This book takes you on a journey of discovery into the famous red light district of Shahi Mohalla in Lahore. The author tells her story through the lives of people linked to the Shahi Mohalla: the prostitutes with their pimps, managers and customers, as well as the musicians and others. Most of these people are struggling to make a living by following ancient traditions, without knowing clearly where they fit in the larger picture of present day society.
The traditional practice of prostitution in South Asia has always been closely linked with music and dance performances. Through their stories, the book also highlights the contributions that these people have made to our society and to the world of the performing arts.
Pakistani society has created and reinforced many myths to explain why prostitution has nothing to do with ‘nice people’. These myths put all the blame on ‘immoral’ women who are responsible for tricking ‘honest’ men into sinful acts. Our society has also strongly discouraged anyone from questioning these myths. By exposing our myths about prostitution, the book helps eradicate a blind spot in our understanding of power relations experienced by all women throughout our society.
In Taboo! Fouzia Saeed has given us a valuable socio-cultural interpretation of a subject that was once touched upon and portrayed by Manto. Fouzia has described the historic context of prostitution in the subcontinent in a way that has never been done before. Going to the Shahi Mohalla has long been a taboo for our middle class. Yet Fouzia was able to spend enough time to delve deeply into the morality, ego, and social behaviour of our fading traditional prostitute society.
– Kishwar Naheed, Poet and Author
This is the most readable and yet thoroughly researched account of sex workers in our society. It is as interesting as it is compassionate; and yet it abides by the strictest scholarly criteria of objectivity and scholarly precision. It should be on the reading list of scholars, decision-makers and people belonging to all walks of life.
– Dr Tariq Rahman, Professor, Quaid-i-Azam University
Taboo! is a manifestation of Dr Fouzia Saeed’s passionate fight against the taboos and stigmas of our society, particularly those that affect women. Those who think one loses energy, strength, and determination with age, should follow Dr Fouzia’s example. One day of her life is heavier in both struggle and achievement than several years of many. I am proud to count her among my friends.
– Shoaib Mansoor, Film Director
The deep bonds between India and Pakistan are nurtured by centuries of shared history and culture. The people in India have been enriched by the scholarship and activism of Fouzia Saeed, one of South Asia’s leading feminists. In her study, women in the red-light area of Lahore emerge as persons of substance and worth, making the book local, but also universal in its humanism.
– Harsh Mandar, Author and Social Activist