Even in this day an age, women are being sold across parts of Pakistan like animals. The Ansar Burney Trust stumbled upon this old, hidden and secret act of selling women in markets in the year 2000. While the Trust was involved in humanitarian activities in the drought effected areas of Pakistan's Sindh province, our employees and volunteers discovered markets where very young girls and women were being sold like animals – where the better the "condition" the woman is in the higher the price she will fetch.
The buyers of these unfortunate women fix their prices after examining and scanning their bodies. They take advantage of the situation and humiliate, molest and sexually harass these women in public like in an animal market.
These women are then kept in private prisons or taken to other parts of Pakistan and abroad for resale and to be used for prostitution, drug smuggling and slave labor.
Once an owner became bored of his "possession" or she lost her usefulness, he sold her on to someone else. Many girls, some underage, gave birth to children who were also sold in these markets.
The women were brought to these "mandis" from neighbouring India and from the extreme poverty ridden areas of Interior Sindh and Southern Punjab. Some were of Bangladeshi origin brought to Pakistan through India.
Upon further investigation, it was revealed that these activities occur on both sides of the border by influential landlords and politicians, under the knowledge of local police and authorities. The women being bought or sold were those who were either abducted, those who were brought with the false promise of a better life and those whose families owed money to these landlords and were taken due to inability to pay back the loan.
It has always been known that women and young girls are bought and sold in Pakistan, sometimes even by their own parents to men several times their age. The Ansar Burney Trust has been involved in rescuing such persons for many years now; however this was the first time that we came across an actual "mandi" (market) set up for the sole purpose of trade of these women.
With no fear of prosecution or god, and under the protection of their bodyguards and the police, these men destroyed the lives of thousands of girls.
Such "mandis" were discovered by employees of the Trust in parts of Sindh Province especially the Thar district in interior Sindh. With the help of the Pakistani Paramilitary Forces, we were successful in closing down many such "mandis" and getting the release of around three hundred victims – some of whom were released from the homes of influential landlords, who were keeping these women as sex slaves in private prison cells on their estates.
Though the Ansar Burney Trust managed to close down many such markets, the lack of police involvement, along with help from the police to these landlords resulted in many of victims being moved to unknown sites across the Province and many being taken to India. The few hundred that were rescued, were along with their actual families, rehabilitated in other parts of Pakistan.
The Ansar Burney Trust is to this day working to locate more such markets and private prisons and working to prosecute those responsible – but with many of the culprits in high level of government, our prosecution is stalled at every step.
The Trust is also working at many of the destination points for this trade, such as Karachi and Dubai, for the rescue and rehabilitation of these girls.