As we continue June with speaking on Gay issues and sexual violence I cannot exclude this blog about a documentary I happen to come across on YouTube. This documentary followed a young boy named Neem. A street boy in Pakistan who has sold his body to men for survival on the streets of Pakistan. In Pakistan culture women and men are to be separated at all times. Women are regarded as second class citizens. We are familiar with the saying that goes, "Be seen but not heard" when describing children but in Pakistan's culture, for women it's be invisible and subservient in Islamic standards. Because the norm excludes women this allows for predatory men to take advantage of young boys who no one blinks twice looking at them with grown men and those who do blink twice are engaging in pedophilia themselves.
Neem's story is one of a poor street boy who's parents died while he was a child. He was left in the care of his brother who had a violent temper. He ran away from home hoping to be able to make it on his own without skills or an education. Once on the streets of Pakistan he was given Heroine than raped by men. One man discussed the key element of getting these boys hooked on drugs for his perverseness. The reporter asked if he had children and if he'd be okay with someone doing to them what he does to boys? The man answers that he was a son and daughter. He nonchalantly tosses his head and smiles a wicked tease saying, "It's their chose." From then on it's been a daily struggle to survive by making whatever he can to sustain food intake which could men collecting garbage to recycle that brings in little to no money. If the garbage collecting fee doesn't bring in enough than Neem results to prostitution. Throughout the documentary Neem expresses how discussed he is with the culture and how these men are deviant and indecent with their predatory actions but he also battles with the fact he feels complicit with the sexual exchange because he has no options and he has a drug addiction to feed.
On one night he takes the camera crew to an area where boys selling themselves is common and how an exchange typically happens. We the viewers are able to listen to how casual these pedophiles act about buying sex from boys. How the boys see it is disgusting but a means to survive. For the new street boys they have the unfortunate welcoming into this life by coercion, luring and rape. Matter a fact, all three passive themes end in rape. One story, there was a boy who was taken in by men in a resting room for truck drivers with makeshift beds. The boy was sleeping in the bed with a truck driver and the gang of rapists pulled him out of bed, gang raped the boy outside. Come to find out the gang rapists were high on heroin. The truck driver felt anxious while telling the story, but before you shed a tear, he too participated in either raping boys or buying sex from them. Most if not all the truck drivers bought sex or raped boys especially in the truck driver resting area.
Through out the documentary the common theme was oversexed, drugs, and grueling religious overtones. Kind of like the Catholic Church and how they deal with pedophilic priest. Sweeping their dirty deeds under the Cathedral rug. But in Pakistan there isn't a Cathedral rug, just open secrets like movie theaters that are known to house porn which is frowned upon and banned. But that's not the shocker, the shocker is the drug addicts who come to purchase a set to watch porn with a boy their raping or their penises their jerking. Right outside the theatre there's a dealer pushing marijuana freely a cross the street of another theatre that is clean for all intended purposes from the aforementioned.
While following Neem's reality with his poverty stricken sex working friends you see glimpses of childhood carefreeness whether it's rough housing as boys do or playing in filthy incased water. You saw them for what they were, children. Mining their way in the world of poverty, predatory men, and survival. Just to see another day, eat another meal and keep their innocence, what little they had intact. Neem was going to a center for street kids during the day. They provided the boys with safety and a place to relax and watch television. During one particular filming part Neem was giving off attitude to the Center director and camera men, No one could figure out what was wrong with Neem until the documentary reporter asked if Neem had raped someone to which he answered truthfully, yes. Neem explained that he found a young boy who he coerced into sex. They went to the movie theatre. He bought the boy food. They boy then backed out of the arrangement. Neem revealed he had gotten angry because he already spent money on the boy so he raped him . . . in the porn theatre. As I sat there and watched Neem I became disgusted and disappointed at Neem because he knew better, he had experienced rape. But then I checked myself with the cliché yet oh so real saying, 'hurt people hurt people.' As the reporter and I both felt unspeakable shame we were reminded, 'When the victim becomes the abuser.'
The center's goal for Neem was to eventually leave the streets to enter a boarding school that could potentially save his life through sobriety, education and skill sets. First Neem needed his brother to sign off on the boarding school offer. The brother did so, not before letting the mediator of the meeting know that if he knew his brother had been raped, he'd burn him alive. Next Neem needed to break his drug habit which meant being caged up for several days. After the treatment Need felt hopeless and homesick for the streets and his friends. The angst he felt came from the fact that he had gotten an H.I.V test and felt worrisome about the results because of his sex for survival. He results came back and Neem was in the clear declared H.I.V free. The results gave Neem a positive outlook on life this positivity is what fuel Neem to continue with the program at the boarding school. But as the documentary came to a closing there was a brief blurb about Neem several months later. The update wasn't surprising but I can see the meme of Tyra Banks in my head, "I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you." It turns out Neem left the boarding school and went back to the familiar comforts of the streets where sex for survival is the common thread.
