The organisation, operational dynamics and structure of female sex work in Pakistan

Faran Emmanuel, Laura H Thompson, Uzma Athar, Momina Salim, Altaf Sonia, Naeem Akhtar and James F Blanchard, “The organisation, operational dynamics and structure of female sex work in Pakistan” Sexually Transmitted Infections 2013; 89:ii29-ii33; doi:10.1136/sextrans-2013-051062


Pakistan is known to have large populations of female sex workers (FSWs) with considerable geographic heterogeneity in their characteristics. In this paper, we describe the social organisation and structural patterns of female sex work in different geographic regions of Pakistan.
We report geographic and network mapping data collected among FSWs in 15 cities across Pakistan in 2011 as part of the Canada-Pakistan HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project.
A total number of 89 178 FSWs were estimated in the target cities for an average of 7.2 FSWs per 1000 adult males. 55% of the estimated number of FSWs concentrated in Karachi and Lahore. Based on the operations of female sex work, two major typologies of FSWs were identified: establishment-based and non-establishment-based. FSWs were further subtyped into those operating through brothels, homes, kothikhanas, streets and by cell phone. Cities varied considerably in terms of predominance of different FSW typologies.
There is considerable heterogeneity among FSWs in Pakistan, geographically and in terms of operational typology. Understanding the social organisation of sex work and the influence of social-cultural and legal factors in Pakistan is essential for the design of HIV prevention programmes and other services for FSWs.

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