Muslim Sexual Harassment in Bahrain

Anti-government Bahrain women take part in a rally organized by al-Wefaq opposition group to protest for reforms in the village of Sitra
Anti-government Bahrain women
protest for reforms
Photo Credit: THE DAILY STAR

Muslim men believe they have a right to exploit women. This is especially true in countries where Shariah law is implemented.

In Bahrain, on paper, a woman is recognized as a full person before the court; however in the Shariah courts, a valid witness needs to be two men, or two women and one man. Even worse, in domestic abuse cases Shariah courts do not accept the testimony of close relatives or of just one woman. Since most women are alone with their husbands when they are beaten or raped, a raped woman cannot use the law to stop the abuse. In Islam, it is the obligation of the wife to satisfy her husband sexually so there cannot be such a thing as a husband raping his wife.

As for unmarried women, the law allows any man to rape such a woman without punishment as long as he then marries the victim (1). Of course, the marriage can only happen in the highly unlikely event that 4 men or 8 women actually witness the rape and testify against the perpetrator. Despite that, there are more than 300 sex-related crimes reported each year (2).

Sexual abuse of unskilled foreign female workers is rampant in Bahrain. Victims are unlikely to report sexual abuse because they will be unable to leave the country while the case is pending (3).

Bahrain is also a recruiting center for the sexual exploitation of children and women (4).

This abuse of women in Bahrain is because Bahraini men hold bigoted, racist and sexist views. Bigoted, because non-Muslims are lower than Muslims. Racist, because non-Bahrainis are lower than Bahrainis. And Sexist, because women are lower than Muslim Bahraini men.

Almost all women wear the veil in Bahrain. Despite that, they still get abused, raped, molested, sexually harassed. So much for the false notion that hijab somehow protects women against sexual advances.

This is the twelfth article in my series on Muslim Sexual Harassment.



Freedom House, Bahrain

While Bahrain's criminal and penal laws do not discriminate against women criminal defendants, some laws actually discriminate against women who are victims of crimes. Article 353 states that no penalty shall be inflicted upon a person who rapes an unmarried woman, as long as he then marries the victim.


Department Of State. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, human rights report 2005 Near East and North Africa Bahrain

Although the number of convictions was not available, during the year there were 331 cases of sex-related crimes referred to the public prosecutor, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. In 2004, 374 cases were referred to the public prosecutor's office.

It was not uncommon for foreign women working as domestics to be beaten or sexually abused by their employers and recruiting agents. Numerous cases were reported to local embassies, the press, and the police; however, most victims were too intimidated to sue their employers, although they had the right to do so. Courts reportedly allowed victims who registered complaints to sue for damages or return home.



In 2003 Anita, a 28-year-old Indian domestic servant, was hospitalized after being abused by her employer for 3 months. She had received less than one month's full pay. She sued her employer for damages and back pay. By year's end the case was still not resolved. Although Anita has repeatedly indicated her desire to return to her family in India, she is not permitted to travel unless her former employer signs Anita's exit papers, which she will only agree to do if Anita drops the charges.


Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Cyber sex sites spur vice probe

A BAHRAIN human rights group has launched an investigation to unmask the perpetrators behind more than 35 websites offering sex to customers here and in other Gulf countries.

Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) president Mohammed Al Maskati said they were concerned about women who were being brought here on promises of lawful employment only to find themselves victims of sexual exploitation.

He said women from Europe, Middle East and Asia were being advertised for sex through more than 35 Arabic and English websites.


“We suspect girls are brought here, their passports taken and they are made to become prostitutes to pay back the fees for coming here.

“We think the girls pay more than 80 per cent of their earnings to their sponsors.”

Additional reading: The Situation of Women Migrant Domestic Workers in Bahrain PDF.

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