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Prostitution: Why does it

still exist
“Shahi Mohalla”, the red light area of Lahore, is one of the battlefronts where the Pakistani
woman has the fighting for her freedom, dignity and a decent place in society. It is also called as
the “Heera Mandi” of the most renowned prostitution centers of interior city.

Shahzad Hussain

The question that irks in the mind is – Why is the “Shahi Mohalla” in Islamic culture and
society up till today? Why is it present in Pakistan where engaging in such illicit
activities is regarded as “taboo”?
Prostitution has been embedded into the cultural history of the Indian sub-continent since
time immemorial. “Jahangir’s harem is said to have 6000 mistresses, including women from
China, the Caucuses and Africa Prostitutes were well read, well versed in poetry and the art of
singing and dancing.
The decline of Mughal power and its subsequent replacement by the Sikh rule in Punjab
removed the social taboo form prostitution and brought it out in the open. After the termination
of Sikh rule, the arrival of the British brought a new breed of prostitute’s patrons. According to
S.Ghauri (“Pakistan cultural centre struggles with its history”, August 14, 2003), “It is not a
connection that mainstream society is willing to acknowledge openly.” Today the “Shahi
Mohalla” has fallen into decline and has, in the words of Yusuf Salahuddin, a landlord who
owns substantial property in the heera mandi, become “an area overrun with just common
prostitution.”(Personal Communication, November 2003) Hence, this tradition managed to
survive during the British period and is existent in Pakistani culture and society till date. The
spread of prostitution at an unprecedented scale raises critical issues regarding the rationale
for laws, which cannot be enforced, and about the element of bigotry in treating social issues as
matters of law and order .According to I.A.Rehman; a prominent lawyer in Pakistan and director
of the country’s Human Rights Commission “We are a society of hypocrites. The morality of the
privileged prohibits any recognition of the importance of this area (Shahi Mohalla) to the arts
(Personal Communication, October 2003).” Apart from this the latest commission on the status
of women (Women's Right Commission, 2002), takes note of prostitution in the following words:
"Enforced prostitution and trafficking in women are forms of violence for profit to which a
number of women are subjected. Enforced prostitution of girls has always been in existence;
with very few being able to escape the net even if they wish to do so. However, very little has
been done to stem the practice or to rehabilitate the victims of the crime..."
The following are some of the solutions that can be implemented to stem the growth of
Judges in all official courts of Pakistan should put the offenders on probation, which include
treatment as mentioned in the above point. If probation is violated then the maximum jail
sentence should be applied
Misdemeanor Probation Officers should hold those engaged in prostitution activity strictly to the
terms of their probation. Work closely with the police and expedite violations. Make an extra
effort to help the probationer enter into any treatment programs and provide appropriate social
service referrals. They should have an on-call probation officer available 24 hours a day, whom
police can call to arrange for immediate violations of probationers, so police can take the
person immediately to jail.
Neighborhood residents and businesses should report any sort of illegal activities. They should
contact police every time a prostitute is observed or prostitution activity is noted. Businesses
should work closely with the police in trespass-warning program.

Hence, this social evil can only be rooted from Islamic society if it is indeed recognized as an
evil. Muslims pretend oblivion to the flesh market as they ignore many other evils that tarnish
the image of Islam and the high moral standards that are expected of Muslims. When
prostitution would be stated as a problem; a debatable topic on all public forums and prostitutes
would not be regarded as 'taboo' and taken as victimized women only then would we be able to
effectively terminate the flesh market. For the time being, all we can do is hope.

Saeed, F. (2002). Taboo
Elizabeth S.Ghauri (2003). The Christian Science Monitor.
Andrew Bushell . (2002). The Washington Times.