Male Sex Workers in Pakistan

Usually, we hear about female sex workers. But did you know that there are also male sex workers?

IRIN gives us an insightful report on male sex workers in Lahore, Pakistan :

Although the precise number of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Lahore is unknown, according to the Pakistan National AIDS Programme, on the basis of findings by international agencies in 2002, they number around 38,000.

This number includes male transsexuals or 'hijras', who live in large family groups and have devised their own, unique system of leadership, inter-marriage and complex rituals, and a significant number of masseurs, like Pervaiz, who can be found in many parts of Lahore and other major cities, congregating at selected spots as dusk falls each evening.

Many of these male workers are masseurs. Clients pay US $8 to spend a few hours with the male sex workers, and will either pay for a cheap room or bring the workers to their apartments. But you may ask: what is the problem here? The problem is that due to taboos of homosexuality, these male workers are often marginalized, and thus, vulnerable to HIV/AIDS:

While such behaviour is strictly illegal, homosexuality is fairly widespread in Pakistan. Under the country's Islamic laws, sodomy carries a penalty of whipping, imprisonment or even death – but the fact on the ground is that it is also for the large part silently accepted.

This uncomfortable compromise means there are strongly entrenched taboos about talking publicly about sex between men, and the result is that levels of awareness about the risk of HIV infection among male sex workers is extremely low.

The social marginalisation of communities such as the hijras and the fact that few male sex workers have access to healthcare or contact with awareness-raising programmes, makes them all the more vulnerable.

And though the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in Pakistan is low, this vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is frightening:

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), at the end of 2005 Pakistan had a total of between only 70,000 to 80,000 HIV-infected persons, from a population of 150 million. As such the prevalence rate is low (0.1 percent).

However, the World Bank, UNAIDS and other international agencies have consistently pointed out that because of the existence of various high-risk behaviours, coupled with a lack of awareness, and the fact that 50 percent of the population remains illiterate, the possibilities of a full-blown epidemic remain very real. Among the behaviours considered to be high-risk is sex between men.

UNAIDS reports that according to a study conducted in 2005, HIV prevalence was 4 percent among MSWs and 2 percent among hijras. Other sexually transmitted diseases occurred far more frequently, again suggesting a high risk of HIV infection.

How do you combat social forces that function as unwritten laws? In Pakistan, homosexuality is illegal. But even if you were to abolish the anti-sodomy law, you can't abolish social norms and taboos with the stroke of a pen. That's the thing about social norms: they are so embedded in society and daily life that they cannot be easily extricated from the social fabric. In some ways, it is easier to break the law than it is to break social forces. Furthermore, the topic of MSM raises a lot of other complex issues: poverty, literacy, awareness, healthcare, social work, sex education, and views on gender and sexual orientation in Pakistan. Add this to the uncomfortable silence shrouding the MSM phenomenon- on the one hand, it is accepted, but on the other hand, no one speaks about it-  and there can dire consequences.

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Although the precise number

Although the precise number of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Lahore is unknown, according to the Pakistan National AIDS Programme, on the basis of findings by international agencies in 2002, they number around 38,000.

Furthermore, the topic of MSM raises a lot of other complex issues: poverty, literacy, awareness, healthcare, social work, sex education, and views on gender and sexual orientation in Pakistan. Add this to the uncomfortable silence shrouding the MSM phenomenon- on the one hand, it is accepted, but on the other hand, no one speaks about it- and there can dire consequences.

Just want to reinforce that there's a distinction between male sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM)--at least as far as I understand the terms. I think--though I'm not sure, given the propensity of my community for making up terms--the latter term refers to anyone who has sex with men regardless of whether they do sex work or not.

The 38,000 figure in this context seems absurdly low. Lahore is estimated to have approximately 7-9 million inhabitants according to the wiki entry. That would mean that the rate of MSMs among the male population is, give or take, at or less than one in a thousand (0.1%).

I'm just guessing though...and I live in the gayest city in the U.S. or Canada, so my sense of what it should be might be inflated :)

Just want to reinforce that

Just want to reinforce that there’s a distinction between male sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM)–at least as far as I understand the terms.

You are absolutely right....I failed to be precise in this passage I wrote:

Furthermore, the topic of MSM raises a lot of other complex issues: poverty, literacy, awareness, healthcare, social work, sex education, and views on gender and sexual orientation in Pakistan. Add this to the uncomfortable silence shrouding the MSM phenomenon

I should have written "MSM worker" topic and phenomenon.

