Laith Zraikat
I Innovate, Therefore I Am.
Prostitution in Jordan

If you've ever been to London, then you've probably used a payphone at least once, which means you’ve seen some of those escort service ads which litter almost every single phone booth. Even then, I'm sure you'd be wondering "where the hell are the authorities?" And even though you know prostitution is legal there, that question still crosses your mind.

What then should we do when we start seeing these sorts of ads distributed in the streets of Amman in broad daylight under the disguise of "Massage Parlors"?

This ad was being distributed in gardens street to families in their cars:

and on the back:

First of all when I do want to get a massage, I look at brochures to know what credentials a place has, who the doctors supervising it are, IF there are any doctors supervising it, and what methodologies they use. I don’t need to look at a picture of the half naked girl whom is supposed to give me the massage when I arrive there.

Notice that if you look close enough at the girl, you'll start seeing things you don’t expect to see. And notice that they only use mobile phone numbers so they can pack up and leave any time they feel too exposed (I can't imagine what could be more exposing than this).

The back of the card is the most interesting; not only do you get the girl, but they can also provide you with a furnished apartment if you need one, at prices which fit everyone's wallet –does this mean that a 15 year old can find something within his budget range?

So this is a new trend in Jordan; Prostitution Combo's (Get the girl and you get a discount off the apartment) This can indicate two things; that their market is getting so competitive that we're starting to see bundle deals, and that the consumer base for such services is actually growing that more places are opening up and competing with each other.

What should we do? Should we ignore the fact that everyone knows what those places really are? Should we bow our heads like sheep and feel like we can't do much about it? Or should we ask the big question: "What the ***k is the Amman municipality doing? And what the ***k is the Ministry of internal affairs doing?" Should we wait till those places start using their fixed line numbers in their ads?

Although we expect the bulk of responsibility to fall on the people in charge of those ministries, we as citizens have a duty as well. Our duty is to inform authorities of such places, as well as bring up the issue whenever we get the opportunity to speak to a group of people. Taxi drivers can play a very important role in fighting this disease, because as know, it is mostly tourists and expats who seek those places. If taxi drivers refuse to drive anyone whom they suspect to be going to such a place, then we would have a very good first line of defense.

Finally, when I want to get a massage, I would never go to a place called "Super Gardens" and definitely not "سوبر جاردنز". I wouldn't even buy bulk CD-R's if their brand was "Super (anything)".

Note: Although prostitution is legal in the UK, it is still illegal to solicit or advertise or run a brothel (a place where more than one girl works)

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On December, 08, 2005 9:56 PM , Khalidah said:

First of all ... Thank you so much for this post ... because it is a sad phenomenon that is new to our community
These kinds of ads are prostitution in disguise and we all know it ...
I salute the newspapers that stopped posting these ads in them ... in August I attended a course and one of my colleagues was the GM of a reputable newspaper ... and we chatted about this very issue ... he informed us that he stopped ads of this nature because he will not aid those people in corrupting our country .. not only I liked what he did .. but I respected the fact that he took a stand .. and because it is too obvious now and they are not welcome to advertise in papers (they get rejected) ... they pathetically throw these poorly designed cards .. and put them on your car when it is parked here and there ... that is so disgusting
Thank you Laith for posting this and putting it under the spotlight ... we need to take action .. this is the start

On December, 08, 2005 11:08 PM , hareega said:

Shoot do they still have them?? Yeah the governement pretends they don't know about it, mashi !

On December, 08, 2005 11:44 PM , Abdelstar alslimat said:

Laith the people in charge are the one who geting the massage.

On December, 09, 2005 12:24 AM , jameed said:

on a lighter note, i think i have seen the girl in the top picture on a few CDs in wast il balad

On December, 09, 2005 4:39 AM , kbt said:

Why are you so against prostiution. After all, it is the world'a oldest profession. My only reservation would be that a large number of the women working in the sex trade are coerced into it. that's what the authorities have to crack down. But if its consensual then why not as long as it safe sex. I think the government should legalize prostitution and legislate it so that women are not forced into it and safe sex is observed. including testing the women for STDs and such enforcing condom use.
It's also a huge myth that only expats and tourists go to prostitutes. I am sure that this is not true. This whole hollier than thou attitdue is really old. A lot fo Jordanians go to these message parlours. There's noting wrong with that, its due to the fact that sexuality is oppressed and human beings need outlets for that oppression. If the situation would change so that young people could get together and have sex then I'm sure prostitution would not be as a big opf problem. Why don't we overthrow this whole antiquated notion of sexual morality and have sex.

