At a residential building in DHA’s Khadda market, a small sign hangs over its narrow steps. ‘A family resides upstairs. No one is allowed to come up’, it says.
The message is meant for visitors to the beauty salon below to make sure they don’t wander upstairs. This is how several residents of the commercial areas are trying to protect themselves and their children from small-scale massage centres that have mushroomed over the years. Neighbours believe these parlours are providing services beyond massages and fear prostitution in the vicinity is in full swing.
After one such massage centre opened in Badar commercial sometime ago, residents pressurised the authorities to close it down. “Every day, rickshaws filled with girls would come to the building,” a neighbour recalled. “Their clients, who were other rickshaw drivers, would go inside for hours and park their vehicles all around.” Things went out of hand one day when some drunken men came out of the centre and fired shots in the air. “We knew we had to take action then.”
Even the shopkeepers in the vicinity are perturbed. “The places where such centres are located are called ‘badnaam’ areas so people are unwilling to come and shop,” said the owner of a boutique located a few steps away from one such massage parlour on Zamzama. “That is why we don’t have much business here.” When the number of complaints grew, a former vigilance director of DHA said they carried out an operation against 10 parlours that were involved in prostitution. “Last December, the police and the vigilance committee carried out a joint operation in Badar and Tauheed commercial areas, and parts of Phase II, where we caught people red-handed.” The director admitted that it was difficult for them to access some salons as they were being patronised by powerful men. “Those running the centres had links with the police or some other influential men.”
Tucked away on mezzanine floors or in buildings away from the main roads, the massage centres are offering both male and female masseurs. “Which one would you like to have?” a worker at one such facility opposite Le Grand café on Zamzama asked.
The massage in such centres costs from Rs2,500 going up to Rs3,000 per visit. “We offer big rooms with no disturbance,” the girl winked as two male customers walked in for a body massage. Other shady salons are heavily guarded by men who do not let anyone walk in, and require a reference.
Police officers believe that parlours offering sexual services in DHA are leading to an increase in crime in the neighbourhood. “Those coming in for services belong to impoverished areas,” said a senior officer of the Clifton division. “Most of them are criminals and are involved in mugging, robberies and monitoring their targets to demand extortion.” Even though they are aware of their presence, the police insist they are helpless. “We cannot conduct more raids because of pressure by our seniors.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.