The 38,000 figure in this context seems absurdly low. Lahore is estimated to have approximately 7-9 million inhabitants according to the wiki entry. That would mean that the rate of MSMs among the male population is, give or take, at or less than one in a thousand (0.1%).

According to this article, Lahore's population is around 8 million. And the article does concede (which I quoted above):

Although the precise number of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Lahore is unknown, according to the Pakistan National AIDS Programme, on the basis of findings by international agencies in 2002, they number around 38,000.

[...] And remember how South

[...] And remember how South Asia suffers from the raging HIV/AIDS epidemic? Countries with high HIV infection rates also scored poorly on the index relative to their level of economic development. The death and disease toll of AIDS among prime-age adults exacerbates hunger. In turn, food insecurity may heighten exposure to HIV (as men migrate to look for work and women engage in transactional sex to provide for their families) and susceptibility to infections due to malnutrition [Link]. [...]

I didn't think the comment in

I didn't think the comment in question was that unfair actually, even if it's incorrectn (which it may or may not be). It's sort of an MSM-in-prison argument.

The impression I got from my

The impression I got from my travels in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as talking to several people about it, was that MSM was very common due to the gender segregation in society and lack of male-female dating culture.

The impression I got from my

The impression I got from my travels in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as talking to several people about it, was that MSM was very common due to the gender segregation in society and lack of male-female dating culture.

The great thing about your comments, Bikini, is that you are obviously a troll, but you suck at it. Why not at least try to make us laugh?

And while you're at it, why don't you look at male sex workers in the US and Europe. Just because IRIN doesn't report on it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Italian Desi I am not a

Italian Desi

I am not a troll. I am a human commenting on a blog.

Anyway, having been a member of a religion which emphasis celibacy and gender segregation, as well as having lived in a country that does the same, I speak with some authority, if only my own experience.

Extreme gender segregation as seen in some countries around the world, is NOT psychologically healthy. If you don't believe me then I suggest you live in one for a few years and let's see what you will have to say then.

no information

no information

Ofcourse! being a pakistani

Ofcourse! being a pakistani it is the matter of sarrow and shame that we people adopt the tradations of the west.
People should avoid this

because both don't really

because both don't really come from the west. they're perfectly pakistani.

peace.

Ofcourse! being a pakistani

Ofcourse! being a pakistani it is the matter of sarrow and shame that we people adopt the tradations of the west.

Do you mean tolerance of other people or proper spelling?

Shah: Ofcourse! being a

Shah:

Ofcourse! being a pakistani it is the matter of sarrow and shame that we people adopt the tradations of the west.

People should avoid this

In Pakistan, do you guys get the Indian commercial where all the news anchors, hosts, and guests say, "Blah blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah blah, BLAH."?

Dr. A: I didn’t think the

Dr. A:

I didn’t think the comment in question was that unfair actually, even if it’s incorrectn (which it may or may not be). It’s sort of an MSM-in-prison argument.

Yes and no. But Bikini's comment overlooks the fact that this kind of stuff exists in the so-called West as well- if the US and Europe are anything to go by. It might be of a lesser degree, but that doesn't take away the fact that this occurs outside of the places Bikini mentioned.

And really, think about how "female sex workers," topics relating to them, and the issues that arise from that segment are treated, discussed, and dealt with in the US. Intense gender segregation in the US?????

It might be of a lesser

It might be of a lesser degree, but that doesn’t take away the fact that this occurs outside of the places Bikini mentioned.

Look, I'm just saying if I were to say "same-sex unequal-age relationships were more socially acceptable and institutinoalized in 4th century athens than in 20th century louisville" it wouldn't be trolling or denying the existence in the latter, it would just be a point of debatable accuracy. just saying...lay off the troll button :)

Sex workers, oh I see now. My

Sex workers, oh I see now.

My comment was geared more towards male on male love between friends and acquaintances who are not getting paid for it in places that lack a male/female "dating culture" and relationships with the opposite gender are limited to family. In such places, going through one's teens and twenties, with all those hormones raging and having no release in the opposite gender often results in "turning inwards" you could say.

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Sex workers, oh I see

Sex workers, oh I see now.

Was it the title of the post that gave it away? ;)

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