks and walkers. ‘They were in process of interviewing more than 20 minor girls when the raids were conducted at various guesthouses’, Police Commissioner M Mahender Reddy said. Cops also arrested the chief qazi of Mumbai Farid Khan who was issuing marriage certificates for contract marriages performed in Hyderabad for Rs 50,000 each.
In the day and age when marriage should be a union of two individuals committed to each other, these relations, meant for the sole purpose of sexual gratification seek to avail the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities and obligations it entails. Such behavior is not conducive to society’s growth and public health considering how thousands of girls are pushed into it at a tender age. Since the women subject to trafficking under the grab of marriage would only increase the risk of the onset of various sexually transmitted diseases. It is incumbent upon the international forums to work on resettlement of these women instead of pushing them further into prostitution under the grab of marriage.
Read more blogs @advocatetanwar.com