Prostitution In Pakistan: The Stories

Battered, Bruised And Alone

She walks down the dark alleyways in the early hours of the morning. Drained and half dead, edgy and nervous, wrapped in a sheet of cloth half covering her face, the corner of which she holds in her teeth. Her breath still has the stench of alcohol she was made to drink last night and her face lightly bruised.

Walking briskly to avoid the attention of the early morning police constables standing by the corner, heading towards a shanty town in the midst of Karachi, she is Abida aka Kiran, a sex worker aka prostitute from the “lower class” in Pakistan.

This is the story of her life – that of a Pakistani prostitute. I wanted you, our readers, to have a dual perspective of the sex trade in my country so I decided to narrate the stories of two women in prostitution – at the top and bottom end of the ‘business’ in a two-part series. While the characters are fictitious, they represent the class structure of my country, with the full range of vices and virtues injected, to give you as full an understanding of their lives as possible.

The Little Known Story of Prostitution In Pakistan – Part One

Abida aka Kiran, 26, lives in a dark dank mosquito infested house in a narrow street on the famous Lee Market in Karachi.

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Life’s realities (Photo source: brookings.edu)

Most of the residents of the area are connected to the sex trade in one way or another. Shabbily dressed men with beetle-stained teeth stand on the corners, hunting for clients to take home. Streets filled with children of the prostitutes and clients looking for fun. Filth flowing through the open drains, hawkers selling inedible products teaming with flies. Multi-story buildings house many families of prostitutes in a community system where everybody is related even distantly.

Totally divergent to the rest of the Pakistani society, this is perhaps the only place where a family lauds the arrival of a girl and make faces when a baby boy is born. Every room of the decaying buildings is a total mess except for one on every floor, a room decorated for all the “Razias” of the Lee market to entertain the clients as soon as the sun goes down.

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Brought Not Born Into Prostitution

Razias were not born here (like so many others in sex trade).  She is a product of her circumstances. She was born in a poor farming family deep in the rural community of Sindh, a province in Pakistan. She started working as a maid in relatively well-off households of her area as a child.

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Traded into prostitution (Photo Source: YouTube, from Train to Pakistan 1999)

One of her distant relatives approached her father, offered him a job for her (as a maid) in the sprawling metropolis of Karachi (a common practice in the area). Reluctantly, Abida’s father agreed. Thus began the torturous transformation of Abida to Kiran (her name as a prostitute).

Her journey began on a local train from her village, reaching Karachi late in the night, accompanied by her distant relative. She had dreams of better days in her eyes. She hoped to send some decent money back home to support her family and marry her childhood sweetheart one day.

Abida was taken in a rickshaw to a strange neighborhood where she could hear the sound of music in every house they went by. Confused and scared, she was guided through a labyrinth of narrow streets to a dark decaying house. Abida was received by an old woman in screaming make-up. This strange-looking woman argued with her relative for sometime after which he left with some money from her. Abida was led to a room and asked to “take some rest” and was given food.

Rude Awakening

She was dead scared by the strange smiles and whispers of her new hosts. In the evening, she was sent new fancy clothes to wear and the old woman adorned her with some cheap ornaments.

prostitution in pakistan
Brothel life… (Photo Source: lahorenama.wordpress.com)

Holding Abida by her arm, the old woman paraded her into a room filled with men of awkward appearances and greedy eyes.  She was making her first appearance on the ‘market’. Just in an hour, she was sold for the most expensive night of her life to an old fat ‘Seth’, who paid 50,000 Rs (a little under US$500) for her virginity in a formal ceremony called “Nuth Khulai,” a term used when a virgin is initiated into prostitution.

The following morning her world all but collapsed around her, her dreams chattered and her future ruined. She was formally Kiran, a painful transformation from the innocent Abida to a sex worker. From then on, the world is sliding gradually for this new Razia. She would be forcibly trained in vulgar dance steps and made to entertain clients till midnight. She would be booked (off or on premises) for the night to someone willing to pay the prevailing market price for her.

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Abida was told that her relative was paid 100,000 Rs (a little under US$1000) and can leave as soon as she repays her buying price. She would be subjected to violence whenever she resisted and made to have sex with as many as four customers a night. Now, at just 18 years of age, Abida is looking like a 35 year-old woman after her arduous two-year journey in the sex trade.

A perpetual story of misery, exploitation and helplessness.

The Future?
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Sex for sale

She may never marry or just have a token marriage to cover the children she will eventually have with the clients due to unprotected sex. Abida will be made to get pregnant with the most handsome of her clients to make sure she has a “good-looking” offspring. That is how it works in prostitution in Pakistan and in these parts.

One day Abida may be able to go back to her village and see her parents and siblings. Maybe. For now, her life is governed by a strict order in the social hierarchy of prostitution where an older prostitute (the matriarch), the one heading the brothel, dictates the norms. The young girls of the brothel can never break the social code and would stay her property for the rest of their lives.

