Known to many as ‘bhais’ or ‘brothers’, young boys near the general bus terminal in Pirwadhai are there for a reason. Though the police do notice their presence, which the locals suggest is an ominous sign of bustling sex trade in the area, they don’t seem to care much about them.
“They are seen as street children during daytime. They survive on rancid leftovers often scooped out of garbage cans and at night they moonlight as commercial sex workers serving paedophiles,” said Hamid Nawaz, an elderly resident of the area.
“There are no specific figures but surely their number have gone up steadily compared to 1999, when the military police patrolled the area,” he added.
One can find many ‘hotels’ and rooms of houses in secluded areas which are specifically rented out to these ‘brothers’.
“Right after the evening prayers you can see individuals standing inside the bus terminal and its surrounding streets, gesturing to catch the attention of any passersby and asking for kamra bistar (room or bed) in a low tone,” says Saleem, a newspaper agent.
“If you ask what other kinds of services they provide, they answer unabashedly – beautiful boys,” he added.
According to a flying coach company assistant, there are similar places in front of traffic chowki (check post) as well, where these brothers roam about in streets from 7pm until they wish to retire for bed.
On the main road from Mandi Chowk to Pirwadhai Bus Terminal, clients go around to select around the ‘menu’. These areas are hot spots where these youngsters operate. Their fee used to be Rs100 but has now soared to Rs200.
While narrating his ordeal to The Express Tribune, Shan*, an abuse victim, said, “I still remember a good man leaning his weight upon my back, breathing in my ear and wrapping his arm in affection near my neck. But I never knew he didn’t mean well.”
He added, “His arm was too tight across my throat. His raspy breath was jarringly familiar. I still feel a cold splash of memory returning.”
Aadil*, another victim, remembers exactly how he entered into this profession. He said he was playing with his teacher, who offered to take his photographs and began to fondle him. Upon protest, the teacher said he loved him and that was how people showed love to each other. The teacher continued to abuse him for three years.
Waseem Khan*, once a child prostitute himself, who now abuses these children, said he is returning what he received from the society. “I have pent-up tensions inside me and now I have no control over myself,” he said.
Giving what they have received from the society seems to be the cycle the brothers get involved in a very young age. Shahida Latif, who is among the very few counsellors dealing with male victims of child abuse, said the common perception is that boys are less likely to suffer from damage compared to girls. “However, there is a need to provide rehabilitative services to them which have not been considered as important so far,” she said.
“The situation is becoming precarious. Some of the boys initially engage in menial jobs such as dish washing at the hotels but when they find out their income cannot meet their expenses, they go into prostitution,” said Zaman Khan, a transport company manager.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the police are involved. But the cases of children’s exploitation put an intense spotlight on the way they monitor and respond to reports of abuse,” he added.
Adeeb Faraz, who owns a bookshop in the neighbourhood, said he brought up the issue with a police official once and much to his surprise, the official simply refused to acknowledge their existance.
According to Laiba Siddique, a child psychologist, fear, panic attacks, sleeping problems, nightmares, irritability, outbursts of anger and sudden reaction upon being touched are natural traits among abuse victims.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.
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