OP-ED

Yemen :Human Trafficking Networks Hunt Young and Beautiful Girls

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

Shima is a beautiful, young and smart girl. She was studying at the Languages Institute in Sana’a because she wanted to qualify herself for the university. Her only aim is to practice the English language as a native speaker. Unexpectedly, she fell in love with her teacher, but her teacher was a man who likes to delude girls with his love. He was actually engaged and had another love interest. He exploited Shima’s feelings by spending time with her in the institute. The disaster was when his first beloved, Hanan found out about Shima and decided to attack her.

Hanan tried her best to contact Shima; finally she found her Facebook page and started to chat with her. Hanan sent her insults in addition to tagging her in very pornographic posts. Shima was really in a bad situation and she arranged a meeting with Hanan to put an end to all that disputes.

Hanan went to the meeting. When she saw Shima she was surprised by her beauty and elegance. They talked with each other, “I will stop my relation with the teacher but you have to stop distorting my reputation on facebook,” Shima said. Hanan agreed at that moment but actually she was planning for something big. Unfortunately, Hanan was running a human trafficking and prostitution network in Sana’a. She continued insulting Shima and asked her, “If you really want me to stop we have to meet again because there is something important thing I need to tell you.”

This time Hanan decided to convince her to work with her in her prostitution network. Hanan went with two men who were waiting in the car. She explained her work and asked Shima to work with her and she will get a lot of money, “I was shocked and thought she is joking, but when she pointed to the men in the car with her finger and told me they are waiting for us, I really was scared,” Shima said. In the moment Shima wanted to get out to be safe, Hanan took out a dagger and stabbed her, then escaped with the men in the car. With difficulty, Shima went to the institute and one of the female teachers took her to the hospital, but Shima refused to tell her family and the police about the fact because she was scared from the community injustice and the family scandal.

In the last ten years, prostitution networks have increased within Yemeni cities and are led mostly by traders of African and Arab nationality with the help of Yemeni women working on attracting Yemeni girls into these networks, which provide them with attractive job opportunities.

In Yemeni society it is difficult to recognize the existence of such networks because it represents shame, which helps the sex trade flourish. Also, poverty makes families force their daughters into prostitution especially with foreigners, who pay them with dollars.

Najla Al-Sani, Yemen Women’s Union’s (YWU) Legal Department Director, said that most of the girls are under the age of 16. “The network leader takes the girls and takes photos of them and then threatens them with these photos to obey them.”

Al-Lsani added that when they visit prison they discovered that even if the girls are jailed they come back again. “We received girls whose families refused to take them; they are completely destroyed and were psychologically and socially destructive. We put them in our Dar Al-Aman department and rehabilitated them in all ways, registered them at school again, contacted their family and invited them to the union,” Al-Lsani said.

 In the last four years, the YWU has received more than 22 girls and 80 women who had been trafficked. The most prominent reasons behind trafficking are poverty and family instability.

A report on human trafficking issued by the U.S. Foreign Ministry said the ages of girls who are sexually exploited generally don’t exceed 15 years. The report went on to state that most ‘customers’ of Yemen’s illicit sex trade were from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Although law number 248 of Yemen’s Criminal Code dictates that anyone found guilty of human trafficking will receive at least ten years in prison, the Yemeni government has been unable to provide any evidence of progress in prosecuting or punishing offenders.

Lawyer Sadeq Homid said that laws were not implemented, before simply adding that Yemen’s justice and security systems were weak.

Despite the weak justice and security systems, the Yemeni government is doing its best to stop a number of networks in Ibb, Aden, Taiz and Sana’a.