Yemeni tourism: Focus on lust and corruption

Hakim Almasmari & Staff
August 31, 2005

Recently, Yemen has seen a dramatic rise in the number of visitors flocking to spend their summer vacation in this culturally rich country. Tourists from many countries have arrived in this surge, including those from Asia, Europe and Yemen's 'Gulf State' neighbors.

Numerous tourism sites and activities are available to give visitors a welcoming and memorable visit. Many Gulf tourists take numerous visits to Yemen to fulfill differing vacationing goals such as simple relaxion and cultural tourism. But for some visitors, tourism has only one meaning, described locally as, "following the shadows of Yemeni girls and women". An issue that is drawing increased concerns from the government, activists and Yemenis at large.

The government has only recently acknowledged the scale of the problem. Hundreds if not thousands of Gulf tourists come to Yemen for the purpose of finding local prostitutes or sexual gratification. There is little evidence of efforts to stop such practices that are now confronting this conservative society. The recent developments have made Yemen a new Arab hub for prostitution. In some situations, in some ways it is hard to differentiate between the sex industry in Yemen and the one in India.

While the young and old generations of Gulf tourists have different techniques to finding sexual companions, their goal is the same, "get a hold on Yemeni women". The younger generation usually goes to crowded famous local street bazaars trying to find the right woman for a 'romantic match.' The older generation busy themselves using 'temporary marriages' as an easy way to achieve their desire and sexual passion.

"It's not possible for older men in their 40's to chase young women in streets, so they do their job under the table by destroying innocent lives of young Yemeni women with the so called tourism marriage," said a local activist.

The average age for victimized young women haunted by the tourism marriage crisis is between 14-24 years. Many of these innocent girls were snatched away from education and forced to drop out of school to marry these dubious men. Sadly, the life span for such marriages is often short lived. In most situations, they vary from as little as 10 days to as much as a month. The span rarely reaches one year.

Seventy five percent of those who fall in the tourism marriage trap lose confidence and faith in themselves. They feel that their future is virtually destroyed after only a few weeks of marriage due to the divorce that will follow them in this conservative society.

More disturbing still is that many of these tourists often have previously traveled to many other Asian countries for the same reason under the slogan of "tourism" (or 'sex tourism'), then come to Yemen spreading the diseases they may have contracted abroad. One of the fastest spreading diseases in connection with this issue in Yemen is AIDS.

Recent statistics show that almost 14,000 people in Yemen have the HIV virus. AIDS cases, the resulting condition of HIV infection, have more than tripled over the past four years. Eventually, it slowly spreads to locals who also use prostitutes.

The Yemeni government has recently realized the magnitude of this issue and is trying to take action to uproot such practices. But the challenge will be formidable.

In dealing with the issue of the older tourists who, without any sense of shame or adherence to Islamic principles, chase their victims tirelessly and often with seemingly decent intentions. One victim's father said, "They come to our houses in a very peaceful manner and with their mouths busy uttering God's remembrance. They could fool anyone eventually, with their soft and calculated approach."

"I really don't understand the difference between this and adultery," the father added. "Such people have no morality what so ever. If they had such a quality, they would retreat from such terrifying actions. Marriage is supposed to be peace, love, and comfort not to fulfill your sexual desire only."

In Islam, to have such marriages organized for a set time period, is unlawful and therefore forbidden.

This remains the fate of many inpoverished Yemeni girls who marry rich Arab tourists and then eventually find themselves abandoned. The problem gets worse if tourists decide to take their temporary wives back with them.

Some of the ill-intentioned husbands, force their innocent wives into pornography and prostitution, often threatening death if they do not comply with their husband's wishes.

Ibb province seems to be the most affected region in this ongoing drama. At last count 93 girls from Ibb province have been victims of this tragedy. This ongoing crisis has also spread to other provinces mainly Sana'a, Hajjah, Taiz, and Aden.

While these short term marriage issues are emerging for the first time in Yemen, many predominently Muslim countries have struggled with the same issues in the past, including Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Pakistan.

Yemeni activists are working on introducing a new law to govern marriages of Yemenis and foreigners. These activists are seeking assistance and support from the international communities' NGO's, human rights groups and health organizations to lend the support and expertise that Yemen needs in combatting these issues.

The implications in Yemeni society, when a girl is abandoned and not given the proper respect and status, is the spread of adultery, prostitution and sexually trasmitted diseases. Women are further stigmatized in this Islamic nation causing personal psychological damage and the prospect of being further ostracized by this conservative society.

Many now hope that solutions come soon enough to save the future not only of Yemeni women at large, but innocent young girls of the next generation whose only fault is coming from a poor family.

Asian Sex Gazette and Yemeni Times


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2005 Asian Sex Gazette.
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