SPARC documentary highlights plight of children in red-light area
LAHORE: The appalling conditions faced by the children of prostitutes in red-light areas were brought to light in the documentary ‘Elusive dreams’, which was screened by the Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) at the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday.
Dr Faiza Asghar, advisor to the Punjab chief minister, was the chief guest. She emphasised the need for a comprehensive plan for children living in red-light areas and asked civil organisations working in these areas to work in collaboration with the government. ‘Elusive dreams: the life of a child in Lahore’s Shahi Mohalla’ revolves around the life of a child who hails from the red-light area, popularly known as ‘Shahi Mohalla’.
The conditions in this area are appalling. It is well known that the women of the area are vulnerable to AIDS and other sexuality transmitted diseases, but the plight of children is rarely highlighted. The documentary shows that the children of sex workers are at high risk in red-light areas. They are exploited and deprived of their basic rights to education and health.
Pakistan’s government has ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) and also ratified the International Labour Organisation Convention C182 titled ‘Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999’ that addresses issue of sexual exploitation and other forms of child labour, yet these are rampant in red-light areas.
SPARC National Coordinator Anees Gillani addressed the audience at the screening. He said the Punjab government was observing the ‘Year of Child Protection’ in 2004. It was important to appreciate these efforts, but it would be unfortunate if children in red-light areas were ignored. He said though AIDS was not a big problem in Pakistan, it was possible that Lahore’s red-light area might become the centre of an epidemic in the future.
Mr Gillani said a greater understanding of the problems faced by children in the area was needed. He suggested the compilation of a database of children in red-light areas so civil society and the government knew who they had to help.
Imtiaz Gul, the film’s scriptwriter, briefed the audience about the problems faced by the team during the filming. His wife, Samina, directed the film.
The documentary portrayed hardships faced by people in the red-light area following the enforcement of the Hudood Ordinance in 1979 by General Zia ul-Haq. It also contained comments from several social activists. Prominent philosopher and writer, Fozia Saeed, talked about her book ‘Taboo’, which revolves around the lifestyles of these people. Social activist Faryal Gohar said people from the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGO) should facilitate children who want to leave the red light area.
Munizay Bano of NGO Sahil suggested in the documentary that the government should conduct an operation against the people responsible for abducting girls and forcing them into prostitution.
The film also featured the work of prominent artist Iqbal Hussain, a resident of Shahi Mohalla, who paints the problems faced by sex workers.