Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tighten visa rules for Russian, Thai, Ethiopian and Chinese women to combat prostitution? Somehow I don't think so

As reported in today's GDN...

Bid to curb women's visas blocked

PARLIAMENT blocked an attempt by a group of MPs to tighten
visa rules for Russian, Thai, Ethiopian and Chinese women to combat
Al Asala bloc proposed an urgent curb on women from these
countries, saying they made up the majority of prostitutes. It wanted the
proposal to be sent to the Cabinet for immediate action.
Other MPs acknowledged that prostitution was on the rise, but said the proposal should be discussed with the Interior Ministry without the mention of any nationalities.
They said instead of going after the victims, they must focus on tackling
human trafficking.
The MPs said it was an opportunity to listen to ministry officials on the issue and get the related statistics.
Independent MP Dr Aziz Abul said attacks on nationalities would have repercussions on Bahrainis visiting these countries.
"We have ties with these countries and making such allegations, even if true, means that we dislike them. There are other nationalities involved. Why are those excluded? Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Abduljalil Khalil said Al Asala bloc was attacking the prey and leaving the predator.
"We should be looking for ways to combat having such women trafficked to Bahrain.
"Ministry officials should be called to give us an insight into what they have done to combat sleaze and give us figures. I see no logic in asking the government to tighten visa rules.
"There are respectable women from these countries who work in
companies, restaurants or as maids." Services committee chairman and Al Menbar
MP Dr Ali Ahmed said one of the countries mentioned was probing women being
trafficked to Bahrain.
"They don't accept what is happening and are taking measures to ensure their women are not brought here. I was present when they discussed the issue in their parliament.
The MPs were backed by Minister of State for Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel, who promised that the Interior Ministry would discuss the issue with parliament. He proposed that the duty could be carried out by parliament's foreign affairs, defence and national security panel.
However, Al Asala MPs demanded that the issue is referred to the Cabinet.
"We are bombarded with calls from people complaining about these nationalities in particular and numbers on the street speak for themselves, so why wait for the Interior Ministry?" asked Al Asala MP Abdulhaleem Murad.
"Everything is clear. The Interior Ministry will in the end agree that rules for visit and work visas to these nationalities should be tightened."

It's good to see that there are some Parliamentarians demonstrating common sense when dealing with the intellectually challenged who want to implement a simple solution which does nothing to solve the issue and causes a lot of collateral damage. Unfortunately we see this all too commonly where a sledgehammer is deemed the most useful tool to crack a nut... Kuwait tried it with the Bangladeshis, only to rescind the ban a few months later when they tried to implement it.

If Bahrain is serious about dealing with prostitution it must address some fundamental religious-societal issues. The supply is there because of demand. Some of these religious-societal factors which would contribute to demand for prostitutes, and this may well be more applicable in general terms to visitors from a neighbouring country, would include the treatment of women as chattels and all that it entails, such as the enforcement to cover up, the lack of equality between sexes under sharia law, and not allowing men and woman to develop healthy platonic relationships; or, if you consider another 'customer' grouping driving local low-cost demand, a public policy to import low-cost foreign male labour, but not allowing in their wives and families...

If the Interior Ministry wants to implement sledgehammer like policies, I suggest they implement a ban on Saudi males that are not accompanied by female family members as a start... I can see that happening, NOT! But as part of pan-arab cooperation efforts, it may help out a fellow Gulf tourist destination that is short of cash at the moment - Dubai.

But seriously, I can't see how the issue of prostitution will be resolved in Bahrain, no matter what the Interior Ministry comes up with. There are too many powerful vested interests to keep things as they are on the supply side... I can only assume that the odd prostitution racket that is busted is due to their sponsor not having powerful enough wasta, and/or is a way of removing freelancers and other competitors from the cartel that is probably operating in this industry as in most other industries in the country. And as for tackling the demand side... what can be done without a wholesale religious conversion or reformation, or change of attitude (for those not religiously-inclined).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Passport discrimination

Discrimination by race, sex, nationality, etc. is sad... so it was good to see Dubai receiving a record fine for refusing entry to a lady on the professional tennis circuit because she was from a country that the UAE don't recognise.

Shame it is only high profile cases like this that make news, when thousands are discriminated based on the passport they carry... like, the unfortunate Iranian student from British School of Kuwait who was refused entry to the Young Musician of the Gulf competition in Bahrain because he was on an Iranian passport! It will be little consolation to him that the three other members of the quartet competed without him and won their category in the competition.

