Forced Into Brothels

Hailing from a society that snubs its most important social issues I feel victimized by ignorance. These are the exploitations in the name of shelved morals that have no patience for addressing taboos.

I feel taboos are like hangovers, the creations of diseased minds,of people who do not have the courage to live and who impose these things upon us in the guise of morality and religion.The instinctive network of taboos prevents us from addressing our most crucial societal issues.Forced Prostitution is one of them.

In a society such as ours these taboos deafen the majority towards the plea of our most horrendous victims-the women who have

Photo Courtesy: Jamal Ashiqain

been forced, for decades,into an industry that shackles its victims for life.Once hurled into the flesh trade these women are like invisible entities bereft of basic humanitarian rights.

A society hampered with rigid taboos leaves no room for consideration, no rehab is offered to the slaves of the flesh market. These women are not only considered despicable but unacceptable to society for life. In the given scenario how fair is to accuse a woman of not being able to give up prostitution? While the society will malign her forever, she has no means to return. These women then become a cult, the kind that is used by all but remain odious. Ruthless customs conveniently overlook the circumstances in which women are pushed in to the forbidden world.

According to a report titled “S. Asia urged to unite against child prostitution,” India and Pakistan are the main destinations for children under 16 who are trafficked in south Asia (Reuters, 19 June 1998, Masako Iijima).As of 1991 women kidnapped at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were being sold in the marketplace for Rs.600 per kilogram, Orphaned girls are sold as ‘wives’ to men who may resell them (CATW – Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific).

Just this year a BBC report by Mona Rana discusses typical reasons that make women end up in Prostitution. According to the report growing unemployment and inflation and the resulting rise in poverty have led many towards the flesh market. A report on The Independent ,in early 2000,reported on the alarming number of Asian women brought to the UK for ‘mujra’ clubs and being lured into prostitution. Another alarming report by The Salvation army stated that Asian women are sold to North American brothels for $16,000 each.

Photo Courtesy: Jamal Ashiqain

These figures don’t reflect women who willingly opt for prostitution; instead they are forced, raped or kidnapped. Yet the society blatantly refuses to see them as victims of barbarity.Islam denounces prostitution; on the other hand it encourages equal and even distribution of wealth. However these attributes are hushed off the shelf to host artefacts of morals, ones which are blind to the misery of victims but alarmingly cautious on anything they consider unethical. Their sanctimonious attitudes have no rooms to forgive and rehabilitate. Laughably, while they are so hell-bent on wiping the ‘evils’ of the society they offer no mercy to the victims and can bear no outlet that could shelter them back to life.

Increasing poverty remains one of the biggest recruiters of the flesh industry. These beggar are plotted on streets at a young age exploiting sympathies for better earning. This eventually becomes their source of income for generations to come. However it doesn’t end here the girls that were once forced into the streets as infants are then hurled into brothels. The dark alleys of these brothels become their homes after a long day of begging in the scorching heat. For them there is no escaping the misery. Once hurled in to the notorious world they are deemed loathful.

The hollers of these victims are ferociously silenced by the pietistic ones. After all they would rather have these women suffer for life than accept their existence and offer relief.These are the forbidden victims of our society, their crime not known yet their punishment continues to be the harshest. Religion,morals and ethics are meant to regulate life, to set rules and provide guidance. However in cases such as these religion and morals become mere shields to shun the taboo.In the long term ending up mystifying the truth rather than offering refuge.There will be no better way to combat prostitution than to first acknowledge its existence,the reasons that led to it and than open our doors to those who want their lives back. A line should be drawn between women willingly opting for the field and those who are forced. By shunning the victims of forced prostitution we approving a life full of rape and exploitation for these women for generations to come.

Forcing women into brothels is a crime of the most ferocious order, and providing them with an option out even more so. While we say slavery has ended in the modern age, it is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is forceful prostitution.

An edited version was published in the spring edition of BEE MAGAZINE


14 thoughts on “Forced Into Brothels

  1. any society which values a woman’s “honor” – virginity – more than her life will never progress or be truly free.

  2. What about criminalisation of the men who use the services on offer? If a market doesnt exist, then the service wont exist.Perhaps I am being too simple in my economic theory?

    To the reader who thinks this is the easy way out for women, all i can say is may Allah never put you in a difficult situation, so you never realise just how hard this is.

  3. Salamun alaykum,

    I just was introduced to your website today through another link and I am in love. In love with the truth that you so bravely bring to us. JazakAllahu khair for your efforts, dear sister.

    I cannot stop reading this website and sharing link after link on Facebook. I have cried. I have smiled. And I commend your actions a thousand times over. MashaAllah!!

    As for the topic of forced prostitution–it is indeed, very, very sad. Not only is it ignored, but there is not even a word that correctly describes ‘rape’ in the Urdu language. Or at least not one that I am aware of. To address such a HUGE problem in our society, one must be able to recognize it but how can we even recognize a problem if there are no words associated with it? It’s rather sad and disgusting.

    The fact that people hide behind Islam and avoid these ‘taboo’ topics breaks my heart. It is Islam that has given us honor and taught us the path of modesty and kindness. How far we have come from the Deen that teaches us to help others and care for our brethren. I look out at the world and I wonder, how I can even scratch at the surface of its sorrows. It truly is just heart-wrenching.

    There is a woman I heard of just recently, but I forgot her name. She basically helps women who are forced into prostitution in India escape and helps them get their lives back together and get jobs, etc. She has been repeatedly physically harmed in her missions, but I admire her so much! She’s not Muslim; she is a Hindu. But it shouldn’t even matter. We are all human beings and her efforts to help her fellow sisters who re-live such nightmare day in and out…that is above anything a Mufti can do sitting around declaring fatwas and ignoring a problem that exists in our Muslim communities.

