Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison?

Women At The ‘Top’ Of The Sex Trade

For those who did not read my last post in this series, prostitution in Pakistan is illegal. It is riddled with dangers and risks for the sex workers. This is my second article on this topic that is very much a taboo in Pakistan.

My last article was a story of a low-end prostitute (a woman belonging to the lower class) who was sold into the sex trade by deceit, only to languish for the rest of her life in the underbelly of Pakistani society.

Today, as we wrap up this four-part series on prostitution, I will expose another facet of this ugly trade in Pakistan. This is the story of a middle-class educated girl, lured into the trade by exploiters, only to sink deeper into the vagaries of the high-end of the “business.”

Pakistan High-End Prostitute: Who Is She?

This is the true story of Salma (aka Candy), a wild-eyed middle class girl from the farming town of Okara in Central Pakistan. She was born to a respectable family of educationists; her father was the headmaster of a government-run school. She is the eldest of her six siblings. Having graduated from an all-women college in her ancestral town, Salma set her eyes on taking her Masters degree from a university in the metropolitan city of Lahore. That was the start of her descent into hell.

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Prostitution is illegal in Pakistan (Photo source: uwf.edu)

Salma took and passed the admission exams for the university, so she moved to the city to live in a women’s hostel. Her roommate, a local girl, was quick to notice her naïve manners, typical of a simple girl from a farming town. Impressing her with expensive attires, it was not long before she persuaded Salma to join her for an outing.

Late New Year’s Eve night, Salma and her roommate were picked up from the gate of their hostel by a couple of young fellows riding in a glitzy sports car. It was the ride of no return.

Salma was taken to a private farm-house, the venue of a dance party to celebrate the coming of the New Year. The setting was totally alien to Salma with alcoholic drinks flowing freely and young guys and girls dancing wildly to the beat of modern western music. Her roommate offered her a drink (disguising it as a simple cold drink but it was laced with intoxicants). A drink later, Salma had no idea until the next morning that she had been raped.  Even later, she would learn that it was also videotaped. She was devastated by her humiliation and exploitation.

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Her roommate blackmailed her into silence and encouraged her to take advantage of the situation and what was done to her. The worst had already happened. Brainwashed by her roommate, this shy girl from rural Pakistan transformed from her innocent self to Candy, becoming one of the most sought after and valued escorts of the city. With the backing of her education (unlike most of the other sex workers), she was soon a model and a show stopper. It did not take her long to learn the sophisticated ways of high society in this part of Pakistan. She was moving in all the right circles (guided by her handlers from an escort agency), being presented to all those who matter – politicians and power-brokers.

Palace or Prison?

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Beauty or bonded?

In just over a year, Candy became the mistress of a business tycoon, living in his palatial home in a posh neighborhood. She had already graduated from a model to an actress. She was sophisticated, elegant and savvy. By now she was a known face and her modest family in rural Pakistan had disowned her. She was left all to herself and her exploiters.

This was a life she never wanted, an aftermath of her crude initiation and exploitation. The worst was already written on the wall and she could sense that. But there was no going back from the narrow alley. Candy felt helpless against her powerful exploiters who had links all over. They arranged everything for her – from appearances on television series to the beds of rich and wealthy one-night clients. She was overbooked. She could never say “No.” Her daily schedule was set by her escort agency and there were no deviations. Candy was seemingly powerful but she was only a puppet, dancing to the tunes of her handlers.

Partners In Crime: Sex, Drugs And Money

Her handlers made her travel to offshore destinations for sexual services to international clients. She never realized until it was too late that she was also trafficking drugs and engaged in money laundering (concealed in her baggage by her handlers). To her horror, she was stopped in the airport’s baggage screening area as she got off a flight from Pakistan. The next day, her face was all over the media on money laundering charges.

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The high life of Candy

Candy had finally met what was obvious. The journey of her high-end exploitation had come full circle. Her handlers made sure that she appeared in media long enough to increase her value as their asset in their ‘business.’ She was set free on bail soon after and immediately returned to her world of exploitation until she is no longer of worth to them, retired on the heap of the rest of the high-end prisoners.

Government of Pakistan: What Is Their Take?

At the heart of this issue is this, whether a low-end or high-end prostitute (or sex worker if you prefer), the vicious net of exploitation is all-encompassing. The puppeteer pulls the strings and the puppets dance.

Prostitution is illegal in Pakistan, hence there are no laws seeing to the welfare or governing the exploitation of sex workers. The government has plays no role even on the issues of safe-sex practices to curb the spread of HIV. The system and network of prostitution in Pakistan is generally inclined to victimize sex workers.

