Prostitution in Bahrain is illegal[1][2] but it has gained a reputation in the Middle East as major destination for sex tourism.[3][4]

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reported in 2007 that there were more than 13,500 prostitutes in the country and that the number was rising.[5]

Sex trafficking is a problem in the country.[6]


Prostitution is common, especially in Manama.[4][7] Most of the prostitution occurs in bars and hotels, but some prostitutes, mainly Russian, attract customers in the malls.[8] There is also some street prostitution.[9] Most of the prostitutes are foreign: Russian, Thai, Filipino, Ethiopian, Bangladeshi, and Chinese.[7][8] Each hotel or bar tends to have one nationality of prostitutes.[7] In some hotels the women will knock on guests doors late at night looking for customers.[7][8] Hotels and bars tolerate the prostitutes as it brings in male customers and increases alcohol sales.[7]

Many of the customers are Saudis who drive to Bahrain where the laws are far less strict than in their homeland, especially where sex and alcohol are concerned.[7][10][11]

Sin city

In 2009, Manama was placed at number 8 in the top 10 "sin cities" of the world by AskMen magazine.[5][11] This prompted a clampdown during which 300 prostitutes and pimps were arrested within the first week,[12] and the Al Asalah parliamentary bloc proposing that the country should stop issuing visas to Russian, Thai, Ethiopian, and Chinese women to stop prostitutes from entering the country. The proposal was not adopted.[13]

Legal situation

Prostitution and related activities are prohibited by the Bahrain Criminal Code:[14]

Chapter 3 - Immorality & Prostitution

1. Totally or partly living on the proceeds of that person's own immorality or prostitution (max 5 years)
2. Totally or partly living on the proceeds of another person's own immorality or prostitution (max 5 years)
3. Protecting another person engaged in immorality or prostitution (max 5 years)
1. Soliciting in a public place for immorality or prostitution (max 2 years)
2. Any notices containing an invitation or implying temptation are considered soliciting

The Ministry of Interior Criminal Investigation Directorate and the Capital Governante's Municipal Council raid flats or hotels if there are complaints of "unlawful activities" by neighbours.[4]

The courts may issue deportation orders against foreign prostitutes on conviction or if it is in the "public interest".[4] In 2016 MP Jamal Dawood proposed that non-Bahrainis caught in cases involved in cases of prostitution should be deported immediately and banned from the country for life. The proposal was rejected as it would be contradictory to human rights.[15]

Bahrain's Aliens Act allows immigration officials to deny entry to people convicted of crimes elsewhere, including prostitution. They can also be denied entry for unspecified "health reasons".[4]


Prostitution has been practised in Bahrain for many years.[9]

After WW1, many foreign workers, especially from Persia, Iraq and India, came to the country fuelling demand for prostitution. There were two areas designated for brothels, one in Gulba, west Manama and the other in Muharraq. Both male and female prostitutes worked in the brothels. In 1937 it was decreed prostitutes could only live and work in these areas, any operating outside these areas were to be deported. Most of the female prostitutes were from Persia, Iraq and Oman, and were known as "girls or daughters of love" The Persians charged the highest prices. The male prostitutes were mainly Omani boys. The two areas declined in the 1970s with the building of hotels and prostitution spreading to the hotels.[9]

After independence from Britain in 1971, British citizens could enter the country for 3 months without a visa. Some British prostitutes came to work on the islands for short periods. Some of them alternated their time between Bahrain and the UAE. The visa waiver was later scrapped in 1996.[9]

After the Saudi causeway was opened in 1986, many Saudis came to the country because of its more relaxed attitude to sex and alcohol. The Saudi visitors who wanted to "party", greatly increased the demand for prostitution.[9]

Prostitutes of different nationalities have come to the country at different times. In the 1980s & 1990s it was mainly Filipinos and Sri Lankans. Following the collapse of communism, Russian prostitutes came to the country, and 1996 saw the arrival of Bosnians.[9]

Sex trafficking

See also: Human trafficking in Bahrain

Bahrain is a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking, primarily from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Thailand, Syria, and Kenya.[6]

In 2015, the government convicted 17 sex traffickers and imposed 10-year prison terms plus fines and deportation. At the close of the reporting period, five trafficking cases, and four from the previous year, remained ongoing. Officials reported three government employees were allegedly complicit in potential trafficking crimes. Two of these cases remained under investigation and one was in the trial phase at the conclusion of the reporting period. The media reported the arrest of two police officers—one former and one current—for their role in the sex trafficking of foreign women; however, it was unclear if the government and media were reporting the same two cases.[6]

Two Russian women were deported from Bahrain to Russia in 2016 for their involvement in a sex trafficking ring. They lured women from the Urals to Bahrain between 2011 and 2016 with promises of work. Once there they were forced into prostitution. One of the women was given a six-year jail term for trafficking 23 women to Bahrain for prostitution, by the Russian courts in June 2017.[16]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Bahrain as a 'Tier 1' country.[17]


  1. ^ "The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country". ChartsBin. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Overview of Trafficking and Prostitution Laws in the Middle East and Africa". Thomson Reuters Foundation. November 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. ^ Trofimov, Yaroslav (9 June 2009). "Upon Sober Reflection, Bahrain Reconsiders the Wages of Sin". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ditmore, Melissa Hope (1 January 2006). Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work: A-N. Vol. 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313329685. Retrieved 21 March 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Shaw, Susan M.; Barbour, Nancy Staton; Duncan, Patti; Freehling-Burton, Kryn; Nichols, Jane (December 2017). Women's Lives around the World: A Global Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 26. ISBN 978-1610697118.
  6. ^ a b c "Bahrain 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Browne, Malachy (2 September 2010). "Bahrain Diary: 'Too much Honky Ponky'". Politico. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Bahrain Nightlife: Manama Bars And Girls - Asia Nightlife Guides". Nighthawk Journeys. 3 March 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Francoeur, Robert T.; Noonan, Raymond J.; Reiss, Ira L.; Perper, Timothy; Opiyo-Omolo, Beldina (2006). The Continuum complete international encyclopedia of sexuality (Updated, with more countries. ed.). New York, NY: Continuum. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0826414885.
  10. ^ "'Sex tourists' alert for Bahrain". Trade Arabia. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  11. ^ a b Voyer, Marc. "You've Won The Lottery. You're Single. Where Are You Headed?". AskMen. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Bahrain makes the list of Top 10 "Sin Cities"". Al Arabiya News. 4 April 2009. Archived from the original on 14 December 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  13. ^ Sandels, Alexandra (15 December 2009). "BAHRAIN: Islamists seeking to curb prostitution fail in bid to ban women from 4 countries". LA Times. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Bahrain Criminal Code" (PDF). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  15. ^ Mansour, Muhannad (1 June 2016). "Several foreigners in prostitution: Bahrain MP". News Of Bahrain. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Bahrain deports Russian 'sex traffickers'". BBC News. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Bahrain 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 29 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.