An estimated 200,000 women and teenage girls work in Bangladesh's sex industry.
Child prostitution is widespread and a serious problem. The majority of Bangladeshi prostituted children are based in brothels, with a smaller number of children exploited in hotel rooms, parks, railway and bus stations and rented flats.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2004 that there were 10,000 underage girls used in commercial sexual exploitation in the country, but other estimates placed the figure as high as 29,000. Many girls involved in child labour, such as working in factories and as domestic workers are raped or sexually exploited, these girls are highly stigmatised and many of them flee to escape such abuse, but often they find that prostitution is the only option open to them for survival - once in prostitution they become even more marginalized. More than 20,000 children are born and live in the 18 registered red-light areas of Bangladesh. Boys tend to become pimps once they grow up and girls continue in their mothers’ profession. Most of these girls enter the profession before the age of 12.
Disabled children who live in institutions and children displaced as a result of natural disasters such as floods are highly susceptible to commercial sexual exploitation.
Girls are often sold by their families to brothels for a period of two to three years of bonded sex work. The authorities generally ignore the minimum age of 18, often circumvented by false statements of age, for legal female prostitution; the government rarely prosecutes procurers of minors
As many as 90 percent of the sex workers may be addicted to Oradexon or similar steroids. Many sex workers take steroid rugs often used for cattle. The girls or women then looks plump and more attractive to the male customers. The old sex workers often take the steroid as tablets, whereas injections are more effective for younger girls. Oradexon is a commonly used steroid.
Prostitution was legalised in Bangladesh in 2000 even though the Bangladesh constitution provides that the "State shall endeavour to prevent gambling and prostitution."
This might be controversial, but during my walks I have been surprised to see how well-organised the sex industry and brothels are in Bangladesh. In many ways it appears to be much more well-organised and accepted than in my own country Denmark and in similar societies.
I have found that many aspects of many controversial and tabued parts of human life is more accepted and better understood in other societies than in my own.
Jan Møller Hansen
Dhaka, January 2012
Time for breakfast