After a long and tiring day, I do like to unwind to less arduous activities; today, I took a rare opportunity to log in to my Facebook profile and catch up on the latest feed. Admittedly, I find Facebook to be too candid and prefer other intimate means of communication. Namely because I am that person on your friends list who is tired of seeing perfect glistening vacations taken at a time where the fifth Northern Line tube has passed and I am still stood next to the 'rude boy' who thinks no one can hear him listening to One Direction. Or gloating parents posting pictures of their toddler partaking in every possible activity and tagging the pictures with everyone from their family to their postman. So in a spur of the moment, and perhaps fearing the flurry of Ralph Wiggum's infamous 'I Choo-Choo-Choose you' picture on Valentine's Day; I altered my news feed to include less frivolity. And as Facebook works in algorithms, I expected to receive more posts which (supposedly) interest me.
This is where I found Vice's latest post captioning their documentary concerning prostitution in Bangladesh. Whilst I enjoy Vice's 'on-the-ground' style of citizen journalism and their insightful footage for ISIS and North Korea. I do take issue with the caption as it succumbs to deliberate fear-mongering tactics employed to generate deliberate resentment against what is currently a popular pastime of the right-wing media:
"Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim nations where prostitution is legal. We visit the country's largest brothel where human trafficking, underage prostitution, and drugs are commonplace."
To the passing eye, it can seem an innocuous truth. Though after deliberating for a while before un-liking 'The Independent' for its purposefully controversial headlines to generate non-stories such as, 'Facebook is now tracking you everywhere on the internet' (ironically posted on Facebook...) I was disheartened to find that Vice was channelling the same technique. It seems with the rise of ISIS (whose actions are wholly politically motivated), or the reoccurring debate of how we should ethically kill defenceless animals for human consumption with the Yorkshire "halal" slaughterhouse footage (pretty sure factory farming is just as cruel) Islam bashing attracts the headlines and evidently, a flurry of Islamophobic keyboard warriors.
Taking the first statement - is Bangladesh a Muslim nation? What did Vice mean by this - Is Bangladesh predominantly a Muslim majority country or is it governed under "Shariah law" (another favourite buzzword for controversy, even though religion should never be used as a legislator to govern a country). If it is the latter, then perhaps someone forgot to mention that under the Constitution of Bangladesh in 1972, secularism is one of the four fundamental principles of the country. Although the constitution does establish Islam as the state religion, it does allow for religious freedom; meaning "Shariah law" is not to be seen as a governing authority for civil or criminal cases in Bangladesh. Rather, after seceding from Pakistan in 1971, and British legislation applying there, the Bangladesh legal system is part based on English common law. However, keeping in line with the founding principle of secularism, marital disputes are settled according to the religious affiliation of the person in question. This means, the large majority of marital cases will dealt with under Islamic principles (as Bangladesh makes up 90.4% of the population.) Similarly, for the remaining 9.6% there are alternative courts to settle a martial case.
Concerning prostitution, keyboard warrior number 1 is adamant that only 'Islamic' countries have a high rate of prostitution. Despite said captions found on Vice having an East and West narrative, similar observations on the rate of prostitution can be made closer to home. A UN report identifies the USA as having no less than 300,000 child prostitutes, with social chaos rather than poverty being a causing factor. Further, the US Justice Department for Exploitation of children states that if a pimp has 4-6 girls within his occupancy, he can generate $150 - $200,000 each year, with child exploitation taking place in 137 nations. Contrary to popular belief, in the UK, soliciting or running brothels are illegal, but selling sex as an individual is not. 31 European countries haven't made prostitution illegal, which reiterates it to be a global problem, free from association of colour, creed or nationality, rather than the actions of the 'insidious Muslims in the far East'.
The world is full of polar opposites, good and evil, yin-yang, free thought or just plain bigotry and ignorance. Just as much as sex sells, so does controversy. No doubt it is easy to engage with a wider audience if you provoke a controversial message. In the new millennial, this can be achieved fairly easily by having even the slightest orientalist theme (Katy Perry did it.) Just maybe, if Vice could engage less with deliberate provocative one-liners and focus on what they do best; engaging with stories and people who are airbrushed out of society, then we can focus more on the story itself to challenge authority and push for change.