On December, 09, 2005 9:31 AM , Omar said:

KBT, I would like to introduce you to your hand. Now move along.

On December, 09, 2005 10:10 AM , Amer said:

Thanks for bringing this topic up.
I think this issue has many sides to it, other than the moral and religious background of this issue; the risks of HIV spreading are what concerns me more, because those ignorants can catch HIV easily in such atmosphers and then spread it around without they knowing!

Our government should do something about this, and should do it fast.

On December, 09, 2005 3:37 PM , Laith Zraikat said:

kbt, I respect your opinion, but tell me this: Do you allow members of your family to have this kind of open-mindedness about having sex, or doing it as a profession?
So the problem is not really my "hollier than thou attitude", is it?

You dont practice it, don't preach it.

On December, 09, 2005 4:34 PM , kbt said:

I assume when you say members if my family you mean Female members, Sexism rears its ugly head once again in jordan
To answer the question, no to be perfectly honest I wouldn't like it if members of my family were prostitutes. However, my main concern with prostitution is the same is Amer. The spread of HIV. The point is prostitution is a fact of life. It'll happen with or without official consent and even if there is a crackdown on it. What I'm trying to say is that the moral dimension should be removed from any debate over this issue and talk about it in practical terms. The main threas the sex trade brings is sex slavery and the spread of STDs. If those can be dealt with effectively then I don't say a major issue with prostitution. One area I'm uneasy about is that it also represents the ultimate form of commodification or as Marx would put it reification. But at the same time, for a lot of these women who enter the sex trade willingly, it is a form of making badly needed revenue. Simply cracking down on brothels is not going to solve this problem.
One last thing, I really think the culture of sex should be liberalized in Jordan. This whole honour thing is seriously antiquated. that is not to say that Jordanians don't have pre-marital sex. I think a very large percentage of them do but it is enshrouded in mystery and kept secret. Why for example isn't sex education taught in school? That is how to combat STDs and not simply say "well people don't have sex in Jordan".
Society needs serious demystification in terms of sex.
One last thing, I suppose of it's a male has sex in Jordan he is more often that not given a pat on the back. If its a woman then the threat of an honour killing looms

On December, 09, 2005 5:07 PM , Laith Zraikat said:

KBT, by members of your family I meant any and not just female –have you seen American Gigallo?- and I didn’t just mean prostitution, I also meant pre-marital sex.

When discussing any subject, I think it would be too self-righteous to believe that we can set all our moral standards aside, no matter how hard we try. We are not prophets trying to introduce a new religion to people with moral standards which are alien to ours. The sex trade has been condemned by all 3 main religions –not sure about the rest- and its being condemned by most civil societies around the world because of its destructive effects on the lives of people, not to mention the crimes which grow on top of it.

I believe it is only the fact that governments can't provide an alternate living for the men and women who are being exploited through this trade, which has caused those governments to legalize it. However, we still see a lot of restrictions being put on solicitation of sexual services, as well as efforts by civil society organizations to outlaw prostitution, even in the country which carries the torch of civil rights -the U.S.

It is so easy for most people to mention Jordan as an example of oppression when it comes to these issues, while forgetting that in the U.S, George W. Bush's last election was only possible because his campaign managers were successful in turning the debate over to topics like gay rights and abortion, of which he is known to be a strong opponent. While we don’t hear any one raising a voice to talk about oppression in the U.S. we find Jordan's name being shoved into every human and women's rights debate.

p.s. I don’t care if most guys get a pat on the back for having sex. I also don’t see how this fact makes prostitution right.