My views of the documentary are ones of mixed feelings. The documentary in itself based on how it was produced was excellent. The storyline was easy to follow and the multiple layers of culture, sex, societal norms, agency and children were touched upon well. Theo pic in itself, I cannot lie, it was uncomfortably painfully heartbreaking. It was one of those films you did not want to watch not because it was poorly produced or a waste of time but because you know you'd be out of your bubble. There were tings you'd have to confront within the world and you'd be forever impacted. Neem from the first time he graced the screen I felt for him. A poor street boy picking up trash for food. Bathing in dirty water without parents to care for him. How can you not feel for him? Topple that with his sheer determination makes you the viewer empathetic of his condition. But not too long we're introduced to the dark side of survival, sexual survival in a country we societal norms excludes the existence of women. I've said it before and I'll continue to say, the absence of women breeds toxic masculinity which causes rape culture, pedophilia and in some cases homosexuality (in those cases forming homosexual sexual desires to substitute a heterosexual sexual bond). In areas where you see women are restricted by male domination, aren't treated equal to men or are deemed a lower class to men you see high rape cases. Like in India where every 20 minutes a person is raped. Raped women are often ostracized in their communities. In South Africa where every 3 minutes a person is raped. And girl have a 50% chance of being raped but just 33.3% chance of graduating high school.
In this film the viewers were introduced to how women are at the bottom of the totem pole and that something as simple as holding hands is seen as sinful and unacceptable. Pakistan is ridiculously religious and have strict rules for women and men based on Islamic principles that separate the two groups. This causes the population to feel conflicted with biological desires and beliefs/culture. One on hand the men want to be examples of Islamic obedience but on the other hand they desire the pleasure of sexual exploration. Those two clash with each other and the men find a loophole to the outside appear holy but outside public judgement do as they desire. This is where the boys come in. Grown men with young boys isn't looked upon as questionable, in facts, it's normal and no one seems to ask questions. Women aren't allowed to speak up and men either know the open secret and keep quiet or don't know at all and wouldn't think twice to ask. These boys come into the the arrangement unbeknownst to them typically under coercion, desperation i.e. sex for survival or luring. Remind you, these men prey on vulnerable, hungry, poor children who often have no parent supervision. Like a pimp, these men swoop in offering dreams they will not bring into fruition. These boys at the very least want some food and a place to lay their heads at night. These predatory men offer the boys some money and either a place on a truck, food or money. These boys never been exposed to predatory men or the threat of rape either agree to the arrangement or get tricked into rape. The psychological impact of not having the control of your body or having to leverage sex for survival is a horrid experience. After rape the common affects are suicidal, PTSD and depression. Those are just a few reactions.
Without resources and a culture were rape and homosexuality are frowned on and scarcely discussed the victim has no one to turn to besides other victims and himself. To numb the reality of rape especially without a proper support system or counseling the victim is left to find vices to destruct the brutality he feels. In the case of Neem it was drugs. He had not only poverty to overcome but also a drug addiction all the while surviving the streets of Pakistan as a sex worker. What was remarkable about Neem was that throughout the documentary he never cried. He never blamed anyone or felt discouraged. Occasionally you'd see a genuine smile on his face or sweet innocent childhood laughter come from his voice. But those moments were far and few in between because more often than not we saw fear, sadness, reflection and a bit of hopelessness. The reality of survival sex appeared too real for Neem when at the center the director found Neem to have been self harming. Self harming isn't new to rape victims, but what was different for Neem was everyday has it's same set of challenges and yet unique. The days were safer for Neem to navigate due to sunlight and eyes peering everywhere plus he had the center to fall back on. But at night the center was closed and the real danger starts. The re-victimization, the constant fear or being raped or selling your body. Neither is satisfactory but one promises something of a return. The more exposure to this life Neem has the more it becomes normal. So much so Neem morphed from a victim to a perpetrator yet in some odd way still a victim. Perhaps a deeper and more complex level of what it means to be a victim. A victim of circumstance. A victim to survival sex. A victim to being a street boy. In some cases children are murdered after survival sex due to the fear of the man's dirty deeds airing out to the Islamic population that frowns on pre-marital sexual relations and homosexuality. Both offenses that cost big, not necessarily in monetary value but in social dynamics.
One part I particularly found to be hypocritical is when a truck driver that revealed that he buys sex from boys said he wants a wife that reads the Quran and is good according to Islamic patriarchal standards. I wanted to puke and scream at him for his blatant hypocrisy. But as I write this thesis length of a blog post I realize perhaps he too is a victim. A victim of bizarre social norms that conflict with biological and natural desires to desire sex and affection with a consenting adult woman. In one scene a man brings a boy to the center for boys and dumps the child to the director like trash. The man claims the boy is unruly. The boy states the older man does dirty things to him. It's clear the deeper the documentary dives into survival sex the more hopelessness takes over Neem and the will to live and have a positive life diminishes which sends an alert to the director that takes Neem away to a boarding school program. Neem shows promise after detoxing and getting a clear bill of health but what isn't shown because there isn't a scanner for it is Neem's mental health. The prolong exposure to toxic predatory masculinity, rape, poverty, lack of proper resources, justice and basic needs was too much of an impact on Neem and he went back to what he knew. What once was uncomfortable but gradually became the way of life. Survival sex.
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