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The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew & Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 127-134.



In his Terminal Essay to A Thousand and One Nights, Sir Richard Burton advances his thesis of a “sotadic” zone where vice with boys is common. India and Pakistan play a large role in the “sotadic zone” and though they are separated politically and emotionally these days, we are going to lump them together in this survey for they have much in common when it comes to loving boys. Burton tells of his surprise in Karachi where he discovered boys as young as 8, standing for hire. Boy prostitution is still common in the Muslim parts of India. And in northern Pakistan, there are many professional boys. They are slightly older in the north, but whether called “houseboys” or servants, they are, in reality, boy prostitutes.

One of the less publicized facts of life in India is its ancient predilection for sexual relations with children. This is particularly true of the northwestern part of the country. It has often been assumed that a child could best be trained for sexual relations if his or her sex-life began before puberty — certainly before any identifiable attraction was felt for a specific person. These notions are an interesting blending of customs which existed in India long before the Muslims got there.

Child prostitution in the temples has been going on since the buildings were built. This we can conclude from the decorations which are such an integral part of the architecture that they would have had to be accomplished at the time of actual building. These sacred buildings have statues portraying what Westerners consider perversions. Tourist guides now claim that these statues were put there to remind worshippers what thoughts should be put out of their minds before entering the sacred place. Others give another Western “pacification excuse,” saying “These are the sins one came to the temple to be forgiven for”. Even though the guide’s tone of voice is disapproving, the statues stand as evidence that from ancient times, people have had such in mind. The sculptures indicate that children played an important and frequent role in sexual affairs.

After the 6th century B.C., Buddhism brought to India’s many cultures a great tolerance for sexual relations between males — especially love between older men and boys. This was ostensibly “pure” love, untainted by prostitution. Actual boys’ brothels sprang up much later on — in the Muslim era.

In one unpublished paper, an Indian historian has suggested that prostitution of boys came to India with Alexander the Great. (Historians are always trying to put the blame for boy-love on the old Greeks.) The evidence he cites, however, is more a proof of taste for the Greek boys that accompanied Alexander than proof that the Greeks introduced the custom. Certainly, fair-skinned boys of Greek descent were the most popular occupants of Indian brothels as long as foreign slave boys could be imported. Until the British occupation, they came through the Turkish Empire.

At the time of Columbus, Greek children were being sent by Emperor Mehmen II of Turkey as gifts to Muslim rulers in India and Pakistan. On several occasions, these children, or some of them, were placed in brothels so that the people might enjoy them.

The bazaar in Lahore near the Delhi gate, 1879, by Alfred Harcourt

As recently as 1873, European boys were found in brothels north and west of Lahore. These included one English boy of 12 who had been kidnapped when his parents were killed by bandits. He had been in the brothel for three years. During the first year he was “working”, there had been another English boy in the brothel but he had been sold to an Indian prince, according to his compatriot. There were also Chinese boys in this “tourist area” brothel which catered to wealthy merchants who came up from the cities to escape the heat. Like most boy prostitutes of the era, the European children were trained as singers and dancers. With the closing of houses of prostitution in India and Pakistan, boy prostitution found a home in troupes of wandering musicians. The younger and prettier dancing boys who accompanied the musician were always available for sexual hire. Sometimes, a boy dancer graduated to being the full-time “mistress” of some wealthy man. This still happens in Pakistan.

As a general rule, it is no longer possible for foreigners to be entertained by boy dancers in Pakistan. (In India, dancing has been rigorously separated from prostitution.) Therefore, the only form of boy prostitution the foreigner is likely to encounter is the street boy. In Karachi, for example, the visiting foreigner in the 1960’s had no trouble making contact with pimps who would introduce him to girls or boys, if he expressed interest in a young boy, he will be introduced to large numbers of street urchins and vendors, many of whom are attractive, charming and much cleaner than they would be in India. The boys are rather independent and might refuse to go with a prospective customer simply because he disliked the man’s looks. (This is rarely the case in India where money is more important that personal preferences.) Like boys everywhere, Karachi streetboys are hoping to find a friend, not just a casual contact. They are afraid of being beaten or hurt. But, once the confidence of one of these youngsters is won, he will be sweet, complaisant and eager to please. Any Karachi boy knows a taxi driver who will take him to a safe place with his customer or, if the customer prefers, for a long private ride into the country. Both the taxi and the boy are quite reasonable in price.

We are told that there are still some boys in brothels in Karachi, but that being patronized by the lowest class of Pakistani street bum, they are very dirty and often diseased. It is impossible, or nearly so, for a foreigner to get a view of them should he want to.

A Bombay street boy

Contact is somewhat easier in India. In Bombay, there are (or were until recently) hundreds of young boy prostitutes in cages in the brothel area. These boys, described in The White Slave Traffic, by O’Callaghan,[1] are from 9 to 13 and live miserable lives. They are kept locked in cages — not so much to keep them from running away as to protect them from being raped by men who do not pay for their satisfaction. If a man wants a boy, the cage is unlocked only after money has changed hands. The customer may drop curtains to have privacy, if he wishes, but there is no privacy for the boy prostitute. From the time he is purchased, he is on display like a circus animal — day and night. Furthermore, these most miserable children are not allowed any defense or protection from abuse, as long as the customer is willing to pay the right price. The price is but a few cents for any common sexual favor and one boy may receive nearly 100 men a day!

