ISLAMABAD: Every month the police raid brothels, arrest sex workers and file cases against them. If found guilty, the punishment for prostitution is death.
In the majority of cases police say that they are tipped of by residents of the area and claim to catch the accused ‘red handed’. Why is it then, that every next month, there is a new brothel to raid, more sex workers to arrest and more cases to be filed? Why does the brothel culture continue to persist? SDPO Shalimar, DSP Malik Naeem Iqbal defines the acts which warrant police arrest, “Immoral activities include wine storage and drinking, gambling, running massage parlours and prostitution.”
The Shalimar and Margalla Police, located in the centre of the city, have conducted the highest number of operations against brothels. Officials of these police stations say that most of the people arrested and accused are released by the courts because there is a ‘lack of evidence’. When asked why the police failed to provide concrete evidence against the accused in court despite claiming to catch them ‘red handed’, Iqbal said that prosecution was the court’s job. A Criminal Lawyer, Sarfraz Bosal, while talking to The Express Tribune said there were multiple reasons for the ‘lack of evidence.’ “In the first place, offences like prostitution are always difficult to prove.
In cases like drinking, and gambling, it is massive police corruption which not only results in the lack of evidence, but also leads to false trials of innocent people,” he said. “Many gambling dens and alleged brothel houses are run under the supervision of police but they are raided when they refuse to pay monthly extortion to police,” he accused, claiming that, “In other cases, police falsely accuse innocent people to fill their own pockets.” Police say that most illegal activities take place in ‘guest houses’ where owners make arrangements for dance floors, night clubs, prostitution, gambling and liquor.
One such place, CAT House in sector F-10/3, was raided by Shalimar Police in March 2008. This proved to be the biggest raid of the year as 52 people including 20 women were arrested, some of whom were foreign nationals. Shalimar Police claimed that these people were involved in immoral activities and also recovered huge quantities of liquor and weapons. Later, the suspects were produced before a judicial magistrate who granted bail to all the women including six Chinese nationals under the Women Protection Bill. Last month, a guest house in Soan Garden was raided and police arrested 20 people for alleged prostitution and drinking. Talking to The Express Tribune, Muhammad Ali, a resident of Street 4 in Soan Garden said,
“This socalled ‘guest house’ had been a nuisance for the people of this area for quite some time, it’s about time police acted.” DSP Iqbal said, “Police occasionally acts on its own but mostly we do it on residents’ complaints.” He added that some of the people arrested seemed familiar because they had been previously arrested but released by the courts. As recently as April 9, police raided a brothel in Sector F-11/2 and arrested 15 people, including eight women, on charges of prostitution. We live in a society where people frequently report any ‘immoral activities’ they witness in their neighbourhood to a police that has no hesitation in raiding and arresting the culprits.
Potentially our legal system would punish such ‘criminals’ with the most dire of consequences. Yet, somewhere along the way something has gone wrong; what is termed a legal, social and moral evil, continues to flourish.