The Sex Workers Of Quetta

The Sex Workers Of Quetta
Wearing blue jeans, white shirt and brown shoes, his perfume’s light fragrance could be smelled from the very far distance. Standing the roadside on Jinnah road Quetta, he awaits the client to deal with. Being a sex worker, this would be client number 134 getting physical with him for sex. A red Corolla car comes near to him and he starts negotiating with them to fix a price.

“There is no room for emotions in this business! It’s about earning the bread by any means to feed my family. I am the only source person to look after my family by serving the clients with presenting my physical self to them. There are different clients who avail me for their sexual needs. Some come with a vicious approach which harms me the most but they pay good amount for that in return. So I bear the harm and their brutal attitude towards me while having sex,” he explains.

Shayan* 22, is a sole bread winner of a family which is settled in a rented home near the city of Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa. He himself has been living in Quetta for four years with two other friends in a single rented room in Chorhi Gali in Quetta city. They share meals together and discuss their sexual experiences with different men who come with different psyches.

“Last night, the tall man that I served for the very first time treated me in quite a brutal manner. He persuaded me to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and then have sex with him. I resisted to have alcohol on which he thrusted me towards to his bed and began beating me, I was left with no other choice but to entertain him as he wished,” said Shayan.

Perhaps, It’s a psychological disorder or some vicious tendency that is found in some humans who by any means want to fulfil such ugly desires. Hundreds of thousands like Shayan in Pakistan have been subjected to face such unacceptable behaviour by clients. “We cannot say or stress the authorities to criminalise the commercial-sex practices because they earn from these practices and look after their families,” says human rights activist, Jalila Haider.

“The authorities in Pakistan should frame laws to protect the rights of paid sex workers. It’s not some profession that they have chosen with by choice, it’s what they are doing to earn bread to live. The state of Pakistan should be guarding sex workers rights to protect them from physical harm and abuse.”

Recently back in 2020 and 2021, when Covid-19 erupted across the world. Pakistan based paid-sex-workers too faced financial crises as clients stopped visiting their spots and the state could not respond to sex workers with financial support which compelled them to turn to the streets and beg for money.

Muhammad Ayub Tareen, Chairperson of the Balochistan High Court Bar council is quite concerned about the legal rights of the sex workers. “When I see them roaming on the roads at night looking for a client, it changes my focus towards state policies regarding citizens. The state fails at protecting its citizens rights and on the other hand there is a mindset existing in our society who detest transgender and paid sex workers because of their practices. See, if there existed a welfare state which would fully guaranteed civic rights of the citizens then why would anyone risk his life to bear the odd attitudes and physical torture? It’s the state that should frame laws to ensure sex workers safety and yet there is no law,” said Tareen.

As per data shared by the district police office in Quetta, there are about 50 commercial sex workers who have engaged in this practice to look after their families. According to the subsections of Zina laws, selling sex is criminalised - Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance VII of 1979. There is no country wide sex work law although the Zina offence makes any extra-marital sex a criminal offence, which is applied to sex workers.

“The police have caught male sex workers for practicing unlawful activities in the city, but we could not keep them arrested for long due to absence of any law that endorses their arrest except  for the Zina aws that discuss it which is quite rare and yet, on the other hand we were under pressure from human rights activists to release them,” said Zohaib Mohsin, SSP city Quetta.

“Actually, the society reserves no space for them at all. They live life with quite little joys, they are bullied on the streets with different tags and odd comments. This tells us a sad episode that they are mentally traumatised and there is no availability of medical care for them nor are there any opportunities created by the government to get them involved in societal activities and create a peaceful environment where they can earn with respect and dignity,” said Zahoor Buledi, a member of the Balochistan Assembly.

Buledi also stressed that they will be putting the issue forward the Assembly to stress upon the need to frame laws for sex workers protection and to help create opportunities for them so that they are engaged in a safe and healthy manner where they can find support and earn for their families.

Being compelled to practice commercial sex, there is also the risk of contracting different diseases. HIV is what comes to mind first due to unprotected sexual contact with males. Shayan says that some clients force him to get in sexual contact with them without using a condom which he agrees to because they pay double for it. He is now experiencing body pain which he says could be indicative of HIV in his body.

Babar Yousafzai, a spokesperson of the Balochistan government heeds commercial sex worker’s grievances with a different viewpoint. “We understand the causes behind why such young and beautiful boys are compelled to practice commercial sex in Quetta. They are the sole bread winners to look after their families but being involved in these activities not only harm them physically but also destroys their future because of unsafe, sexual contact with clients,” said Yousafzai.

Yousafzai explained that they are currently working to understand and protect the legal rights of sex workers and transgender people. With that, it is also planning to launch awareness campaigns to let transgender and sex workers learn safe methods of sexual practices and use safe methods to avoid diseases.

“Perhaps there is no law to protect the rights of commercial sex workers, but we are insisting to look into it and move a resolution in the Assembly to discuss their issues via a debate and formulate a passive law to protect them. The Balochistan government is also thinking of creating an alternate source of earning for commercial sex workers to provide them with a safe environment where they can earn a living,” he explained.

Disclaimer: *Name has been changed to protect identity