Prostitution in Bangladesh has been legal since 2000, however, it is not generally encouraged and child prostitution is widespread. Bangladesh is predominantly Muslim and despite strict restrictions, severe poverty has forced sectors in its society, specifically women, to engage in prostitution. Despite the fact of a unified force in having associations to represent these sex workers, radical Islamic conservatives have openly condemned these women.
In 2010, radical Islamists burned a brothel to the ground. Two were badly hurt. The rest were left with nothing. “We lost everything and had to jump into the river ”, recalls Hasina. “We didn’t even have clothes to wear and we were forced to live for a month and a half out in the wild”. Nobody was arrested for the attack.
Female sex workers are often abused and are treated badly. However, there was a growing awareness among sex workers who started to organize themselves as an association. One organization of sex workers “Prostitute Association of Faridpur,” was formed to establish a “union” among sex workers, protect themselves from abuse and demand equal rights.
Five years later, back in the same brothels, their situation is getting worse. Use of condoms, for example, has decreased sharply after government programs were halted. Violence against women has increased, and income remains the same despite inflation. Worst of all, children are still offered as sex slaves.
Sex workers come and go but the only thing that is certain is the brothels and these women’s nightmare will remain the same. Society has forced them to live in darkness while men love them and hate them in equal measure, demanding their services while trying to get rid of them permanently. This is the intolerable contradiction that is their everyday lives.