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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.