Poverty + Tourism = Prostitution [Archives:2005/892/Reportage]

November 7 2005

Hakim Almasmari
Yemen Times Staff
[email protected]

As Yemen undergoes numerous procedures in improving its economy, while desperately trying to receive its membership with the Gulf States Council, things are changing, and sometimes change is not always good. Yemen introduced tourism many years ago. It was seen as a good asset to improve the country”s crumbling economy. But in reality, it is changing our lives, and most importantly the face of our traditionally conservative society. Poverty has been an ongoing phenomenon for as long as we can remember. Recently, poverty rates reached record levels and according to the latest World Bank Report, forty two percent of Yemen”s 21 million people live under the U.S. $2 per day, while unemployment is reaching an unbearable forty percent. When poverty is introduced to tourism, what conclusion arises? Prostitution. This has been noticed in almost every nook and corner of the country and increasingly during the last five years. Before 1990, this issue almost never existed in Yemen. A man and women walking while holding hands in public were just seen as people who lack self-respect.

Unreal, unbearable, and unbelievable stories of sexual harassment and prostitution are heard and noticed on a daily basis, damaging the image of our country. Famous hotels are loaded with many prostitutes who work under the bogus slogan of “Attracting Tourists to Yemen”. -It (prostitution) is really an issue which is attracting many hotel owners, even more than the hotel business they are running), said a local hotel owner. – Things have changed so much, it”s hard to keep up with the corruption that is spreading at an unreal pace), he added.

Recently, in an undisclosed location a prostitute admitted of indulging in sexual conduct three times a day during the summer holidays, and she insists that most costumers were Gulf tourists who flocked Yemen in order to save money, rather than go to more expensive countries like Egypt, Lebanon or Malaysia. -They don”t care about Yemen nor the Yemeni people, they could buy virtuallyanything they desire with the money they have), said a local prostitute who wouldn”t mention her name. -Our government has made us worthless and of no value, oppressing us with these unstable conditions, moreover forcing us to indulge in actions that will haunt us for generations to come. Do you think we like doing what we do?), she added, as tears rolled down her eyes.

Many famous hotels in Aden, Sana'a and other major cities around the country are full of such corruption. Government forces are even seen guarding these hubs from any attacks that could occur from angry citizens who feel that prostitution is destroying the country from within. If the government continuously declares that it fights crime and corruption, why isn”t this crime being fought?

According to sources within the circle of prostitutes, the number of prostitutes in the capital Sana”a alone number over 1,000, while in cities like Aden and Hodieda the number is much higher. Aden”s being higher due to the spread of tourists in that region, and Hodieda for its weak economic situation. Prostitutes actually travel from city to city for the reason of eluding detection by locals or government officials. In most situations they live in two story houses in neighborhoods where schools are located. This strategy is used in order for them to walk in and out of their houses at times when female school students go home through this path. As a result, they are almost impossible to notice, while their hideout remain undetected.

Many who fall in the trap of prostitution, feel it is almost impossible to walk out. Even if they wanted to do so, where would they go? Who would accept them after the disastrous mistake they made in their lives? -I have been doing these actions unwillingly for a short period. I want to stop, but how? Who will accept me as a repenter from this sin? We are not angels), said Sara as she wept. -We were put in this situation by an error in judgment. But we deserve another chance to change our life to the better), she added.

The government must find a solution for this crisis before it is too late. Families are being destroyed one after the other. Lives are being taken away with no one being there to save them. Organized governerance is the key in solving all the corruption cases that exist. If no effort takes place in ending such a rising concern, life will be harder to tolerate, as more lives will be destroyed, the result being the end of a society once seen as conservative.