On December, 09, 2005 5:26 PM , kbt said:

I dont know where you get your info from but prostitution is legal in Nevada. It is also legal ina number of European coutnries (Germany the netherlands, Belgium,,,) Japan.
This is never going to end so I'm just going to stop here and say that I think religion is by no means a moral authority on any subject. Especially the monotheistic religions. Also, abortion is completely legal in Jordan I've found that people are sometimes surprised by this.

The reason we don't hear about oppression in the US is because relative to Jordan, women enjoy quite a bit of freedom whilst in Jordan they are dbound by the shackles of custom, traidition and religion

On December, 09, 2005 5:39 PM , Laith zraikat said:

Where have I said that prostitution is illegal in the States? please re-read.

On December, 11, 2005 3:46 PM , HoUzeR said:

i agree this thing sux, but the proposed solution or part of the solution is irrelevant at all! tourists are not the only one's who tend to these places, but jordanians too, our problem is that we blame others, we have a disease, its in jordanians who own these places and jordanians who go to these places, and some jordanian girls who work at these places, well believe it or not! so i think the gov and police should storm these places and monitor them w 5alas!

On December, 11, 2005 8:55 PM , Hassan said:

kbt, I've been living in the US for 6 years and you have become all too common for me.
Just a person who thinks of the western society as supreme and civil, in which other nations should look up to.
While you mention in your argument that if Jordan liberalizes sex then Jordan wont face such a problem of unsafe practices, you
contradict your self by forgetting to mention the fact that the US suffers one of the highest sex related Diseases cases in the world, rate wise.
And while Nevada legalizes prostitution, this hasn’t slowed down the demand for it. And in fact its only making this industry grow bigger and bigger.
This is one indication why most divorces in the US are caused by infidelity.

Jordan's Muslim culture treats sex as a natural instinct of humans that should be regulated and controlled like food and sleep because it can have
far reaching negative consequences in the over all benefit of the society. They accept sex as natural thus not making it their #1 issue, compared to other
major religions where priests aren’t allowed to have sex since it's considered a sin and should only be practiced to reproduce. That’s why sex is the
#1 issue in Europe and America, not to mention eastern Asia which holds the largest porn industry in the world. In every TV show, magazine cover and billboard, you have to the see or hear the word SEX or else people won’t look and buy. Now you tell me who REALLY is sexually deprived here.
While people might argue that sex is a healthy thing and should be practiced freely with no bounds, we also agree it’s healthy but its disadvantages far exceed its advantages when practiced without control.

On December, 11, 2005 8:56 PM , Hassan said:

*Part 2*
Jordan, like many Muslim countries has one the lowest divorce rates in the world, low STD rates, and very few single parents all of which are
plaguing the American society due to the moral degradation of its culture. And that’s a problem many people recognize and fear, that one day for the US,
it could be the very same reason why great empires have collapsed in history. That is why the Neoconservatives like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to name a few, have so often desperately tried to
address this issue by wars to unite the multi-ethnic-racial US society and sway it from the path of self destruct (Cold war era, Korea, the Shah and now the ME and democracy.)

Sex is a human instinct that should be controlled and not be left to the whim of self indulgence that is reflecting in the American society. Not only on food intake
(2/3 are over weight in the US,) but on the growth of the consumer society (average American is 15k in debt,) corporate corruption (Enron, WorldCom,) and crime
(The US holds the largest prison population in the world in both absolute and proportional terms.) Now who is out of control?

In short, the Islamic culture views sex as necessary for the human species to survive and also to its psychological health. That’s why God has given Muslims the concept
of marriage :-) The "so backward" society in Jordan follows a religion that gives them a manual to life, to help create a healthy society based on a healthy individual.

On December, 11, 2005 8:57 PM , hassan said:

And if you are educated enough, you will realize that historians credit the Islamic empire in the 12th century for bringing Europe out of the dark ages.
That’s when Europeans were roaming their muddy streets in their own vomit filled with disease while Cordoba in Spain under Islamic rule was the envy of the world.
And it’s not a coincidence that Europe went through reformation and entered the enlightenment era right after the crusades, it’s because they saw how free societies vote and live. But today’s Middle East is not like it used to thanks to the western powers placing dictators in power, Sadam to name one.
It just seems to me that the "GREAT western civilizations" still have a lot to learn from the Orient!

