BAHRAIN: Islamists seeking to curb prostitution fail in bid to ban women from 4 countries
A proposal by a conservative Bahraini political bloc to ban women from four countries from entering the country did not make the grade among Bahraini lawmakers but raised quite a few eyebrows when it was offered up.
The conservative Al Asala bloc proposed that Bahraini authorities stop issuing visas to Russian, Thai, Ethiopian, and Chinese women as part ongoing efforts to combat prostitution.The small island kingdom began stepping up measures to curb prostitution last summer, rounding up and deporting scores of alleged prostitutes and banning one and two-star hotels from selling alcohol to prevent cheap flophouses from turning into brothels.
Intensified efforts to put an end to prostitution in the relatively freewheeling island came shortly after a popular men's website listed Manama, Bahrain's capital, as one of the world's "top 10 cities to pursue vice and debauchery."
But despite the concern among some Bahraini parliamentarians including Adel Maawdah, who thinks prostitution is so widespread there that his country is turning into the "brothel of the Gulf," the controversial proposal was short-lived in the parliament.
Lawmakers last week came to the conclusion that the “social evil" could only be wiped out though "joint efforts” and not by cracking down on certain nationalities, reported the newspaper Khaleej Times. Some also voiced worries that Bahrain’s diplomatic relations with the countries targeted in Al Asala's anti-prostitution drive would deteriorate.
Dr. Ali Ahmed, a lawmaker, thought it was a bad idea to start stereotyping countries. “It is very wrong to categorize all women from those countries as prostitutes as most of them are hard-working and respectable individuals who are working in good places,” the Khaleej Times quoted him as saying.
The embassies of countries targeted kept a low profile in the row. Neither the Chinese nor Russian embassy in Bahrain wanted to comment on Al Asala's proposal.
Visitors from China, Thailand and Russia are subject to fairly strict visa regulations in Bahrain; they are granted only two-week visit visas upon arrival at the airport. Ethiopians must apply for a visa in their home country before traveling to the kingdom.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: A view of the Bahraini Parliament in Manama in 2008. Conservative lawmakers recently failed to win support for a proposal that would have banned women from Russia, Thailand, Ethiopia and China from entering Bahrain in an effort to curb prostitution in the small island kingdom. Credit: AFP