    I have recognize and realized that our scholars, generally, are not concerned with the plight of our Muslim people. I recently watched a lecture that discussed whether wearing wedding rings was haraam…and it angered me to no end. While our women are being forced into rape, our children being kidnapped and brutally abused…all scholars can do is sit around and talk such minuscule things. SubhanAllah.

    By Allah, The Day of Judgment is near. And I am not prepared to answer, “What did you do to help others?” Because even with my limited ability, I have done far too little.

    May Allah reward you and the others who contribute to this site tremendously in this life and the Hereafter!! Ameen!

  4. Dear Sana,

    I really appreciate the way you put things regarding this “open secret” kind of issue which unfortunately seems increasing everywhere

    I agree with the dimensions re prostitution in your post and want to elaborate one, unemployment and inflation, the biggest one, making survival of millions of people at stake, even in Pakistan. The things I share are those which I have seen and can be considered as first hand experiences.

    While looking for a topic for my masters thesis in 2003 from Karachi university, I decided “street prostitutes in Karachi” which I somehow couldn’t materialized as my research guide think of it an “immoral topic”, give a bad name to me and my family and the funniest one, might land me in troubles (there was no sugar hoarding crises at that time and those responsible are free, otherwise he shouldn’t said this)

    Anyways, while preparing for the thesis i managed to meet nearly 20 street prostitutes, from different areas of Karachi like gulshan-e-iqbal, gulistan-e-jauhar, shara-e-faisal, kala pul defense and Sunset Boulevard.

    All of them are in ages 20 & 30. Out of them, I’ll share stories of only 3 as their stories illustrate relation between financial needs and opportunities to meet them.

    One of them, a girl, 23 and graduate in philosophy told me that her father is a grade 17 officer in a govt dept and an “imandaar” one. Lives in a rented house, no car, all siblings studied at middle class English schools, and now facing the worst phase of their lives – need to marry off the 3 girls. She is doing this to arrange her “jahez” so that “family ki izzat bani rahay”

    Another one, 28 was MSc physics and doing it simply as she’s been forced to do this in her first job. Considering it as “pre requisite for promotion” she continued it for some and then thrown out after 3 months from the job saying “we are laying off – will definitely call u when opportunity arise”. Since then they didn’t call her and she couldn’t find any other job from three months

    The other one, (which is the prettiest one and I am sure can sent home many of top models if start modeling) came because her father, a businessmen unable to pay back amount he took from a wadera friend. The friend fulfilled his friendship and took her. He left her after recovering each and every penny, by sending her to his friend for one year. When she returned, her own family refused to accept her. She told me that she is doing this to earn money and studying as well, so that one day she could leave this trade and do some respectable job.

    Now the point I want to make here is that Economics shapes each and every society. Behind prostitution, there are strong economic forces as well that’s why this trade is booming all around the world and is the third largest in generating revenues after arms trade and drugs & alcohol, fetching 400 billion US$ globally. (http://www.morssglobalfinance. com/the-economics-of-the-global-entertainment-industry). World over, economics made its exploitative way by using weaknesses of every society, culture and sometimes religion. Poverty is the easiest and simplest one as it is rampant everywhere, in every culture, in every society, irrespective of faith they practice, and in countries that have impressive socio-economic indicators – millions live on streets in super power US, the shining IT leader India has one of the largest slums, former ussr nuclear scientists drive cabs in Moscow to earn living as they have no jobs now.

    The writer is executive director of a youth led registered non profit, working to ensure justice and equality of opportunity to the disadvantaged and underserved people, empowering them to become productive members of the society

  5. I am reading on this issue for years …. but is there anyone who could suggest some action steps? Some practical tip on how to deal with this issue? Any organization or individual crusading against this issue?

  6. Recently I have come across your website through facebook id of Ms.Arundathi Roy, very studiously following and reading one by one.Kudos to yo madam for writing clearly the plight of women , that too young girls who are pushed into flesh trade. Something churning inside inexplicable, very sad, we also live in such a society.I empathize the victims of this trade, trapped and manacled in the name of religion,taboos and all. Will write again after reading rest of the articles in your blog.

  7. Awareness of breast cancers, Aids and prostitution are not the only issues though which are considered taboo. Really long time ago, I read this blog about Sex reassignment of infants. I was SHOCKED to read it as I never knew that this was happening too in this world.

    It was about how parents should accept the kids whose gender is unidentifiable. Acceptance and acknowledgment is the first step to solving any issue. Here I’m sharing the link to you as I want everyone to know about this, although hoping that none of us has to ever experience this with our kids or siblings. :S

  8. And here we are celebrating the International Women’s day.

    I would be lying if I say I feel sorry for the prostitutes because I don’t.. :s it’s sad that 16years old girls are sold in the market and treated so brutally and I’m all up for them, yes I am but those who say they had no money to feed their family and so they went in to this profession coz they couldn’t get work anywhere else. That I don’t accept. There’s no way one can be forced to such a profession unless one wants the easy way out.

    A well written piece though Sana.. 🙂

  9. “As of 1991 women kidnapped at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were being sold in the marketplace for Rs.600 per kilogram”.

    So insensate & shocking! 😦 While I’m not ignorant of the plight of women forced into this profession, I wasn’t aware they are sold in the market like that.

    1. Thanks for your comment Hina. It is quite shocking, I have included the links now, and you can view the entire document along with other shocking facts regarding trafficking.Its terrifying!

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