It is said that prostitution is the oldest profession. Since a few years, Khayaban-e-Shujaat in DHA, Phase 5, Karachi has gained a reputation of being the hub of prostitution. The section of the Khayaban specific to this booming business extends between A-street and Khayaban-e-Tanzeem. Another operating area is at the intersection for the main Zamzama Boulevard.
The female sex workers, their brokers, a multitude of auto rickshaws and an ever increasing clientele are a daily affair on this road. From dawn to dusk, the business is in full swing. The clients are mostly domestic help, chauffeurs, cooks, guards, gardeners and especially relatives of VVIP security personnel who visit Karachi from rural areas. Most of them are employed by the residents of DHA.
Vehicles can often be seen parked in deserted nooks and corners along roads going to and fro from this area, serving as a quick replacement for room and bed. Unoccupied bungalows in the street also provide shelter for these activities.
While prostitution is common in many commercial areas of DHA, this is a unique ‘open air’ market, where customers can window-shop, stop, stare and haggle over rates before riding on with their escorts.
As mentioned earlier, prostitution is the oldest profession; no matter how hard we try to curb it, it will pop up someway or the other. Thus, ideally speaking, female sexual workers should be offered health checkups, HIV testing and serology and regularly encouraged to undergo pap smears for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV Serotypes 16 & 18), related to cervical cancer.
Moreover, awareness campaigns for female sexual workers on transmission of STIs should be carried out by organisations. Provisions of condoms and other contraceptive methods should be discussed with them so that they protect themselves as well as their partners.
The health department’s intervention is required to register female sexual workers who are HIV positive and offer them treatment through proper channels. The residents of DHA should also play a part by keeping a check on the activity of their domestic help and chauffeurs, who may be carrying STIs, at risk of infecting their spouses once they visit their hometowns. Also, food handlers, baby sitters and maids should be given adequate information on hygiene and the risks of STIs.
Although prostitution has its accompanying stigma, if it is ignored further it can have devastating consequences on our health and social well-being.