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Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and Jounieh, a coastal town about 10km 6. A GS officer estimated that there are at least women and girls who have been forced into prostitution in these areas.
But the s are hard to verify because of the hidden nature of the problem. The plight of these women is compounded by the way the law is applied in Lebanon. The punishment is a prison sentence of anything from a month to a year. It is not illegal to work as a d prostitute but seeing as the government has not issued any such licences since the s, those working as prostitutes are vulnerable to being arrested and punished. Beirut is no stranger to the sex industry.
According to the Lebanese Prostitution Law ofbrothels were divided into two groups: public brothels and escort houses. From his car, Paul has just spotted a woman leaning towards a black SUV. She and the driver talk for a few minutes. Eventually, she gets in the car. The transaction is quick, and people passing by do not even seem to notice.
The couple, both in their 40s, have been volunteering for the church for years. Paul first got involved 20 years ago when he discovered that one of his neighbours was being forced into prostitution. Ray decided to him soon after they met in Paul and Ray are Armenian-Lebanese and asked that their real names be withheld because of the sensitivity of their work. As they drive around Doura, in the eastern suburbs of Beirut, the main road is still crowded. Two policemen are patrolling the area. But right around the corner, Ray spots another woman sitting in a car with a man.
They have seen her here before, waiting on the street corner. It came as no great shock to Paul when, innews broke that 75 Syrian women had been trafficked and held captive in a Jounieh brothel for years. I believed him the moment I was detained in the General Security building for 24 hours and then released scot-free. Despite the media uproar surrounding the case, the owner of the brothel, a Lebanese businessman, was soon released on bail. Hearings into the case have been postponed multiple times and, three years on, the trial is only just about to begin.
Inthe US State Department had placed Lebanon on its tier 2 watchlist of countries not fully complying with standards to combat human trafficking. Following pressure from civil groups such as Legal Agenda, Lebanon passed a new anti-trafficking law. Since then, however, the Syrian crisis has precipitated a mass influx into Lebanon. Many of the refugees are women and children who have already suffered trauma and may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Al Jazeera heard s of several scenarios in which Syrian women and children ended up in the hands of traffickers.
Another involved groups of women and children being trafficked across the border. There are also cases of women and girls being forcibly recruited within refugee camps or even sold by their families to traffickers. However they arrived in Lebanon, human rights groups and aid workers say not enough is being done to protect them.
Victims do not ask for help and do not report. And, at the same time, there is no outreach programme for the victims. Most were Syrian. However, Dima Haddad, programme officer at the IOM, says the official statistics do not come close to conveying the magnitude of the problem. From her office at the IOM headquarters in Beirut, she coordinates a regional taskforce to counter human trafficking in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan — the countries most affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Asked whether there are gaps in the system for identifying the victims, Haddad answers immediately.
If I have to be more diplomatic, I would say there is a lot of work to do. It is urgent, as we consider anti-trafficking a life-saving intervention. There are also great obstacles to women being able to tell their stories. Aside from the shame and stigma that prevent victims from coming forward, it can also be difficult to access them.
Approaching women on the street is dangerous — as Paul has found over the years — as they are watched by their traffickers. In researching this feature, Al Jazeera tried to speak to survivors through NGOs, local journalists and local refugee camp leaders. However, those who were prepared to speak asked for money in exchange, requests that appeared to come from husbands and other relatives.
Permission to access Baabda female prison — where many of the women arrested for prostitution are held — was not granted. Duringthe ISF adopted a policy of trying to root out all cases involving potential trafficking victims through its Human Rights Unit.
As ofat least training sessions had been given to the 37 law enforcement agents attached to the unit to help them identify and deal with suspected trafficking cases. But, according to Alef, a human rights watchdog based in Beirut, and other organisations, these training sessions are rarely given to those on the front lines and are, therefore, missing their target.
Ashraf Rifi, who served as minister of justice between andand who was ISF director-general from tosays it could take 10 to 15 years before there are ificant changes in how cases of human, and specifically sex, trafficking are identified and combatted. The ISF is also responsible for investigations into exploitation networks. Meanwhile, hundreds of women continue to fall through the cracks — treated like criminals instead of victims. More than half of them were Syrian. All were placed in prison. The only support available to these women after they are released comes from charities.
Here, the volunteers provide emotional and practical support to women who were forced into prostitution, trying to address their legal, medical and psychological needs. Most of them are in fact trafficking victims — but ISF did not understand they were victims.
As soon as they leave the prison, they rarely get any kind of support and they are immediately back in the network of their exploiters. When Al Jazeera spoke to Joseph Mousallem, a spokesman for the ISF, he acknowledged that the difference between prostitution and trafficking is not well understood by police officers. We do our best, but not have the means or the resources to track the victims. Lawyer Hasna Abdulreda meets dozens of these women during detention visits.
For 10 years, she has provided legal support to women in jail, and she is currently the head of the legal department at the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights, a local NGO. For Syrian women, it is more complicated. Because they are foreigners, they are held by the GS for up to two days after being released from Baabda, Abdulreda says. Even when trafficking cases go to court, the odds appear stacked against victims of sex trafficking.
Legal Agenda analysed the 34 trafficking cases that made it to court in Lebanon between and In certain cases they ruled that the woman was not to be considered a victim of trafficking as she consented, at least to some extent. If you do not fit into this stereotype, you are hardly considered as a victim of trafficking.
Frangieh says that as well as reflecting a general prejudice against women in prostitution, this view has also been influenced by the Chez Maurice case. But, despite their name, free agents still operate under the protection and control of a trafficker. Along with the Catholic NGO network Caritas, Kafa runs a shelter for female survivors of violence, mainly domestic workers who have been abused by their employers.
The ISF occasionally refers trafficking victims to them. But their resources are limited: SinceKafa has been able to offer protection to approximately women, 20 of whom all Syrians were sex-trafficking survivors. Where are the investigations?
We are talking about organised crime. This is not something you can expect NGOs to deal with. Some of these women were relocated overseas, some got married, but others, without a proper support mechanism, simply went back into prostitution — either forced or out of desperation. According to Ghali, the problem is not the law but rather in the implementation of the law.
Back in Doura, Paul and Ray keep providing basic help to people in need. They do not have success stories to share. Paul says he has not received any further threats from the traffickers. Because] we make no change in the situation. And even if a girl manages to quit, they would have another one.Fuck contacts Lebanon
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Prostitution in Lebanon