On December, 16, 2005 2:41 AM , Annonygirl said:

Please, the only good thing about Jordan is that it is a pure country where people take care of each other. and treat each other as siblings. that's the only good thing about jordan. THE ONLY. so why do you want to delete it? Custom, Tradition, that's ALL we have! its the only way we supercede the west.. otherwise we are light years behind. All women ask in Jordan is the ability to wear miniskirts and not be stared at walking down the street.. that's the only freedom they lack. they dont really want to have sex with any of you. But Laith, i admired your article. Good going bro!

On December, 16, 2005 4:26 AM , Adam said:

The newspapers should print the locations of these places, so that the government acts very fast in cracking down on them.

On December, 18, 2005 2:47 AM , Natalia said:

The public debate over prostitution in Jordan is simplistic.

People outraged by the "decay of the moral fibre of society" are missing the point.

Prositution in Jordan is linked to the class system and trafficking; to the exploitation and dehumanization of the female gender. A lot of Jordanian prostiutes are either poor girls sold by their families, or trafficked Eastern European sex-slaves. Often these girls are beaten within an inch of their lives by their "owners." They don't get adequate medical care, and they are not well fed. They don't have any rights, and are pariahs both to their so-called employers and to the larger Jordanian society.

Where is the outrage over that? All I've seen is self-righteous condemnation of "pre-marital sex" and talks about the "importance of the family"; "whores" are bad and "marriage" is good. Right.

Closing down a bunch of massage parlors will not make this problem go away. Prostitution is a multi-dimensional issue. There are a few escorts out there who do this by choice, who are their own boss, and who enjoy what they do. Mostly they come from Western countries and solid economic backgrounds. The rest are coerced into this in some way or another.

When the Jordanian religious establishment starts caring about the status of women in the sex industry, that's when I'll trust its movements against prostitution. At this point, banning ads and closing massage parlors will only drive the problem more underground, where privileged Jordanian men and tourists will continue to have access to underprivileged Jordainian/Eastern European women, and where more human rights' abuse will go unheeded or ignored by upper and middle class Jordainians.

It's not about whether or not prostitution is "right." It's whether or not Jordainian intellectuals, and politicians will be able to come out against tr

On December, 18, 2005 4:44 AM , kbt said:

First off, I don't acknowledge civilization. It is essentially a false socio-political construct that arose with capitalism. The term only existed before capitalism in a historical context. Furthermore, I didn't say anything about thinking the west being all high and mighty. I don't know how you inferred that but I think you're missing the bloody point. Furthemore, I was much amused by your reference to Islamic civilization in southern spain. That was 9 centuries ago. Over 900 hundred long years. Ever since then it's been constant grinding decline. It's interesting that you mention it in this context because the social conservatism prevalent in modern day Islamic societies would have been for the most part completely unheard of in andalucian society. Well maybe up until the break up of the Ummayyad dynasty in the late 10th century where the numerous city states had different social standards, cordoba being one of the relatively freer societies. Indeed the veil was in limited use, alchohol was consumed en masse, lots of pre-martial sex I'd think. I read interesting accounts of early abortions apparently moslem doctors perfected the technique for members of the aristocracy who engaged in baccanal like activies, something else perhaps the Europeans took from us.

Why do Arabs always have to go back 900 years to find something to be proud of. See I can't see an Italian, when confronted with Italy's slow economic growth rates in 2004/5 going "yes but we had the great Roman Empire 1500 years ago)
It's just ludicrous.
I have to make this clear, I'm not saying that we should mimic the west, but perhaps in somethings they've got it right. Then again, we should socially evolve out of our own accord, by first chucking out all these awful spine cirngeing cliches

On December, 18, 2005 4:45 AM , kbt said:

You are just victims of identity politics and culture wars. Look the west in general in the states in particular have lots of problems, and I don't think I could ever really live in the states for that long, all this consumerism gets me done, I'd think I'd much rather live in Europe,
Moral degredation? What the hell does that mean anyway, by your own logic your beloved prophet was seen a force of moral degredation in pre-Islamic Mecca wasn't he? All this talk about morality, its all relative isn't? There is absolutely nothing universal about gender morality, perhaps there are other things that can be considered morally universal but issues concerning gender have a lot more to do with active oppression of women than being a force of good.
Why is it that religions really ban pre-pramital sex, its really all about inheritance and blood lines isn't it, well at least if you look to the core if it. Islam as you said is like a manual, the pragmatic element in banning pre-marital sex was so that inheritance would not be a big issue within an Islamic system.