For all she knows, the rest of her life will be in this vicious circle of sex trade and pimp exploitation. Sleeping through the day and waking through the night to be bruised and battered by her often drunk clients. The circle of life would come full only when she dies.


Contributor
Neelma Tashfeen

Neelma Tashfeen brings a different flavour to the banquet here. She is  freelance writer with a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Neelma lives in Islamabad, Pakistan. Subscribe to follow up with this series on prostitution and be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 – 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 recent post, “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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42 thoughts on “Prostitution In Pakistan: The Stories

  1. […] article here. She was one of the Contributors to our series on prostitution with her articles: “Prostitution in Pakistan: The Stories” and “Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison?” She can be contacted at […]

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. This is heartbreaking! My I appreciate that you put it out there! People need to know what’s going on with a lot of women!

  4. Elizabeth O.

    This is a terrifying experience for a young woman. Yet this is reality, our reality. It makes you feel blessed that you never got to experience this but then again, you feel terribly sad for the girl you’re reading about.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, while you are glad that this is not your story, the sadness that it is someone’s reality is equally present. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  5. It breaks my heart to read stories like this.It’s so sad when women are forced to become prostitutes to provide for their families. Worse, this is not only happening in Pakistan, but all around the world.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, all aspects and forms of prostitution and trafficking is happening everywhere! 🙁

  6. It’s tragic that women and children are subjected to this life. The men and women behind this trade disgust me.

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are not alone on that Karlyn!

  7. Prostitution has had a stranglehold on our society for so long. This sad depiction is unfortunately a fact for so many women. Bringing awareness to the world will hopefully force change.

    1. Ms Claudette

      What do they say – it’s the oldest profession? Even if that is true – does it make it right to ensnare, enslave and entrap people? No!

  8. This is just so devastating and even more that it can begin with family approval. What a nightmare situation!

    1. Ms Claudette

      That’s the killer eh? Sadly, this happens every day around the world though. 🙁

  9. Gosh My heart is just been ripped out. I know this happens a lot. Sad. Sad.

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is exactly what happened to me when I read it. 🙁

  10. danavento

    I love the focus of your article and how very articulate you are and passionate!

    1. Ms Claudette

      I wish I could take credit for that 🙂 The writer is Neelma but I am sure she will read your comment and thanks you. 🙂

  11. This is the stuff that makes me hate our society and hate men! And the women who aid in this devious and despicable behavior! Just sickens me!
    I know all about the sex trade – pornography being only the tip of the iceberg.
    I am no prude but this has to end!

    1. Ms Claudette

      I love your passion Joely! Thank you for it and with more people like you supporting women in the trade, we may one day get this to stop.

  12. I am sitting here rendered speechless that this goes on in a supposedly highly religious country. If a women chooses to be in the sex trade–so be it–but to be sold into it with no recourse—–

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is why I asked Neelma to write her perspective as there are lots of assumptions that this type of thing goes on only in North America or the West. Women/girls are being victimized all over the world.

  13. So sad!! No one should ever have to go through this

    1. Ms Claudette

      We completely agree with you. Our hope is that by shedding even a small light, it might help even one. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

  14. I want to do major damage to people who condone this each time I hear about it….Pains my heart deep down and makes me want to just scream nonstop

    1. Ms Claudette

      Scream then do what you do best – speak out against it as loudly as you can.

      1. Yes the pen is very mighty….Education for the women is also so very important

  15. It’s horrifying what happens to these young women. Equally horrifying that a relative would sell her into this situation

    1. Ms Claudette

      It’s often said and felt that relatives are more capable of such horrific actions than your enemy. 🙁

  16. This is incredibly sad. I’ve seen a documentary on this before and couldn’t believe it. It’s great that you’re letting everyone know about this problem.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We ate trying to do our part. Thank you for visiting.

  17. dltolley

    Absolutely heart-breaking. Still just a girl. I weep for her and the millions trapped in her lifestyle the world over.

    1. Ms Claudette

      All our hearts bleed and break with yours Diane. 🙁

  18. WOW! This is heart wrenching. Thank you so much for drawing attention to it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We are duty and honour bound to to this. Thank you for visiting.

  19. It breaks my heart to hear women being forced into prostitution in order to provide income for the family or simply to appease sexual male gratification.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, it is indeed heartbreaking. 🙁

  20. What a heart breaking yet important topic you are sharing. It put are daily issues into perspective. I will pray for these women.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you and we join you in that prayer.

  21. So sad that a father would sell his daughter. Were is the love?

    1. Ms Claudette

      Nowhere? It really is sad indeed. 🙁

  22. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    It’s awful what goes on in other places. It makes me so angry!

    1. Ms Claudette

      The really sad part is that it is not isolated – it is everywhere.

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