Syria has faced one of the most devastating humanitarian crisis in recent years. With hundreds of innocent civilians being gassed alive, the country had become hell on earth. However, the civil war had some unknown carnage as well. One of them can be seen in the current sex work industry in Lebanon. This is largely composed of women being forced into prostitution by a deep network of illegal functionaries.
The harsh reality – most of the victims are women refugees from Syria.
HOW DOES THE LEBANON SEX TRADE FUNCTION?
It is not just a loose network of brothels. Everything is working under a well-organized system. Pimps working further down the chain of command ultimately report to a bigger network of organised traffickers.
Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and Jounieh, a coastal town about 10km (6.2 miles) north of it, are where most victims of sex trafficking end up in Lebanon. 800 women and girls have been forced into prostitution in these areas. However, the numbers are hard to verify because of the hidden nature of the problem.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL STATUS OF SEX WORK IN LEBANON?
Sadly, the law regarding sex work in Lebanon compounds the problem. Article 523 of the Lebanese Penal Code criminalises “any person who practices secret prostitution or facilitates it”. The punishment is a prison sentence of anything from a month to a year.
However, prostitution is not illegal in Lebanon if done with a license. Unfortunately, such licenses have not been issued since the 1970s. This makes the women forced into sex trade vulnerable to police action.
Hence, the negligible majority of women who escape still can’t get legal help. If they go to the police, they’re booked under this law. They are taken into custody. However, most brothel owners have tie-ups with police officers. Thus, these women are released and forced back into the same cycle of oppression.
Someone needs to take cognizance of this crisis. While we talk about women’s rights, many females lack the fundamental right to bodily privacy. Let’s hope the UN mandates quick action regarding this issue.