I don't know where you got your statistics from but Divorces in Jordan are on the rise, they're not as large as the United States' 47% but they're still relatively high and they'd probably be higher if it werent for social taboos where divorce is seen as being a negative thing. What about all those women in absuive relationships? Perhaps we should take away the NEWLY given right women have to initiate divorce proceedings in Jordan so that we can keep that divorce rate low.

On December, 18, 2005 4:45 AM , kbt said:

STDs are low? not according to the WHO where it is estimated that .8% of the arab population (population of member states in the Arab league) are currently living with aids.that is comparable to the Us which has about 1.2%.The rate of growth of STD infection has risen dramatically .True it was really low in the early 90s but all that is changed
you know why,,, because people have sex, it's a fact of life it happens, and I wasn't contradicting myself, I want to advocate sexual awareness, why isn't sex education taught in schools. The level of ignorance out there oustands me and if we keep up this rhetoric that you espouse so dearly then its not going to help., If we are just going to say "Oh we are a conservative society, we're so great we don't have pre-marital sex we don't have divorce etc,,"
What a load of crap, we're just kidding oruselves into believing that conservative morality is the way to go. By not teaching sex education in school we're just perpetuating all that ignorance out there.

I don't know what you mean that people take "care" of each other in Jordan. Our crime rate is currently soaring, the extended family is almost gone, so I don't know what you're on about, in fact im not going to even dignify that sort of generalization with a response.

Healthy manual for living, please don't make me laugh. Islam is a proponent of public execuation, corporal punishment (also public) and polygamy.
Don't tell me polygamy is by any means psychologically healthy.

The US does not suffer from the highest STD rates in the world, it is in fact the deeply conservative societies of sub saharran Africa that have that problem

On December, 18, 2005 4:46 AM , kbt said:

Look I'm not trying to say that the west is great and we are barbarians,,,,
Societal problems are everywhere, but using some antiquated notions of morality are not going to solve the problem.
The only thing our customs and traidtions are doing is holding us back from developing.
so in short
we really need to evolve beyond this ideas of honour, tribes, female oppression,

On March, 12, 2006 7:03 AM , Jordan Express Man
from Germany said:

I believe that you the one againts this lovely profession is the one that needs your brain examined and admit that you are among those who visit such places abroad, but now you are self-centered denial living piece of character - Why not, be like Cyprus bring foreigners, women to kill the thirst of all you Jordanians and x-pats, impose a tax because you need it and lets keep politics and the normal jordanian and everyone else happy, let's have democracy at all levels, I am a true Jordanian and would love to see ads in the paper and make a call and have delivery done, just like pizza as long as it is my choice, is clean and safe, so all of you old and liars, wake up and let's smell the brew coffee that is awaiting in our country - and let the life begin! thanks

On August, 05, 2006 3:01 AM , Abzah
from Jordan said:

I'm really happy to see someone writing a blog within regards to all this prostitution happening in amman. I am currently visiting amman and needless to say I am disgusted with the life style here. People barely have a bite to eat and these places are being authorized to work regardless of the damage it causes this society. I don't think i have the right words to even discribe this so i will leave it with a kudos to you on a very needed topic.

Cheers mate

On October, 06, 2006 12:58 AM , jamila
from Jordan said:

Thank you all for discussing the problem. We all know that in the West this ‘profession’ is everywhere. Yet, it is something that strikes in places like Jordan especially because the problem is not acknowledged.

Anyway prostitution in Jordan, like elsewhere, is not only female. And not only in Amman.

We usually associate women with prostitution. We all talk about female sex workers, forced into prostitution.

What is especially sad, and not acknowledged at all, is that Jordan is another destination like the Carribean, Morocco, Asia, Southern Europe and Africa for foreign, mature, rich females looking for easy relations with Jordanian men, gigolos.

