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     Volume 5 Issue 108 | August 18, 2006 |

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Human Rights

A day in the life of a sex worker

Sarah Mahmud

Stroll down the streets of Gulshan after hours. It may seem peaceful at first, but try stepping foot into the darker areas of the neighbourhood. More often than not, a young woman lurks in the shadows asking you to “Come over” and “How much are you willing to pay?” One may be too quick to judge, but most of them do not choose this path of prostitution. Typically they are forced into it. Many have either been abducted from their homes, assaulted, or manipulated in some way into this humiliating profession.
Damaged goods, noshto--words these young women use to describe themselves; Young women who sell their bodies for money. They believe that they have shamed not only themselves, but also their families.

Sadia was forced into prostitution by the man she loved

Twenty-three year old Sadia, who has been living the life of a prostitute for nearly two years. A few years ago she fell in love with a man who had told her to visit Dhaka with him. He ended up selling her to a man who forced her into prostitution. She was able to track down her so-called lover and sent him to prison, yet he only spent a few months in jail. Sadia had not told anyone of her shoddy profession. It was business as usual. Once while roaming the streets looking for new high paying customers, Sadia's father, a CNG driver spotted her. She says that she could never forget the look of shame on his face and that she had never before seen her father cry. He immediately began asking God for forgiveness. A few days later, Sadia was disowned by her family. Many of Sadia's clients are affluent and married men. Along with many of her other colleagues, Sadia is often hired for parties and other get-togethers which pay quite well. Yet Sadia does not receive even one taka of what she earns. Most of the money goes to her pimp who has many other girls, some even younger than 15 under his control.

Natasha was an ex-garment employee and before leaving, her husband had taken all her money and left her with their child. A few months soon after, Natasha's daughter had come down with pneumonia. Twenty-eight year old Natasha resorted to prostitution in

Not being able to read or write, Lela has to sell her body to support her family.

order to pay for her daughter's treatment. She died in the hospital, but Natasha had no way to pay the bills. The young mother resorted to prostitution in order to pay her debts to the hospital. Natasha says that most of her customers refuse to use protection. She is in fear of contracting of AIDS or other diseases, yet she feels as though she has no other choice but to comply with their wishes and continue being a sex worker.

Lela was the wife of a heroin dealer. After her husband was sent to jail, she had no other source of income. Not being able to read or write, Lela turned to prostitution. Lela's family does not know of her night job. During the day, she works at a garment factory where she says the pay is not enough to support her big family. Lela says that she has been harassed by RAB and the police. The authorities take most of the money she earns in exchange for not going to jail. She is constantly assaulted by the authorities. Her arms

Hashna could not return to work as a garment worker after she was gang-raped and became pregnant.

and legs were bruised from a recent beating she received from the police. Formerly addicted to heroin, Lela states that there is nowhere else she can turn to support her family.

One of the most haunting stories is probably that of Hashna. She had a job in a garment factory at the age of 14. On her way home after work late one night, she was kidnapped by 15 men and gang raped. As a result, she became pregnant and nine months later gave birth to her daughter. She says that many of the men were her co-workers. She was not able to return to work after what had happened. “They ruined my life, my reputation, and my future. Everyone tells me that being a victim of rape is my fault.” She supports her daughter by selling her body every night.

These women, like many others strongly believe that they are cursed into the life of a prostitute. According to Lela, “It is a way of life and a way to make money. People who hate us for our profession are not living our lives and do not understand the hardships we are forced to endure.”

Names of the interviewees have been changed in order to protect their identities.

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