The world of sex slaves professing the oldest profession of the world

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Kajol with a customer. She thinks she is 17 years but does not know her exact age. She was married for 9 years. Her aunt sold her to the Kandapara brothel. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

The sex slaves exist throughout the globe. In this man dominated world Prostitution is also known as the world’s oldest profession being mainly run by the men across the world but there is one place on this planet where this business is run owned and professed by the women. Where is this place? and how these women have become the sex slaves? Read the complete story here.

[su_expand more_text=”READ MORE” less_text=” ” height=”0″ hide_less=”yes” link_style=”button” link_align=”center”] This article was originally written by Sandra Hoyn a freelance photojournalist in Hamburg, Germany she started working for magazines, NGOs and on her personal photo projects, concentrating on social, environmental and human rights issues. In this article, she gave the very insight into the life of the prostitutes living in Bangladesh and how they set up their own world there. The article here is edited and re-written keeping the essence of the story intact.

Bangladesh, known as the country of Bengal is situated at the apex of Bay of Bengal and it is one of the most populous countries in the world having the majority of Muslim population. According to Sandra, the Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim countries in the world that has legalized the prostitution. This business exists here for more than 200 years. According to her, the Kadapara brothel is one of the oldest and second largest brothels in the Tangali district.

It is not that, the government is not bothered about it and they are not taking any action. The Government does not want the brothel to exist in that area since according to the civilized people it is an illegal activity. But the story here is completely different people surviving on the brothel are not ready to give up their profession. According to the sources, the government demolished this place in 2014 but it has been re-established with the help of local NGO.

Dipa, 26 years old, is crying. She is in the 2nd month of her pregnancy, carrying the baby of a customer. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016
Dipa, 26 years old, is crying. She is in the 2nd month of her pregnancy, carrying the baby of a customer. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

According to Sandra, many women born and grew up in that environment do not have an idea as what to do if they are removed from this business. They have nowhere to go since they have learned nothing. According to the brothel supporters and sex workers, sex work is also a kind of work and these women are not interested in doing anything else.

One can eradicate the structure but cannot change the mindset of someone. Here the women (who are sex workers) believe that it is their work and their right. After the demolition of brothels, all the women came out on the road against the action of government. They demonstrated for their rights as workers and this culminated into the mediation of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association who managed to convince the High Court that eviction of sex workers is illegal to act and restored them back.

A customer tries to kiss Priya, 19, on the cheek. She has been working as a sex worker since she was 17, spending her time in the brothel. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016
A customer tries to kiss Priya, 19, on the cheek. She has been working as a sex worker since she was 17, spending her time in the brothel. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

Today this place has become a separate entity in the existing society. The brothel area us now surrounded by 2-meter wall and they have their own setup within that includes the food stalls, tea shops, and street vendors. The brothel has its own set of rules and hierarchies of power which is completely different from the mainstream society.

Based on the description of Sandra, inside the brothel women are weak but powerful at the same time. The most vulnerable people here are the young girls in the age groups of 12 to 14 who come from the poor family background and they are often the victim of human trafficking.  These young girls are treated like a bonded sex workers and known as “Bonded Girls”, these girls have no freedom or rights whatsoever, they are the slaves of Madam, who are in debt and are not allowed to go out or keep their own money. They do not get paid for the period of between 1 to 5 years depending upon their debt and earnings. Once they clear all the debt of madam they are free to leave the brothel and can work as independent sex workers. At this juncture, they can refuse to any customer and also have their own savings.

A bed in the brothel. Her parents died when she was a child and she married young. She and her husband began abusing heroin and she went to jail for it. She says jail was the best place she has ever been because nobody beat her there. In jail, she got to know a woman who later brought her to the brothel to work. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016
A bed in the brothel. Her parents died when she was a child and she married young. She and her husband began abusing heroin and she went to jail for it. She says jail was the best place she has ever been because nobody beat her there. In jail, she got to know a woman who later brought her to the brothel to work. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

According to Sandra, from the moment these bonded women manage to pay their debts they are free to leave the brothel but these women are socially stigmatized outside their “homes” and thus often choose to stay and continue supporting their families with their earnings.

Sandra further narrates that, regardless of how these women have reached there most of them manage to survive in the profession. There are cases of women arriving there by choice. Some of them flee from their controlling husbands in a way to find the secure livelihood. There are cases of women sex workers turning down the proposals of marriage offered by their faithful clients thinking that they will lose the control of their money and they prefer to maintain their independence as a sex worker. According to Sandra, most of the sex workers here are less than 18 years old while the official age of sex worker should be 18 years and above.

This is one entirely a different world existing which has its own set of rules and regulations. According to Sandra, their services have been used by the policemen, politicians, farmers, fishermen, factory workers and groups of teenage boys. Some of these men are looking just for sex, while others come there for love and the company of a woman.

Pakhi, 15 years old, is with a customer in her room. She has lived there since she was 14. She was married at age 12 but then ran away. A man picked her up from the street and sold her into the brothel. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016
Pakhi, 15 years old, is with a customer in her room. She has lived there since she was 14. She was married at age 12 but then ran away. A man picked her up from the street and sold her into the brothel. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

The reason behind the survival of this setup according to Sandra is the existing mentality of the people of this country where the young man cannot even hold the hands of his girlfriend having sex before marriage is out of the question. The only option he has is to go to a brother and get the moral free environment.

Five-day old twins lie on a bed. They do not yet have a name. Jhinik, 20 years old, is the sex worker who gave birth to them. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016
Five-day old twins lie on a bed. They do not yet have a name. Jhinik, 20 years old, is the sex worker who gave birth to them. © Sandra Hoyn. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016

According to Sandra, she witnessed many men go there just to have a company of women and to drink tea with them. Normally, in the public areas of Bangladesh, it would never be possible for a man to invite a strange woman for a tea. Similarly, many of the clients enjoy drinking alcohol, which is forbidden outside for Muslims. The women inside never wear the hijab it is only when they step out, back into the real world.

Source:  LENSE CULTURE

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