Spine-Tingling Photos Reveal What Life Is Like In A Legal Bangladeshi Brothel


at trueactivist.com

Most of the women who become sex workers come from poor families or, in some instances, are victims of trafficking. On an average day, a worker will earn between $11 and $19.

Warning: The following story contains graphic images and may be disturbing to some readers.

Credit: Sandra Hoyn

It’s one of the oldest professions in the world. And though the act of selling one’s body is frowned upon in my societies, doing so is still viewed as work in areas of Bangladesh, one of the few Muslim countries where prostitution remains legal.

In the district of Tangail, one will find the Kandapara brothel, which is the oldest and second largest brothel in the country, reports The Independent. The area and its purpose have existed for the last 200 years. In 2014, however, the Kandapara brothel was destroyed. As a result, many women didn’t know where to go. So, with the help of local NGOs, it was restarted once again.

Recently, photojournalist Sandra Hoyn traveled to the “brothel district” and documented what life is like inside the walled city. Food stall, tea shops, and street vendors can be found in the narrow streets, and the city is said to have its own rules and hierarchies of power which differ greatly from mainstream society. One example Hoyn shared is that the women are both weak and powerful.

Girls who enter the industry, usually at age 12 to 14, are labeled as “bonded.” The women who work in the legal industry often come from poor families and, sometimes, may be victims of trafficking. They have no freedom or rights – they belong to a ‘madam’. For at least the first five years (on average), a bonded girl is not allowed to go outside and receives no money for her work. When she had paid her debts, she may then become an independent sex worker. At that point, she is allowed to refuse customers and is able to keep her own money. Because the women are socially stigmatized outside of the brothel district, many choose to remain and continue supporting their families from afar with what is earned.

Hoyn told NextShark:

“At the beginning, it was difficult to get access to the women and customers. Some customers didn’t want to be in the photographs, especially those with a rich family. But other customers didn’t care at all about it. Some told me they want to “refresh their mind” inside the brothel and there is nothing wrong with it, so why should they hide?”

“Some girls hide their face and didn’t want to tell their stories, others have been very open and wanted to tell about their life,” she added.

Credit: Sandra Hoyn

The price of the service depends on the age and beauty of each girl, as well as the quality of the rooms. A Kandapara sex worker might earn between 1000-2000 Taka ($11 – $22) daily, which equates to about 300 Taka ($3) per customer.

“Most women have the dream to earn enough money in the brothel to buy their own house outside when they are old, and they want to not be dependent on men. They want to earn enough money to give their children a good school education at least. They want them to have a better future than they did,” explained Hoyn.

“Many women have their ‘boyfriends,’ or regular customers who pay them. I know one woman who has turned down the marriage proposals of her most faithful client because she doesn’t trust that he will let her keep her money. She’d rather maintain her independence as a sex worker.”

Customers congregate inside the brothel. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“The brothel is like its own microcosm, it is a city in a city.”

Meghla, 23, with a customer in the Kandapara brothel in Tangail. She started working for a garment factory when she was 12 years old. There, she met a man who promised her a better job with more money. He sold her into a brothel. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“Officially, [sex workers] must be 18 years old, but most of them are underage.”

Asma, 14, with a customer. She was born in the Kandapara brothel in Tangail. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

Sumaiya gets beaten in the face by Titu. They are often fighting because Titu wants to marry her, but she refuses. She is afraid that after marriage he will take away all her money. He is jealous because she has sex with many of his friends. Sumaiya is jealous because he has sex with other sexworkers in the brothel. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“Some of them take steroids like Oradexon, a drug used by farmers to fatten livestock, to look older and healthier.”

Asma stopped attending school when the students harassed her because her mother worked as a sex worker in the brothel. She started as a sex worker when she was 14 years old. Before that, she danced in front of customers. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“The most vulnerable stage is when a young sex worker enters the brothel at the beginning as a bonded girl, usually from 12 to 14 years.”

A customer tries to kiss Priya, 19, on the cheek. She began working as a sex worker in the Kandapara brothel at 17. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

Pakhi, 15, with a customer in her room in the Kandapara brothel. She’s lived in the brothel since she was 14. She got married at 12 and ran away shortly after. A man picked her off the street and sold her into a brothel. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“Most of them have sad stories — but they are really strong, at least outwardly. I admire that they manage their lives under these circumstances and do not give up.”

