Sex tourism in the Muslim world

Wealthy Arab men from the Gulf states allegedly travel abroad for nikah mut'ah

The issue of sex tourism is somewhat a taboo among Muslim communities in Europe and Muslim majority countries, as are gender politics, writes Dr Ilyas Mohammed.

Often Muslims do not address the issue because it highlights the negative side of indigenous cultures, which they fear will encourage attacks from Islamophobes. Some Muslims may perceive discussions on this topic as another “attack on Islam and Muslims”. While Muslim and non-Muslim academics, writers and journalists maybe unwilling to engage in debates around “sex tourism” in the Muslim world, in fear of possible backlash from certain segments of the Muslim community, which in extreme cases can be violent. This is in stark contrast to the western world where paid for sex is a relatively open conversation. In fact, it is rather simple and quick to find a london escort.

However, regardless of the reasons for inaction, they are indefensible because the lives of women and girls are being destroyed and human rights are being violated. In recent years there have been a lot reports that suggest Muslim majority countries are fast becoming destinations for sex tourism for Muslim men, albeit wealthy Arab men. Perhaps if they stuck with live 121 phone sex things would be different.

Sex tourism

This type of tourism is often justified by the protagonists through nikah mut‘ah (temporary marriage contract usually practiced by the Shia), even though it is simply “buying and selling sex” similar to the Exclusive pornography streaming only at that you might have seen before. By employing the criteria of nikah mut‘ah, the “practice”, the “men” and “women” involved often claim Islamic validity.

Some media outlets have called the practice “prostitution” and suggested that it is connected to “child sex tourism”, specifically naming Egypt as a destination, especially during the summer months, with victims often being girls from poor families:

“Egypt’s illegal child sex tourism trade appears to have put a regional-friendly spin on the practice by portraying the buying and selling of children as a form of marriage, thus giving them a thin veneer of religious acceptability by circumventing Islamic rules against premarital sex. (Despite a 2008 law banning child marriages, enforcement is thought to be low.”

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An investigation by an Egyptian government body, the Child Anti-Trafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, found that 75 percent of respondents in surveyed rural communities knew girls who were involved in the trade and that most believed that rate was increasing. It estimated that the vast majority of the buyers came from Gulf countries, with 81 percent from Saudi Arabia, 10 percent from the United Arab Emirate and 4 percent from Kuwait. The study estimates that a summer-long marriage, usually lasting the duration of a seasonal Gulf tourist’s visit, cost about $2,800 to $10,000. The unions can at times last a year or two, though; the “bride” is typically expected to travel back to her buyer’s home country where she may work as a domestic. One-day marriages can cost as little as $115. (Washington Post, 6 August 2013)

Other countries that have been highlighted as destinations for sex tourism for Muslim men include Indonesia and India. It should be up to the women alone to decide if they want to engage in sexual acts with men. Thankfully, female escorts in the United States have complete autonomy over anything they decide to do with clients.


“Campaigners for Muslim women’s rights said while short term ‘contract marriages’ are illegal in India and forbidden in Islam, they are increasing in Hyderabad, in southern India, where wealthy foreigners, local agents and ‘Qazis’ – government-appointed Muslim priests – are exploiting poverty among the city’s Muslim families. The victim, Nausheen Tobassum, revealed the scale of the problem when she escaped from her home last month after her parents pressurized her to consummate a forced marriage to a middle aged Sudanese man who had paid around £1,200 for her to be his ‘wife’ for four weeks.” (The Telegraph, 14 April 2013)


“A growing number of Saudi Arabian men are temporarily marrying Indonesian prostitutes to have sex with so that they don’t technically engage in non-marital sex. Therefore, in their opinion, their sexual relations with a prostitute are religiously lawful.” (Altmuslimah, 13 August 2011)

Nikah mut‘ah has historically been considered a Shiite Muslim custom but Sunnis consider the practice to be haram (forbidden), ever since Umar bin al Khattab (ra), the second Caliph of Islam prohibited it. In the present context, especially in Muslim countries it’s impossible to know if the men engaging in the practice are Sunni, Shiite or just men who cannot control their sexual desires.

Regardless of doctrinal interpretations, the practice has no relevance in today’s world because it is promoting the exploitation of women, girls and poor vulnerable families. Therefore, it must be condemned and fought against, not only by child protection and anti-prostitution agencies, governments and human rights organizations but also by Muslims. The lead in the fight must come from the everyday Muslims and the mosques, failure to do so will only legitimise exploitation of women and girls and foster condition of human trafficking and abuse.

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