If you go to Aqaba, you will see many Jordanian men, usually working in the tourist industry going to private flats and hotels at night with single women from their thirties on usually from Europe (Belgium, Germany, Spain etc.). If go to Aqaba quite often, you will see the same women returning regularly to visit their gigolos, many married with kids. Mature women spending on flights and expensive ‘gifts’ like cars, flats, clothes etc. for their local lovers keep coming back every year, pretending they love the place and the people. And, mind you, I am not criticizing men just because I see them with a foreigner.

It’s rather disgusting to see these women escorted by usually younger locals with nobody saying anything, maybe because we cannot say anything to foreign women or because men are allowed to do whatever they want, with a wife waiting at home.

These female foreigners enjoy sex, excitement and flattery in the anonymity of an exotic country where nobody knows them, or better, where locals see, recognize, even welcome them cordially but shut up, maybe hoping that they can do the same thing one day. The women figure as clients of some sort, business partners or even old friends but the business is actually sex even if some of them often

On October, 06, 2006 12:59 AM , jamila
from Jordan said:

Male prostitution is somehow allowed and not condemned, we just give male ‘playthings’ a pat on the shoulder! Men don’t figure as prostitutes, but just as men successful with women. We are afraid to call them by their real name.

Actually all this is not harmless fun, it’s not love nor romance, nor help and not even beneficial sexual-economic transactions. It’s exploitation of people, it’s power relations perpetuating cultural stereotypes (would these women do in their countries what they feel allowed to do here? Would these men behave in the same way with local women?), widening the gap between tourists and locals, rich and poor, and destroying families and dignity for the sake of cheap pleasure and dirty money.

And of course there is the problem of Aids and other diseases. How can we stop infections if husbands have sex with foreigners and we don’t know about it because others, especially men, hide what happens?

If any society wants to protect values like family, dignity, respectability, honour and even health it has to start looking down on the members of society that engage in prostitution, be it male or female, local or foreign. It has to call prostitution by its name and apply the same standards to male and female sex workers. It must have the courage to say what it is in front of everyone, and not pretend that those lonely female tourists are nice customers and that those local gigolos are successful playboys. Do we have the courage to be not hypocrites?

On October, 06, 2006 1:04 AM , jamila
from Jordan said:

Sorry, there is one more paragraph that I erased by mistake at the end of my first posting:

The women figure as clients of some sort, business partners or even old friends but the business is actually sex even if some of them often call it love.I am not saying that some of these women do not actually fall in love and do not believe that they are ‘the only one’. Many of them typically deny what they do deluding themselves about the fact that they are just helping a friend in need with favours and gifts. Gigolos, on their part, enjoy giving foreigners fun, receiving favours and gifts usually from a number of different women. Besides, it is all done privately, in a personal way, with ‘presents’ and not with transactions that are typical of men approaching females and asking them for prices.

On February, 16, 2008 3:56 PM , Rami
from Libyan Arab Jamahiriya said:

Dear Laith,
I guess your conscientious attack on prostitution in Amman is like flogging a dead horse. Nothing's gonna change, and I foresee a total demise of censorship in Jordan in the coming few years. Also, Jordan being modern, much more modern and forward-looking than many other nations in the reqion, makes it inescapable to bow to the inevitable - the price, sometimes the heavy price, of modernisation. Prostitution is a matter of personal choice. Just leave people alone! Also, is it true that brothels where more than one girl works are illegal in London? Here on Euston Road alone I know a couple of brothels frequented in broad daylight by all types of customers. All that a customer needs to prove is that he's not under age.

On February, 16, 2008 4:04 PM , Rami
from Libyan Arab Jamahiriya said:

Too much restriction on sex is the progenitor of sexual problems and proliferation of prostitution. Through personal experience, I've found out that in London for example there are not as many rape cases as in the ultra-conservative country where I'm now working. In a nutshell, the more of a taboo the question of sexuality is, the more desirable illicit sex is. Just leave people alone and extricate them from the unbearable shackles of taboo, and they'll start behaving naturally and thinking sensibly.

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