What is the Legal Status of Prostitution in Pakistan?
Prostitution is illegal in Pakistan, according to the country’s legal framework. The country has a variety of laws addressing the issue of prostitution, including the Pakistan Penal Code, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, and the Control of Narcotic Substances Act. Despite these laws, prostitution remains a widespread problem in the country, with many people involved in the sex trade either by choice or due to poverty and lack of opportunities.
What are the Penalties and Enforcement Measures for Prostitution in Pakistan?
Under the Pakistan Penal Code, the penalties for engaging in prostitution-related activities vary depending on the specific offense:
- Running a brothel: Up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Living off the earnings of prostitution: Up to five years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Procuring a person for prostitution: Up to seven years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Inducing a person to become a prostitute: Up to ten years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Detaining a person in a brothel: Up to ten years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution: Up to fourteen years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
Enforcement of these laws is often lax, with many cases of corruption and bribery among law enforcement officials. However, periodic crackdowns on brothels and arrests of sex workers do occur.
How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, prostitution is commonly referred to as fahashi (فحاشی) or zina (زنا). These terms are used to describe both the act of prostitution and the individuals involved in the sex trade. The term tawaif (طوائف) is also used to describe a female sex worker, particularly those who perform traditional courtesan services such as singing and dancing in addition to providing sexual services.
What is the History of Prostitution in Pakistan?
Prostitution has been present in the region now known as Pakistan for centuries. During the Mughal era (1526-1858), courtesans known as tawaifs were an integral part of the royal court and the broader society. They were highly skilled in music, dance, and poetry, and their services were sought after by the nobility. However, with the decline of the Mughal Empire and the advent of British colonial rule, the status of tawaifs diminished, and many turned to prostitution for survival.
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, prostitution continued to be a pervasive social issue. Despite the introduction of strict laws to combat the problem, the sex trade has grown, fueled by factors such as poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities, and cultural norms that stigmatize sex workers and limit their options for reintegration into society.
Where Can I Find Helpful Links, Government Laws, and Resources Related to Prostitution in Pakistan?
Below is a list of resources that can provide more information about prostitution in Pakistan:
- Pakistan Penal Code: The complete text of the Pakistan Penal Code, which includes the provisions related to prostitution.
- Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018: A recent legislation aimed at combating human trafficking, including for the purpose of prostitution.
- National Action Plan against Human Trafficking in Pakistan: A comprehensive strategy developed by the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to address the issue of human trafficking.
- UNODC Pakistan: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Pakistan office, which provides support to the government and civil society organizations in addressing issues related to drugs, crime, and terrorism, including human trafficking and prostitution.
- Amnesty International: Pakistan Report: Annual human rights reports on Pakistan by Amnesty International, which include information on the status of sex workers and the enforcement of prostitution-related laws.