The women, mainly, caught in this prison of whichever status, will not come forward for fear of the taboo attached to the issue in an Islāmic society. The would suffer endlessly. These exploited women can never return to their homes for fear of being killed in the name of family honour. Prostitutes (or sex workers) are doomed to a life of social outcasts, only to suffer at the hands of their exploiters.


Contributor
Neelma Tashfeen

Neelma Tashfeen brings a different flavour to the banquet here. She is a freelance writer and writes stories on women’s social issues, particularly those affecting her sisters of all levels of Pakistan. Connect with her at tashfeenneelma@gmail.com and  Subscribe to follow-up with this series on prostitution and be sure to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 – conversations about the sex trade and the women selling it and a look at the children caught in sex trafficking in the USA by Katelyn Roth.

Did you read Neelma’s most “A Peek Into The Daily Lives of 3 Pakistani Women?” Check it out here. She also joined two other Contributors and shared her thoughts on “Wanted: A Man To Pay The Bills.”

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37 thoughts on “Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison?

  1. […] in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her most recent post was our closing piece in a series on prostitution, “Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison.”  She can be contacted at […]

  2. kleebanks

    I have 3 daughters and many nieces, as well as 2 granddaughters. The thought that this so easily happens to young women is a mix of sad, horrifying, disgusting, and devastating.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, it indeed happens and quite easily. This was a true story that Neelma shared here and there are many such stories all over the world. 🙁

  3. If I am not careful I end up hating men. For when things like this happen I want to just throw all of their asses in jail without food, water or light. When many of them hear about the word sex every other sense seems to shut down and they forget that they themselves have daughters. A man who rapes MUST suffer the harshest consequences,,,,God knows why I am not sitting on that judge bench!

    Disclaimer: I know they are not all like that

    1. Ms Claudette

      I expressed a similar sentiment only a couple days ago as I literally wiped the tears from a young woman’s face who was recently sexually assaulted. I totally endorse your disclaimer. The challenge is that the ones who are continue to overshadow the ones who are not. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

        1. Ms Claudette

          Sometimes that’s all we can do. 🙁

  4. Dhemz

    Wow, this kind of story is heart breaking. So sad. Thanks for sharing it though.
    http://www.gregdemcydias.com

    1. Ms Claudette

      You’re welcome. 🙂

  5. Such a heartbreaking situation.

    1. Ms Claudette

      It indeed is! 🙁

  6. These articles are always so sad but I feel it does need to be addressed and talked about so something can be done about it!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, they are sad but as you said, the issue need to be discussed. Thank you for engaging. 🙂

  7. I’m not sure there is any good role within that horrible industry. It’s just heartbreaking.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Neither am I, except for those who are helping others to get out. 🙂

  8. Very sad story and these victims will suffer endlessly. They need to be rescued

    1. Ms Claudette

      They are suffering and a way out is necessary but until they are ready to do so, sadly many will remain trapped. 🙁

  9. Elizabeth O.

    Just like anything in life there are highs and lows in each occupation, whether you’re a CEO or a sex worker. It’s just that, the price to pay for this kind of life is too high especially for women who deserve all the respect in the world.

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are absolutely correct Elizabeth! 🙂

  10. This is a post that needs to be read by many. Knowledge brings the power to change things little by little.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you for saying that. We do hope that many will not only read but will share and together let us do more to help.

  11. It’s unfortunate that such a bright girl had to end up in this situation which she is a prisoner for life and can’t escape it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      It indeed is. 🙁

  12. The story is sad but at least light is being shed

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes and yes! Thank you for stopping by and adding to the brightness. 🙂

  13. This makes me very sad. I hate to read stories like this, but it is a reality and needs to be read!

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are correct on both counts. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  14. It’s so sad to hear a news like this. I think this is a human trafficking, it should be stopped.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We all want that! 🙂

  15. Truly there are no more words than what I have commented before because I just keep getting more pissed off. We need to castrate some of these men!

    1. Ms Claudette

      I don’t mean to laugh but I had to at the way you said that. I totally hear you! Rest assured, this is the last in our series — for now. Thank you for your passion about this subject. Much blessings. Help one if you can. 🙂

  16. Oh gosh! Why are all these permitted. I pity those women who get involved.

    1. Ms Claudette

      IT happens as men continue to rule the world and we women are not consistently taking a stand for true equality – we do but not in a united way.

  17. So sad what happens to these girls. This needs to be stopped.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Indeed it does! 🙁

  18. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    It’s sad what goes on in other parts of the world. Scary, too.

    1. Ms Claudette

      It goes on all over and it is indeed very sad! 🙁

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