Stories of sex-workers in Heera Mandi, Lahore and beyond

Posted by Raza Rumi

A TV journalist prepared this bold documentary for a news channel but it was never aired for obvious reasons – electronic media remains conservative about taboo subjects. The documentary provides great insights into the way women live, work and identify themselves as sex-workers in Lahore’s oldest red-light district known as Heera Mandi (Diamond Market) ironically next to the great Badshahi mosque. Coverage of Multan in the later parts is also interesting.

The narrator obviously has his biases – the usual refrain of middle class Muslims of the subcontinent – but he tries hard to remain neutral and investigative. There is a good dose of Mujras inserted into the series for the viewers; and tit bits of the Hollywood/Bollywood melodrama on the oppressed ‘tawaif’ (prostitute). Whilst tragedies bring these women to the sex-trade, not all of them lament their lives. If anything, Mirza Ruswa’s Umrao Jan (way back in the nineteenth century) was pretty comfortable and empowered by her profession. Similarly, one of the interviewees says: “money is the father, mother and everything for tawaifs”. The head of Kanjar biradri says that girls are taught to be ‘men’, earning ‘horses’ fooling their clients! Not to be missed.

My favourite is the ‘client’ who confesses how intoxicating it is to be “in love” with a sex worker. One gets tired of ‘using’ a wife all the time he says. Wish this documentary had been aired.

The language of these videos is Urdu so it might not be accessible to all the visitors here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyRYGczqsQo&feature=related

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60 responses to “Stories of sex-workers in Heera Mandi, Lahore and beyond

  1. Are you familiar with the book “The Dancing Girls of Lahore” by Louise Brown,a British sociologist who spent four years in Heera Mandi with a dancing girls family. I tried to contact the author for interview but she seems to have left no trace. A worthwhile read!

  2. Who is the most beautiful sex coordinator in the Diamond MARKET/ AND IF SHE CAN TYPE 60 WPM … I WILL ACCEPT HER AS HONORIS CAUSA STAFF ON A PART-TIME BASIS. May be this way she can be reformed and redeemed. Barrister Syyed Iqbal Jafree

  3. I also tried (and failed) to contact Louise Brown after reading her book. I have a question that I would love to have answered: In early maps the area that is now regarded as Heera Mandi (the area north of the old road from Taxali Gate towards Delhi Gate etc) is shown as open land. Even the 1927 map shows it as open, without the existing street pattern. The houses that were built on the grid of streets that came up on that land are uniformly grand. A large one facing the Badshahi mosque has an inscription saying that it was named ‘Gobind Niwas’, and built in 1934 by ‘L. Narain Das Mehra, son of Gobind Ram Mehra, a Vakil of Lahore’. What was this upstanding citizen (and many others) doing building in Heera Mandi when it had such a reputation? It was already a recognised area for courtesans, but were they in a slightly different area and then moved into some of these grand houses vacated by people such as the Mehras when they left at Partition? Or what??

  4. heera mandi is the most cheep market of the world m muslim nd i hate this market

  5. hey visitors hiramandi is a worst bethal house of lahore, here dirty brokers,prostitutes,musicians,area police trap inniocent peoples(visitors)visitors enter in filthy dirty unhygenic houses of prostitutes,day light fresh air never enter in these houses,filthy sex workers,use dirty bed sheets,filthy towels,filthy kitchen wares,fresh potable water is not available in bethal houses,sex workers visitors spit every where,so called spiting of PANinnocent visitors are first of all become police victamised here,tired musician dont know even abc of any music, similarly so called tired prostitutes sing in bad voice, but are never good singer singers.the general health of prostitutes is below national or international health standard.nudity and prank talk is effective tool of bethal houses,usually male catch ganorehia,siphly in common words sozakh, this skin disease travel via sex organ, from prostitute to male, in the begining svere pain and urine block apear,victamise rush to common doctor for relief, here he admits that he has had visited a bethal house,doctor prescribe some antiseptic medicines and clear block passage of urine with ketheter,also police register a case of illegal sex, usually sex workers are informers of police.so this was a terrible story of lahore hiramandi, i advise to young generation not to play in the hands of filthy, unhygenic sex workers, of hira mandi, and never earn bad name for family be careful ok
    naseem ahmed khan karachi.pakistan

    • Oy mummy daddy ki olad un ka ganda pan nazar ata ha lakn apni harkatain nzar nai ati so called innocent people ko, inhi innocent people ki paidawar hoti hain aksar.

