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Prostitution in Pakistan – the plight of the unseen and unheard

By - July 7, 2014
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Guavo Media has a focus on Good News around the world… but we also believe that with our broad reach it is also our responsibility to cover important global stories and important subject matter with a focussed angle towards solutions and encouraging awareness for positive impact. Even if one person is positively affected makes it worthwhile for us to pursue something, and during the encounters for some filming in Pakistan, we found an area of life on-the-ground we felt inclined to make efforts to assist ongoing.

In Pakistan, and in most cities and countries around the world there are hidden stories and plights for sections of society who are either forgotten, ignored or just unheard. We decided to produce this brief glimpse into one location from a country where it can seem more difficult to reach out for help than many others, and there are countless other locations worldwide where reaching out becomes even more complex due to local social and cultural dynamics.

One of the common causes of individuals and groups choosing to sell their bodies and enter the often murky world of prostitution, and despite cultural taboos or wider society frowning on the issues… is economics. When a mother is unable to feed her children and even be able to provide for basic family needs this becomes one of few solutions available to them. In cases most commonly for women, but also for a growing number of men who are forced into a lifestyle choice that goes against every core of their belief and comfort, they feel it is the only way to survive. In many instances individuals are also forced into selling their bodies by members of their own family, their partners and also gangs who have turned community issues such as this into opportunistic avenues of income for themselves.

The women we met in Pakistan did not want their identity to be revealed, but we ensured local social workers were involved in the process and our video report delves into some very simple solutions that can be looked at.

Guavo Media

Guavo Media

Yasmin Karim is one of the incredible workers and social activists on the ground (has also been a nobel peace candidate for her extensive work in the area of gender rights) told us that it is even risky for activists and workers like her and many others to make positive efforts to support communities:

“Regarding the subject of prostitution, it is even taboo to talk about it openly, but the intention of many is to do good for those caught in this lifestyle.” she told us.

When we asked her about the issues that are causing the epidemic levels of women (and men!)and even from the most rural regions of Pakistan to get involved in something like this, and often regardless of their own choice… she said:

“Prostitution in our country has various factors such as there are gangster groups from the underworld who kidnap girls and boys and then they take them to brothels where they are groomed in this environment. This is very serious and we can not intervene as a local or even national organisation, however some international organisations do intervene. Governance system is also so corrupt that many of the political and even those so called religious leaders arrange parties and practice adultery that ultimately encourages prostitution. Rich men exploit poor, vulnerable and widow women in the name of social security. And new trends also show a rise in the idea of prostitution for some women and men as being an indication of their identity becoming more liberal and developed… by copying their misconceptions of what it means to be ‘westernised’ and not even looking at the conditions in which they are living.”

Guavo Media

Guavo Media

In the case of the women we filmed with, both expressed economic factors in their personal circumstances… however there were also clear elements of showing a ‘westernised’ misconception in some of their demeanour. Yasmin also explained:

“Economic security and livelihood is one of the most common factors which compels even fathers and husbands to send their daughters and wives to brothels!”

For both women who were brave enough to speak with us, economic factors were the sole catalysts for them.

Our broader aim now is to enable the women we encountered on the ground who all expressed a desperate will to be helped, and to be given an alternative means of economic livelihood and the full support and resources to empower themselves to the point where they do not feel restricted with choices.

(Crowd Voice)

(Crowd Voice)

We recognise that for sustainable long term interventions, there is a growing need for resources to be actively provided and for structured systems to be put in place and so we are encouraging those on the ground to take the lead and for the international organisations to also provide additional, much-needed resources.

When we asked Yasmin what more can be done to assist, it was clear that her expertise and the knowledge and experience of all the other local social workers is key to both understanding the reality of situations for many they work with daily, and to assist agencies and charities to act by investing resources in the relevant areas:

“To overcome this situation, there are three recommended areas to work on; Awareness campaigns, Health and Wellbeing, and Livelihoods. There needs a mass scale awareness and sensitization about adultery itself as a bad deed for human beings due to epidemic levels of medical issues escalating such as HIV AIDS and STD’s and in countries such as Pakistan, this needs to be in consultation and close engagement with religious leaders and scholars who hold much influence.”

She also advised:

“Health interventions are key such as health screening of both prostitutes and their clients for the sexual diseases they carry with them and this could also coincide interventions for diverting them if it is for their best interest. Mechanisms for their treatments and recovery.Under the livelihood issues, we would need focused interventions on skill development, education promotion and attitude changes of the prostitutes and the behavior change programme of the overall society towards positive acceptance of prostitutes as vulnerable members of our society. But all these interventions first need the acceptance from the Government and the religious leaders and scholars and then would naturally require adequate funding to achieve necessary results.”

To get involved or for media enquiries email: [email protected]

And if you or anyone you know or have encountered require a similar level of support in your location, members of our team are proactively reaching out to local government agencies and NGO groups on the ground to assist and will help put you in touch with the appropriate avenues in your location.

We also strongly believe it is not enough to simply highlight issues or otherwise choose to ignore them… even if it is happening in another country or location. Often it is even the actions of one individual or group that can bring simple solutions and even if any action can help as little as just one person in need… in our opinion, it is worthwhile.

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