Bangladesh is one of the few countries where prostitution is legal. The second largest house of prostitution (brothel) in Bangladesh is the ‘Kandapara brothel’ in the district of ‘Tangail’. This 200 years old brothel was demolished in the year 2014. But as some of the women were born there and grew up there, they had no idea where to go when it got demolished. So it was built again with the help of NGOs.
A rule was passed by the High court in 2014 to let the sex workers work as it was not an illegal act. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association stood in support and convinced the high court.
The life of the women who live here is difficult to comprehend. Being lied to sold and being held captive is difficult to fathom what they really feel. The true curse of the human race lies here at this place where even minor girls are made to sleep with or without their consent.
In the city, an area is named as “Brothel district which has huge walls surrounding it. In the area, it has all the necessities such as tea stalls, street vendors etc. There are young girls of age 12-14 years who are regarded as ‘bonded girls’ .
A woman is made to sleep with a man much older than her age. She is forced to have sex with the old man without her wish.
The women are weak yet powerful but all the money they earn through their work are given to a ‘madam’ as debt. They are not allowed to keep money with themselves and have no rights or freedom. After few years when these girls are able to pay all the debt which their poor families have taken, they are allowed to work as independent sex workers.
German-based photojournalist Sandra Hoyn went to these areas and documented it.
According to her in an interview to nextshark, she said
” The brothel is like its own microcosm, it is a city in a city. “In the narrow streets, there are food stalls, tea shops, and street vendors. I spent every day from morning till evening in the brothel and some days I forgot where I was. It was sometimes like everyday life in another city with its own rules.”
According to law, the sex workers must be an adult that is 18 years or above but here, some of them are still minor. To attract more customers and look healthier and older, sex workers take steroids such as Oradexon. The most ill-protected condition is when a sex worker is of 12 to 14 year.
Women are standing in the narrow streets of the house of prostitution and waiting for their customers.
“From the moment that a woman has paid her debts, she is free to leave the brothel” she said. “But these women are socially stigmatized outside their ‘homes’ and thus often choose to stay and continue supporting their families with their earnings.”
Used condoms lying on the streets of the brothel shows the unhygienic state.
During her photography experience, Sandra encountered that few of the sex workers were shy and didn’t wish to be clicked as some of them belonged to rich families. But others had a mindset that they were here to
“refresh their mind” and hence had no issue in getting their photos clicked.
Jhinik a 20-year-old sex worker gave birth to twins in the brothel. These five days old twins do not have a name yet and are kept in the same room where sexual activities occur.
Some girls hide their face and didn’t want to tell their stories, others have been very open and wanted to tell about their life.”
“Most of them have sad stories — but they are really strong, at least outwardly. I admire that they manage their lives under these circumstances and do not give up. They are not just survivors or victims, they are fighting and enjoying their life in their own way.”
Sex worker is forced to dance in order to please the man who has come to a brothel for sex.
Even after being in such a terrible condition, these women are often seeing joking and dancing together. The girls have adjusted themselves to the situation but still dream of having a better life ahead.
A small girl is made to wear make-up to please the customers.
Women with a hope of better future want to earn more money so that they are not dependent on man for life. They aspire to have a home of their own when they grow old and can provide better education to their children.
A sex worker is pleasing two men at the same time. These are not only a shame on humans but are also affecting the physical as well as the mental condition of the women.
One of the strange stories which came across was a woman who refused the proposal of marriage as she feared he wouldn’t let him keep the money. Instead, she was happy working as an independent sex worker.
A woman is brutally forced to sleep with someone as she has her debts pending to madam. She is not considered as a human but a toy which can be used in all the ways, a man prefers.
There are few women who worked somewhere in a garment factory before entering here. But now they are reluctant to leave the job as it is a good source to earn money according to them.
A woman is forced to face all kinds of physical harassments and made to do work which is not permitted at her age.
These heart-wrenching photos and stories about the brothel shiver our faith in humanity.
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Photos courtesy – Sandra Hoyn