By Andrew Biraj
“Hashi cannot be sad ever. Sadness is a part of our lives, so we don’t bother with sadness. My parents will not be able to identify me anymore. There is a huge difference between my present appearance and the malnourished look of my childhood. I am healthier than before and fit to serve a lot of customers in a day.”
- Hashi (which means happiness), a seventeen-year-old sex worker at Kandapara brothel in Tangail
It was a quieter evening than in hectic Dhaka. The gentle breeze of spring surrounded the cold atmosphere of the small town of Tangail, a town in the north east of Bangladesh. A small walk through a calm neighborhood took me to a place which looked similar to any of the country’s slums.
The bright tungsten lights of grocery shops and the high volume of Bangladeshi pop music from the tea stalls mesmerize the whole area. Between those stalls the alleyways on the other side of wide drains are dark. Following my fixer I suddenly found myself inside one of those narrow lanes, where young girls with heavy makeup and colorful clothes were lined up. The girls of different ages, though mostly teenagers, try to draw the attention of men by laughing, chuckling and pulling their hands.
The neighborhood of around a hundred of buildings with more than 800 small rooms is one of the 14 official brothels of Bangladesh but are in essence a prison for around 900 sex workers. The young sex workers of this brothel must serve at least 10-15 customers each day. Being a “Chukri’ or bonded girl, they are bound to follow the orders of their Sardarni (House owners, who were prostitute before and purchase girls to run their business).
“When I first took a customer; I didn’t realize what was going to happen. He raped me again and again. It was bleeding severely and I was crying. I didn’t have any idea what sex is,” said Hashi, who has been working as a prostitute since she was 10.