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  10. as a matter of fact hira mandi is a worst defeat of insaniat huminity,see how dirty people doing this bad activity in pakistan,here good people are wasted by the most rejected people of society,administration of pakistan, saints of pakistan if agreed and united,bhadwey dalley kanjriyan prostitutioncannot exist and flourish at all.,pooverty does not mean to flourish a filthy activity in pakistan, see prosttution cause aids elsewhere in the world, prostitution is not recognised profession even in civilised world..good noble people must condemn this open filthy game, even pakistan court is under influence of prostitution, really a shameful activity behind a curtain of free sex.

  11. Nisha how much sexy u r please

  12. LEAVE YOUR SEARCHING FOR SEX IN HIRA MANDI. THIS IS THE MALE THAT ALWAYS USED WOMEN IN TO HELL. YES, THIS IS FACT THAT THE FEMALES WHO WORKS IN SUCH MANDI FOR MONEY FOR SURVIVAL.PLZ REMEMBER IF UNFORTUNATELY IT HAPPENS WITH OUR FAMILY MEMBERS TH EN………….. ???

  13. hello every ones sab sy pehlay to me apko yeh kehna chahu ga k wo b oratin he hoti hn hm yaha beth k unko galia ya bura bhala to keh detay hn kya koi un ko us dozakh sy nikalnay ka soch sakta hy? mera nhi khayal k koi aisa soch b skta hy but meri wish hy k me kisi aisi he larki sy shadi kru ga jo yeh kam kr rhi ho or wo is ko chor kr izat ki zindagi jenay k sapnay dekhti ho. me us ko apni izat bana k rakhu ga.inshallah. pray for me.

    • All the peopIe here abusing them must have been there many times but never thought how much difficult life they do live being a prostitute.I really apreciate your thought tahir ,by doing this it will be a great service to the humanity.
      May almighty help you.

      • I think the same as u do Mr.Abu Bakr.
        I mean no one would ever want a life like their’s. Maybe they really want a way to flee from there but obviously it is not easy for them. And who knows maybe some of them would want to come back towards Allah. I think there should be someone to help them. If every one who has sympathy for them and has resources can help just 1 of the women to get out of there and come back to their normal life, then I think heera mandi will surely get eliminated one day. InshAllah.
        And Mr.Tahir you have a very good vision.May Allah help you through this. Ameen
        Regards
        Sidra

  14. dear! can I get marriage with a heera mandi prostitue for her rightway to be come a good muslim please reply me (iftikharahmed69@yahoo.com

    • I just want say..i salute u if u r going to do this naik and good job..khuda ap ko khush rakhey…A.R Nasir uk.

  15. mr tahir ap ki soch achi ha,,,ma dua kar sakta hown ,,good luck

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  34. sallam to all all though it is som thing very serious and we all must to conscious about and its impact on our society.but as for as my concern if we think on sociological perspective so it is a good to be marry , because our bad social , economic and politcal system responsiable and for the system we are the same responsiable , but theologically islam do not recognize such marriage the holy verse of Quran clearly says about ” and a women prostitute will only be marry to a male prostitute , and a male prostitute will only be marry to a female prostitute ” an imperitive sentence used by the holy quran which express an order which must to be follow as a muslem no personal opinion can be offered .and this is the responsiblity of state to adress the problem it is not a personal matter of indivisual.

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