Kajol with her 6-month-old baby Mehedi and a customer on her bed. She thinks she is 17, but does not know her exact age. She was married at 9 years old. Her aunt sold her to the Kandapara brothel. Two weeks after the birth, she was forced to have sex again with customers. Because of the baby, her business is not so good. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

Sumaiya, 17, with her boyfriend and regular customer Titu, 23, in the Kandapara brothel in Tangail. He is from Dhaka and visits her every month for one week. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“They are not just survivors or victims, they are fighting and enjoying their life in their own way.”

Bonna, 27, a sexworker in the Kandapara brothel, is laughing with a condom in her hand. When she was 7 years old, she was raped by her stepfather. She ran away from home at 10 and a man picked her off the street and sold her into a brothel. She has two regular customers. On average, she earns 1500 Taka (19 $) per day. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

Papia, 18, with two customers on the bed in the Kandapara brothel. Her parents died when she was a child and she was married young. She and her husband began doing heroin until she was put in jail. She says that the jail was the best place she has ever been because nobody beats her there. In the jail she got to know a woman who later brought her to the brothel. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“When the women have free time, they danced and laughed together.”

Priya, 19, is teasing a friend by trying to beat him, but not seriously. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“They are joking with each other, kidding the customers. “

Used condoms outside the Kandapara brothel in Tangail. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

“The girls are very lively and cheerful. Often they forget their sadness. They still have dreams.”

Dipa, 26 years, is crying. She is in the second month pregnant from a customer in the Kandapara brothel in Tangail. Credit: Sandra Hoyn

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this series!

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    • Phanendra that is seriously uncalled for, they are in the hands of mankind not satan if you are aware? (And by all means I’m not going against your beliefs because I guess I share the same as yours) Yes living as a sex worker is not a divine lifestyle at all but if you haven’t noticed most of these women we’re raped as a child or sold into this form slavery? There not sinners because from the begging they we’re never given a chance

  1. the poverty industry, ya it is an industry that the wealthy maintain it for more greedy earnings. This report shows the fact that poverty is the Satan of every know religions. The customers are also relatively poor. the actual Satan is the financial system of the present world.

  2. Thank You for sharing their stories…and also to them for being brave to open up. We are blessed with our children and to read about many of these woman starting at a young age saddens me. At the sametime how else are they meant to earn their own money. We pray and ask God to protect these woman especially the babies that are born and raised within the brothel. May God set each and everyone of them all free from bondage and open up doors of opportunity for them all to achieve the goals, hopes and dreams they have set for themselves and their futures!!!!! God Bless

  3. Its disgusting the way women are sold off here like cattle. So sad life has no worth in this country. Where is compassion and love humans??

  4. I literally had no words for 10 minutes after reading this article! How awful that their society worn woman down to nothing to be made as objects, so much do that those woman do not even see themselves as woman but as a job… my heart breaks for them, I want to help them… I’m sure the sex trade is powerful there and they would never allow for intervention or education ??

  5. It’s all they know… And probably the highest paying job for a female in the poorest parts of Bangladesh. The first picture says more than a thousand words.
    The other pictures reveal how they make the most of it and how they still occasionally have fun and joke around within their world.
    It’s sad.

  6. Thank you for sharing this.. i pray that these girls are cared for and get the life they desire .. it makes me so grateful for my life and my childrens life

  7. I think the imagery and the story comes as a shock to us in western society. Indentured servitude and being trapped in an undesirable caste seems like such a foreign idea to an American suburbanite. We have to remember, though, as we are pointing a finger in shock and awe because of the sexual nature of this particular story, there are much worse crimes against humanity which our ignorance and greed supports. How many of our products are made by children, working for a few dollars a day, seven days a week, regularly raped and beaten. Yeh, it’s easy to judge Bangladesh for legalized prostitution, selling children into slavery, and their views on women’s status. The prostitutes in the brothel typically live a much better life, become more self sufficient, and enjoy a higher status than the children making your Nike’s. My point is that this story gives a very brief and narrow account of a trade which appalls us but doesn’t take into account the condition of the society as a whole, or our contributions to keeping it poor. $19 per day doesn’t seem like much, but, in a country where people working 12, 14, 16 hours a day in unsafe factory conditions can barely afford the basic staples, these women are comparably rich. I’m not condoning prostitution, btw. I know some of you will read this as such. I’m saying that we need to check our judgements at the door when viewing the world stage and save some for ourselves.

  8. This is so sad, that these girls are not protected and are sold into an absurd trade. It is sad that they have such past of being raped and hurt by others who are older, that should be looking after them. The pictures tell a story that indicates the reality of poor countries and gender inequality. Some of the women feel more protected to be a sex worker as its all they have ever known than to leave the trade for marriage which they feel will make them more vulnerable to abuse as a wife – that says its all for gender inequality!


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