Eradicating Sex Trafficking

Does Islam promote sex trafficking? 

Islam prohibits sex trafficking as a reprehensible act that violates an individual’s rights. The Qur’an and hadith have placed great value in marital relationships and strictly forbids exploitation of women and girls for sexual gratification. The Prophet was a proponent of freeing slaves and concubines who were previously granted no rights or protections. As such, both the Qur’an and the Prophet have condemned oppression of any person, including manifestations of this oppression in human trafficking.

Quranic Support
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. ” (4:135)

“[B]ut righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing” (2:177)

“If any of you does not have the means to marry believing women, then marry a believer from those whom your right hands held in trust. God knows all about your faith; each one of you is part of the same human family. Marry them with their guardian’s consent and give them their rightful bridal-gifts. Make them married women, not adulterous fornicators or lovers” (4:25) 

Unequal access to education, war, dire poverty, limited opportunities, and other similar cases increase women and girls’ vulnerability to being trafficked. For instance, many women who fled Iraq to Syria during the US invasion in 2003 have been forced into prostitution. Furthermore, many women often emigrate to other countries for greater economic opportunities, but are forced into sex work. To exacerbate the issue, countries such as Saudi Arabia not only lack adequate anti-trafficking laws but also do not provide victims with much needed support. Most women who are victims of sex trafficking and exploitation will not report these horrendous crimes for fear of social stigma.

Though Boko Haram and Daesh distort the Qur’an to enslave women as concubines, the Qur’an actually forbids sexual assault. The Qur’an speaks strongly against taking female prisoners as concubines, as exemplified in Verse 4:25. Both the Qur’an and the Prophet attest that women deserve equal protection from harm as men, and that the practice of sex trafficking is strictly forbidden. Taking this charge, many Muslim-led organizations such as Captive Daughters and Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies have tried to both combat sex trafficking and correct misunderstandings about Islam.

WISE Position

According to Islam, all forms of oppression are strictly forbidden, including slavery and human trafficking. Women and girls have the right to their bodies and they should not be exploited for profit. Moreover, they should be provided with proper legal protections against human trafficking.

WISE Women Active on the Issue

Gulnara Karakulova, Farrah Qazi, Lena Alhusseini, Noor Tagouri

WISE is authentic to the Islamic tradition.

Past approaches to empowering Muslim women typically employ a distinctly Western framework for understanding the problem, relying exclusively on measurements of economic status, educational level, health care or political participation. WISE approaches change from a holistic perspective that addresses the many interrelated factors that contribute to gender-based inequality and disempowerment.