Prostitution in the land of the pure

From 'bachabazi' in the NWFP, to university grads, to street children, prostitution is an open secret.

Aneka Chohan November 19, 2011
Whenever I hear the word ‘prostitute’  the first image that comes to mind is an inappropriately dressed woman standing in filthy streets waiting for a client. The discussion on the issue how cruel the profession is to women – their empty, hungry stomachs forcing them to sell their bodies in order to buy bread for the family. But let’s think for a moment; what about all the men, the children, and the teenagers that engage in such acts?

In Pakistan, the topic of prostitution is taboo - one that is hardly ever discussed. It is difficult to describe or understand the scale of this corrupt profession.

The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has said that hardly anyone has ever tried to challenge the problem of male prostitution thanks to the ‘strong social taboo’ it carries with it. This logically translates to the fact that the health department does not even have any data or records related to male prostitution, so they cannot tell us the exact statistics.

However, according to the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development, in 2001, it is thought that as many as 15,000 to 20,000 children were affected by commercial sexual exploitation. ‘Free floating’ prostitution resembles ‘the pick and choose scheme’ and is widespread in many major cities where under-aged children including hijras (transgenders) can be picked right off the street.

A child prostitute of 14 years can be easily bought with the meagre sum of three to five thousand rupees. Male child prostitutes – ranging from ages 15-25 – are thought to be cheaper than their female counterparts. Unlike females, male prostitutes are reluctant to reveal specific problems and details about their work because of social taboos.

Surveys show that children as young as eight-years-old work as male prostitutes. Since they have limited skills to rely on in order to support themselves, prostitution becomes the most practical and lucrative form of employment. According to data collected, children allege that police and army soldiers make up  a ‘significant portion of their clientèle’.

The sad thing is that even though many of these young boys are free to leave the profession whenever they want to, financial difficulties and lack of choices force them to continue. They, thus, grow up to be pimps themselves. A child prostitute is believed to earn up to Rs12,000 per month which is more than most jobs pay children.

Similar to prostitution is the practice of ‘bachabazi’ which exists in Pakistan mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is thought to refer to older men keeping young boys as their sexual partners with the former becoming responsible for the education, clothing and general care of the latter in return for ‘sexual favours.'

Through a study, the National Coalition of Child Rights and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) discovered that a third of the men living in KP were proud to be pedophiles. Another 11% thought there was nothing wrong with this practice.

The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) interviewed 233 children in the country’s four provinces and found out that a shocking amount of 159 revealed that they had engaged in commercial sex. Out of the 159, 98 were boys who found business in public places such as hotels, restaurants, video shops, cinema halls and parks.

According to surveys, 95% of the teenage prostitutes in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore were sexually abused by their close relatives, friends and teachers before entering the business of prostitution. Contrary to common judgement of prostitutes normally being uneducated and poor, research has shown that 74% of them were university graduates.

Although one tends to associate prostitution only to women, men, teenagers and children are equal victims, suffering the cruel injustice of being sexually abused. Young children are pushed into this profession simply because they do not have enough money or the skills that come from a good education. Moreover, young, naïve people fall victim to the cruel and ruthless pimps who entrap them with promises of money and transform them into the very same monsters they are.

Prostitution, whether it is legal or not in various countries, is a form of discrimination against humanity. It is degrading, it spreads diseases, and encourages lazy labour. We must put a stop to it.
WRITTEN BY:
Aneka Chohan The author is a freelance journalist and human rights activist. She tweets as @anekachohan (https://twitter.com/anekachohan)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (128)

Katarina | 9 years ago | Reply I think you have to make a difference between sexual abuse of children and then prostitution. Sexual abuse of children should always be a serious crime. Then regarding prostitition, in the Nordic countries it is kind of legal but trafficking, pimping etc is a crime. It is not an easy issue, if it is criminal the sex workers has to do it behind the scenes and that is risky for them. That it is of course clear that prostitution exist anywhere.
Khaqan J. | 9 years ago | Reply Not bad. No offense to anyone here or the author but, prostitution is not a disease instead a part of society since forever. I'm not going to quote dates or anything from Wikipedia. Legalize the trade? Hahaha. Who will do that? & how does one plan on eradicating the menace or disease as most people have stated? From the laborer to the President, everyone is involved the hiring pleasure for the day, night, week, month. If some of you had no idea; the local police or other agencies are NOT allowed to even so much as to 'pick up' a pimp or one of his/her workers. The educated class being a part of this? Has been so since a long time. Not until someone musters up the courage to bring a problem of our society to the public, does anyone agree with the person. How odd a society we are. I used to run a private charity once & we took it upon us to curb this problem... I don't run the charity anymore... Hope that answers any questions which might arise along the lines of curbing the problem. Maybe it were my contacts which prevented me from being 6' under or God's will. Not that people wouldn't have wanted it the other way around. Good work as a writer, most commendable, of that there is no doubt. Figures are much higher & this can not be stopped. One out of 3 men & women are a part of this business.
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