Bangladesh is one of the younger countries in the world, becoming independent only in 1971 and gaining democracy after almost 15 years of military rule, in 1990.
It is the third largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Counted amongst the most densely populated countries of the world, more than 47 million people in Bangladesh still live below the poverty line.
This rampant poverty has led to a constant exploitation of the people, may it be in the form of bare minimum wages of cloth factory workers or the glorification of the oldest profession of prostitution in the state.
Except for male prostitution, everything else seems to be legal here. Though certain provisions of law specifically debar the prostitution of children, implementation of these laws is a different matter altogether.
There are about 20 brothel villages in the country. Daulatdia is one of the largest brothels in the world. The Kandapara brothel in Tangail district is the oldest and has existed for more than 200 years. It was rebuilt with the help of local NGOs, after being demolished in 2014, as the women who were born and brought up there had nowhere else to go.
Girls, as young as 12, are bought and sold in these brothels. Their poverty makes it difficult for them to survive and these girls are often sold by parents to repay debts. They are bonded to the lady who buys them and cannot leave until they have paid their debt by selling their bodies.
Such young girls are often given steroids like Oradexon, which is commonly used by farmers to fatten their cattle, to make them look healthier and older.
Bangladesh is not the only country where prostitution is legal. Other developed countries like New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and many others have also made prostitution legal.
It is sad to see that even when women all over the world are being heard on matters of equality and are fighting for their rights; there is still a large section of women in this world who live in less than human conditions – are exploited for their bodies and are traded as chattel to pay debts of their families.
In such situations, one is strongly reminded that women’s rights are also human rights.