Update - seems like UAE authorities have learned their lesson somewhat by letting in an Israeli for the men's tennis competition.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Human trafficking at the Crossroads

So whilst one Government Ministry is sponsoring this upcoming conference in Bahrain, where I'm sure lots of nice words will be said, sadly the Council of Deputies are heading off in the other direction and through their actions supporting human trafficking... and if it seems like I'm using a leap of logic here... ensuring the abused is viewed as a criminal, rather than the abuser, means that not only are a runaways human rights being denied, but it is encouraging human trafficking to continue unabated, as an underground network is required to circumvent the legally enshrined human rights violations...

So, is this Conference just a talking shop to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Bahrain is serious about stopping human trafficking, with the underlying reality being that those in power aren't really serious about stopping human trafficking, as it suits too many vested interests? (Kind of like the "Business Friendly Bahrain" PR... reality is very different from a PR campaign). Or, will some concrete proposals for action come from this conference?

As for the MPs and their proposal to fine the runaways... I guess this is what can be expected from people who yearn for the good old days when slavery was legitimate. The GDN has a good editorial on the issue in today's GDN - 18 Feb. 2009 - but unfortunately the GDN doesn't make editorials available online.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It was a clerical error, M'Lud

Also in today's GDN, another court case to make you laugh...
Forger 'made clerical error'

A government employee accused of forging visa applications could have issued the visas due to a clerical error, a defence lawyer argued yesterday.

The Bahraini woman is standing trial at the High Criminal Court for forging visa applications and accepting bribes.

Her co-defendant, an Indian man who pleaded not guilty, is accused of bribery.

The woman, who works for the General Directorate for Nationality, Passports and Residence, allegedly accepted BD200 to forge information on several visa applications.

She issued visitor's visas to several people from different nationalities and accepted BD200 for each visa, it is alleged.

Defence lawyer Fatima Al Hawaj argued that the issuance of the visas could have been a result of a clerical error, claiming the information entered could have been a mistake.

She cross examined four witnesses at yesterday's hearing and later claimed their statements were contradictory.

The investigating officer claimed the woman issued 41 visas to several people and put them under the sponsorship of different family members.

"Our sources received information that the woman was issuing illegal visas and accepted BD200 for each visa," he told the court.

"She forged the information on the visas and didn't get approval from her senior supervisors.

"We confiscated 41 visas that she issued to different people which she put under the sponsorship of different family members."

A government employee, who works with the defendant, claimed she forged two visa applications while another witness told the court that the defendant forged 20 visa applications.

She admitted to the charges during interrogation, but later changed her statements and pleaded not guilty. The court adjourned the case to March 25 to summon further witnesses for cross-examination.

Yeah right. A clerical error... she accidentally pocketed BD200 from each applicant for a forged visit visa. I guess you have to have a good sense of humour to be a defence lawyer. The sad thing is that often people have to resort to bribes, because that's the only way to get things done when the law/bureaucracy stops you from doing the sensible thing.

BD500 fine is urged for runaway workers despite objections

The latest MP brainfart reported in today's GDN...

BD500 fine is urged for runaway workers despite objections

RUNAWAY workers could soon be fined up to BD500 if caught before being deported from the country.

MPs yesterday voted in favour of the amendment to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) law, despite objections from Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi, who said that it was against conventions Bahrain had signed and implemented.

The government-draft is based on an earlier proposal by parliament.

Dr Al Alawi said that under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, running away or leaving work was not a crime.

"We can't force a criminal charge against runaway workers or those who leave their jobs, because it is against ILO agreements that we are obliged to follow," he said.

"Deporting them is the only thing we can do, considering that we are obliged to ensure that there is no discrimination between expatriate and local workers."

He said that expatriate workers don't have BD500 to pay.

"They would prefer going to jail. Can our jails accommodate 3,000 plus runaway workers?

"Those who should be punished are sponsors and those who employ those runaway workers and that is enough."

Dr Al Alawi said that the LMRA was currently taking electronic fingerprints of labourers once they step into Bahrain International Airport.

"Our inspectors have mobile inspection units, in which they take the fingerprint of labourers at various sites, and if they are runaways, action is taken," he said.

"So far 35,000 runaway workers have been deported, before the introduction of the system, and there are 15,000 cases that we are investigating."

Parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani said that many sponsors were being forced to pay for the tickets of runaway expatriate workers after five years of disappearance.

"It is unfair to be punished for their disappearance in the first place, as the business gets affected, and then they have to pay for them to go back home.

"It is not right to pay fees to bring the worker and then he easily moves to someone else for free. This means that in the end the businessmen are losing."

Mr Al Dhahrani said that Bahrain was wrong in signing every agreement without knowing its impact on the country and whether it could be implemented.

"We are not obliged to follow everything, just look at the West, they have special laws for Arabs and Muslims as they enter their countries, which they don't follow here, despite those countries coming under international agreements and treaties," he said.

Mr Al Dhahrani said that the fingerprint system was outstanding, but the numbers of inspectors were low compared to the work.

Services committee secretary Ibrahim Busandal said that Bahrain already had a different system for both Bahrainis and expatriates.

"Businessmen don't need a permit for Bahrainis, just for expatriates, and there are punishments for runaway Bahrainis. So don't come here and speak about equality, because it does not exist and is difficult to make it exist," he said.

Also under the law, those who employ or hide runaway workers will be fined up to BD500. Housemaids also come under this law.

The draft law will now be presented to the Shura Council for approval, and if passed, will be ratified by His Majesty King Hamad.

Hopefully the Shura Council will throw this one out. What is the overwhelming reason people runaway from their employers? Because they are mentally or physically abused, treated as slaves or not paid what they have been promised, or not paid at all... this is well-known. Yes, occasionally a person will runaway because they get a better offer... but that usually means that the first employer is probably not paying the market wage, and there is probably no power for the worker to negotiate... Maybe a runaway is dishonest, but that is the employer's risk in hiring... maybe they should be more selective in their recruitment, and there should be a legal system that caters for these cases anyway, rather than a broad brush approach to fine all runaways, when in the majority of cases it is the employers/slave masters that are the ones that should be punished.

Monday, February 9, 2009

MPs call for ban on pork

Among the funnier of the words reported to be said by MP Adel Al Mawaada in his proposal to ban pork in the GDN this morning would have to be this...
"The first thing Jesus Christ - the saviour of all mankind - would do is break the cross and kill the pig," Mr Al Mawaada told the GDN yesterday.
What is this guy on? First, he acknowledges Jesus Christ is the saviour of all mankind. Yep, can't agree more with this... so if you acknowledge it, why don't you actually read and meditate on what the saviour of the world says and does. Hmmm, might actually conflict a tad with your beliefs, me thinks. But what's this about breaking the cross and killing the pig... what's he actually trying to say... beats me! He must have some warped idea of Jesus... I think he really needs to read a bible, if he can, if he wants to understand the nature and character of Jesus.

Times are a changing...

Well I've been absent from blogging for a while, having left Kuwait over 20 months now, and occasionally visiting and updating the old blog here... but with Bahraini MPs providing so much fodder for comment on, Mahmood leaving the blogging arena, and the local tabloid providing such a good impression of 'News of the World' or the 'The Sun'... sorry, can't use the Daily Star as the Ministry of (Dis)Information has blocked it... And as for that other English paper in Bahrain... er, forget it..., for the last year after being reported as a internet attack site, they seem to have disappeared from having a web presence at all now.
As I was saying, times are a changing in Bahrain, but if you were to read the papers it would appear to be for the worse as it slides down that slippery slope to be yet another Saudi Arabia... First it's an attempt to ban alcohol on Gulf Air flights, then ban alcohol at the airport, and now it's the turn of banning pork! Next it will be compulsory hijab for women, no driving for women, and no reason to come to Bahrain for the weekend to leave behind that repressive islamic regime... well, I suppose that's one good thing to come out of it. Bahraini's will get back their roads & shopping malls in the weekend, many grotty hotels that don't deserve their 2, 3, or 4 stars will close down, and professional workers in the male entertainment industry will leave. On the flip side, lots of retailers will have to shut up shop, and more legitimate businesses will have to cut back, when expats if they want to continue to work in the region will head to where the real demand for jobs is.... in Saudi! Visitors for the Formula One and any other international event at the Bahrain International Circuit will decide to give Bahrain a miss... and this in an economy that is suffering and struggling to diversify from declining oil reserves.
So, are the trinity hoping that the loony rantings of the MPs will ensure they get voted out next time around, or are they going to accede and allow the islamists to have their way... I hope the former, more and more I am expecting the latter.