Monday, July 12, 1999
Prostitutes in Bangladesh fight eviction
BROTHEL FOUNDED IN 1888Girls earn about $30 a day, but half goes to pay for rent
TANBAZAR, BANGLADESH -- About 3,500 Bangladeshi prostitutes dug in their heels yesterday and defied eviction from one of the country's oldest and largest brothels.
The prostitutes, up in arms over an agreement by their landlords to close the 2,000-room complex of bordellos, said they faced starvation if thrown on to the streets without compensation.
"They have given us nothing. They also did not refund [the money] they took as security deposits and savings from us," said Nazma, a 30-year-old prostitute.
Owners of the brothel complex, in the Tanbazar red-light district of Narayanganj, just outside the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, had agreed under pressure from local authorities to close shop.
Citizen's groups and religious bodies complained the brothels lured boys into the sex trade, promoted the sale of alcohol and drugs and were a blot on the town.
But the sex workers refused to budge yesterday although water and power have been cut off. Police are also barring entry to customers, who are said to have included political activists, students and foreigners -- and the police.
Sathi, the prostitutes' leader, said the sex workers had also paid protection money to police and local musclemen, and lined the pockets of political parties and administration officials.
"They used to get money from us on a regular basis besides having free sex," said the 33-year-old. "Now they are trying to throw us out and make our lives uncertain."
The brothel owners have promised the prostitutes free food rations while an official rehabilitation plan is drawn up.
But the brothel girls of Tanbazar are unconvinced and have held several protest rallies since the eviction order a week ago.
Each girl earns about $30 a day, but half of that is spent on rent, the prostitutes said, adding they had worked hard to save money and now feared their bank deposits would be frozen.
"We have been living here for so long and did not do any harm to anybody. We gave toll to political parties, police and even people in administration," Sathi said.
"If we are to be on the streets, who will take our responsibility? We will fight to the last to stay here.
The brothel was established in 1888 and has outlived several eviction orders. But this time its owners have been warned their other business interests will suffer if it is not closed down.
Shamim Osman, a ruling-party lawmaker from Narayanganj, said the government planned to spend $620,000 to rehabilitate the evicted prostitutes.
But the sex workes doubt they will see any of it. "This is just an excuse," Nazma said.
Created: August 10, 1999|
Last modified: September 2, 1999
Commercial Sex Information Service|
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710