Crackdowns on sex workers in Oman

Asia Pacific Regional Correspondent

A police spokesman from Oman has told media that the country is considering a reduction to the number of days women from South East Asian countries may be allowed to remain in the country on a tourist visa. Currently visas are available for 30 days, but a new proposal may see this slashed to only ten days for some tourists. This comes with a host of new extreme requirements that women would need to have proof of a return ticket and of a booking at a minimum four-star hotel during their stay in Oman. It is believed this reduction is linked to a recent crackdown on sex workers. 

In recent months there have been a number of crackdowns on sex workers in the country, in an attempt to “clear the streets of a vice” which police say is controlled by gangs of expatriates.

In August 2017, 100 women of Asian and African nationalities were “arrested for prostitution” in Muscat’s Al Khuwair area.

In the last week of November, police officers arrested 33 sex workers, all of whom were reportedly citizens of countries in Asia, after they were found soliciting customers in public places in Muscat’s Al Khuwair area. Media reports on news of these arrests came with stigmatising warnings to residents to not seek such services for the sake of their health and to avoid legal repercussions.

Resident complaints are allegedly behind the recent crackdowns which police have described as a launch “a campaign to clear sex trafficking from our streets”. Since 2014, police have arrested 273 people for engaging in prostitution. They were all sentenced to a minimum of three years in jail.

The last few months have seen police continue to crack down on sex workers, after making a rare appeal to the public to help them achieve this goal.  Police have encouraged landlords to remain vigilant and report sex work on their premises, and all residents have been told to tip off police if they know about a place sex work may be occurring. 

Under Omani law, the engagement or solicitation of prostitution carries a jail sentence between three to five years. Those convicted of trafficking can face up to 15 years in jail.

 “We conducted many raids in the last two years on privately rented buildings in Muscat that are used for prostitution purposes,” a police spokesman told The National. “We also have regular patrols in certain [areas], where residents have complained about sex offences.