Despite sensational press stories about gangs of kidnapping criminals who lead village boys into lives of vice and crime in the city, the majority of children are actually sold into that life by their parents or guardians. These people are often at a loss to know what to do with children that they cannot feed or support. Calcutta and Bombay railroad stations swarm with boys — some as young as 6 or 7. These children have been put on the trains far away from the big city. Their relatives, unable or unwilling to take care of them any longer simply dismiss them from their lives by sending them off to make their way in the world. As soon as they land in the railroad terminus, they are taken in hand by other kids, a little older, who quickly help them learn the ropes. Sometimes, they have been told that an uncle will meet them when the train stops. Often “uncle” is the first white-slaver who gets his hooks on the unlucky kid.

Photo by Will McBride, 1969

A social worker told us of his conversation with a boy of 15 who had lived in a cage from the age of 9 until he turned 14. One year, when the monsoons were late and the boy’s whole family was dying of hunger, a travelling salesman (attracted by the boy’s beauty) offered his father money to let him accompany him to the city. The salesman initiated the boy into sexual practices en route. When they arrived in Bombay, he took the youngster directly to the brothel area where he was stripped of his belongings and placed in a cage. He was told that if he wanted food and water, he should watch the boy in the next cage and imitate him. After a few hours, the first men were admitted to his cage — all of them the lowest type of illiterate brutes. There was never any gentleness or affection. Sometimes, he had to receive two of them simultaneously — one orally and the other anally. His hair was allowed to grow long not only because customers preferred the feminine appearance (along with a good deal of make-up) but, also, because jerks of hair were common punishments if the boy’s actions didn’t please. Additionally, the boy’s hair was used as a bridle to keep him under control when the customer was riding him.

A reformatory director introduced us to a second boy whose father had died and whose uncle put him on the train to Calcutta when he was only 10. At the railroad station, the boy was immediately picked up by a white slaver who took him to a fancy brothel where there were both girls and boys for the entertainment of tourists. The children put on all kinds of exhibitions and were extensively used for pornographic photographs. They were also trained as acrobatic entertainers and in knife throwing stunts which also had pornographic overtones. The boy rather liked life in the brothel but he matured early. Considered ugly at 12, he was turned out into the street where he was trying to support himself as a combination pimp & shoe-shine boy when arrested and sent to a reformatory.

By and large, Indian boy prostitutes are expected to be quite feminine. They often dress as girls, using rouge and lipstick and letting their hair grow long and curly. Some stay in business this way well into their twenties if they are gentle and delicate and skilled in performing childish mannerisms. Foreigners are more familiar with these older prostitutes than they are with the youngsters.

A Calcutta boy selling goldfish, ca. 1955

Because of the poverty there, more youngsters are “for sale” in Calcutta than in most other cities. One tourist told a pimp that he was interested in a boy and the pimp promptly suggested that they just walk around until the tourist saw a boy who interested him — just “any” boy. When the man chose a rather well-dressed schoolboy, the pimp made arrangements in a matter of minutes and the man and his schoolboy went off to spend an hour together in a hansom cab with the shades drawn. The only problem that arose was that after the man and boy had finished, the cab driver wanted more money than that which had been agreed on. This was bad enough but he also insisted upon having a go at the boy, raping him mercilessly. Several foreigners in the Indian peninsular have reported similar experiences. Hotel employees have a habit of wanting money to “keep their eyes closed” and then demanding sexual favors of the young boy prostitute after a customer has finished with him.

A European tourist reported that in Patna, one evening, he went for a pedicab ride and the driver kept asking, “You want boy? Know nice young boy, very pretty, very good for pumping.” This same tourist, at Madras, met a Burmese with a predilection for boys. The man introduced him to a pimp who had “nice boys of all ages and sexes”, by which he meant, young boys ready for either active or passive roles.

There was a turbanned North Indian who took great pleasure in beginning to train his boys from the age of 4 or 5. His kids were well treated, affectionate and “loved every minute of it”. As a sideline business, he also offered pornographic pictures and had some with “European children for export.’’ The European children were simply his own prostitutes with make-up and hair bleach. He was able, on demand, to produce some fairly satisfactory little “blonds.”

Agra boys

In Agra, another tourist pinched the bottom of a 12-year-old unofficial tourist guide. The youngster, who spoke English, turned to him with a smile and said, “I’m not a whore, sir, so that will be expensive. Ten dollars.” When asked if he knew any boy whores, he replied, “Hundreds of dirty little fifty-cent brats. But wouldn’t you rather have a clean boy like me for ten dollars?” When asked what his father and mother would say, he replied, “They would rather have me in bed with an educated guru like you than associating with poor men”.


[1] Presumably this refers to Irish journalist Sean O’Callaghan’s sensationalist book The White Slave Trade (London, 1965), though O’Callaghan does not actually say any of the things Drew and Drake attribute to him about the boys in cages. He has more to say about the girls.




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