By Zeeba T. Hashmi –
Being the oldest trade ever known to history, prostitution remains the most condemned and discredited profession looked down upon with lowliness in any society despite the fact many influentials visit the red light areas to fulfill their lustful needs.
The trade of sex comes with its own demerits for the society; the same society that encourages the trade to flourish for meeting its own needs. The problem lies with delinking humanism which makes it materialistically devoid of any human emotions of the sex workers who trade sex for money.
This is sheer objectification of their bodies, leaving prostitutes very undignified, yet they are the more honest and open than the hypocritical society we live in. The question is, can a society live without prostitution? The answer is no. Prostitution is a creation of the society. It thrives even in the most puritanical country like Saudi Arabia.
It was the same community that gave arts and culture, poetry and music and elaborate classical dances for the society. In fact, in the past, many elite households would send their children to them to learn the art of poetry and manners. It was the colorful mix of art that inspired many. But all this began to fade away with Zia ul Haq’s orthodox rules that demonized the trade.
Dehumanizing of sex workers is the most heinous crime of humanity. Not allowed to rehabilitate even if they want to get out of the trade as the stigma will follow them wherever they go. Harassed by the society, they have no place to turn to complain against rape or physical abuse because they know that being in an illegal business, they cannot get any justice or file an FIR because of the known harassment by the police and the law enforcers who put the blame on the victims for violence. Most prostitutes keep mum about their profession and refrain from speaking about it for the fear of legal repercussions.
There is no such thing as safe sex for them despite many NGOs are working in the area to promote safe sex practices by use of condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, yet very few people respond to it. This leaves the sex trade workers in a highly vulnerable position to catch sexually transmitted diseases, like AIDS. There is a general lack of awareness about safety measures, but nobody is taking it seriously.
Apart from the threat of STDs or sexually transmitted diseases, there is very little treatment available for them. In Lahore, for instance, most women visit Lady Wellington Hospital. That building was going to get demolished by the Government for the road project it is concentrating on, but the locals pressurized not to do so, so the plan came to a halt. A lack of medical facility will gravely jeopardize the sex workers who have nowhere to turn to otherwise to seek medical help.
Societal reforms for this society, especially opening of schools and more health centers remain a challenge, as the future children are doomed to follow suit of the tradition. This does not mean we should demonize the trade workers, as they have nowhere to turn to. But the conditions they are living in without any protection and security leaves them in the lurch. There have been cases of child rape and abuses, yet these do not get reported to the police for the fear of a backlash.
To understand the society of the red-light, one must be fully aware of how the business works. Primarily, the business was run by the matriarchy that was less damaging to the fabric of their society until the role of pimps started pouring in, this gave women less freedom of choice and were subject to obedience to the male interlocutors. This caused a great grievance to women in the trade as they lost their control over their trade and became subject to pimps. The traditional families had been running their business for centuries and were matriarchal in nature, thus did not have issues with it. It was only with the influx of outsiders that the pimp business took over their territory.
Though most women who belong to the prostitutes’ tribe have sex out of free will, but most women are forced into this trade against their will. These are the women who are usually abducted by the pimps to carry out their business. The sheer objectification of their bodies, rather than looking at them humanely has disgruntled the sense of harmony in the red light district. The freedom of choice is snatched away from them as a right to carry out certain deed with consent.
This, and further marginalization of the society open only for those who visit them for sex has taken a toll on the dignity of women who have a right to live with as much respect as other women do. There is very little the government is doing to protect them and safeguard their rights. What goes on under their very nose remains a cause of concern and shame for the society. These women need schools, education and a moral standing, none of which is bestowed on them. This results in more torment for the helpless women who can’t seek justice because of the illegality of their trade.
The trade comes as a big risk for the women involved as they are prone to violence and rape, without any repercussions against the perpetrators. We hear very commonly that women of this trade bring it on themselves, some even justifying it saying they deserve it. None of the argument is justified about the violence against women. There should be laws in place to protect these women from rape, including those of minors. The societies must remain matriarchal, than handing it over to patriarch pimps who have brought havoc to their social fabric.
The best way to keep exploitation in check of these women is through legalizing and regularizing their business, that way those women and young children, who don’t want to be part of this trade can easily leave it without having any fear of legal persecution. This will leave women, who want to continue trade with certain regularization to keep them in health check and promote safe sex to avoid STDs and other diseases. This can also allow sex workers to seek justice against their perpetrators for violating them.