Why would prostitution be ‘halal’ for foreigners?


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It’s unsurprising that a local actor’s suggestion to set up brothels for foreigners as a step to curb rape in Malaysia has shocked religious figures and social media users.

He reportedly made the suggestion as he felt providing prostitutes would help solve a “problem” for male foreigners who had left their wives behind. He has since apologised for making the remark.

It appears he was referring to foreigners working and living here long term.

For one, his proposal violates civil and Sharia laws and goes against Islamic and many other religions’ teachings. Prostitution is indeed illegal in Malaysia.

That is why his suggestion befuddled concerned folk in Malaysia who assumed the actor knew prostitution is not kosher – unless, of course, one is judgemental of the foreign workers, whom many Malaysians look down on. Or, the rationale, if any, behind this suggestion could be to maintain the foreigners in whatever way possible for as long as their invaluable services are needed.

This patronising attitude stems from xenophobia and prejudice against foreign workers, especially when they are often associated with the kinds of work many locals generally despise – dangerous, dirty and difficult.

Such a negative attitude is harboured by many locals – including civil servants.

Foreign workers are generally regarded as people to be wary of. For instance, they have dedicated hostels, resulting in them being isolated from local communities.

They are viewed by many locals as not having a shared humanity, nor are their human dignity and rights generally respected.

But ordinary locals are happy their gated communities are kept safe by foreign guards, their luxury condominiums built on the backs of foreign workers, and their bridges erected by foreigners, some of whom die under dire working conditions.

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As regards rape, it is not the “natural inclination” of foreign workers. Locals are equally capable of it. It is offensive to cast aspersions on foreign workers and to assume their galloping hormones are beyond control, especially when their spouses are not around.

Besides, rape is often misconstrued as solely an act of fulfilling one’s lust. It may also involve the male urge to dominate women and to derive pleasure from inflicting violence on women. Misogyny is also a factor in men’s sexual crimes against women.

Of course, there are bad hats among foreigners, just as we have crooks and money-laundering local types in our midst. But we don’t tar all locals with the same brush as we tend to do with foreign workers.

Many foreign workers are here to earn an honest living, notwithstanding the various obstacles they might face daily.

Let not our perspective of these foreigners be a sad reflection of our own questionable dignity. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Mustafa K Anuar
Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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