Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 22:27:19 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: BANGLADESH: Forcibly Evicted Sex Workers Face Destitution
Article: 73665
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** headlines: 220.0 **/
** Topic: BANGLADESH: Forcibly Evicted Sex Workers Face Destitution **
** Written 12:35 PM Aug 23, 1999 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 10:36 PM Aug 18, 1999 by in ips.english */
/* ————— “RIGHTS-BANGLADESH: From Prostitutio” ————— */

From prostitution to destitution

By Tabibul Islam, InterPress Service, 18 August 1999

DHAKA, Aug 18 (IPS)—Hundreds of sex workers forcibly evicted last month from the centuries-old brothels of Narayangonj, a riverport town 30 kms south of here face certain destitution.

The evictions carried out brutally in the Tan Bazaar (body market) and Nimtoli red-light areas of the town have destroyed any hope of decent rehabilitation for the sex workers, 267 of whom were arrested and put into homes for vagrants.

Bundled into waiting trucks and shifted to the homes in Gazipur district 50 kms north of here many of them suffered injuries in rough handling by police and officials of the social welfare department.

Those who resisted were singled out for blows to the face, chest and private parts. Pleas that they were licensed workers and regularly paid rents to brothel owners fell on deaf ears.

“We are neither vagabonds nor street urchins that the police will take us to vagrant homes,” shouted Sathi, leader of a group of 227 sex workers now lodged in the Kashumpur Vagrant Home.

Evicted sex workers lodged here and in another home for vagrants in the Pubail area alleged that they are maltreated and subjected to sexual assaults by the wardens.

The quality of food supplied to the sex workers was appalling and there was little water for washing or drinking while medical care for the pregnant and sick was non existent, they said.

Some of the inmates of the vagrant homes said they were not sex workers but were rounded up by police because they happend to be in the vicinity during the raids.

“I was passing by on the road adjacent to Tan Bazaar when the police seized hold of me and transported me here,” a teen-aged girl said tearfully.

Protesting the evictions and demanding to be returned to the brothels, which are the only homes many have known, the angry sex workers have been holding demonstrations inside the Kashimpur home.

They have refused food, threatened mass suicide and have sworn to resist the coercive methods and ‘state terrorism’ employed by authorities to suppress their legitimate demands.

A few who managed to evade arrest during the raids found themselves at the mercy of goons who sexually assaulted them in what they thought were safe places.

“My two daughters were raped by mastans (local musclemen) in a house in which we took shelter on our way to the village home of a distant relative,” said Sufia, till recently a sex worker in Tan Bazaar.

“ Neither of my daughters were engaged in the flesh trade,” Sufia said.

Over 50 non-government organisations (NGOs) and human rights groups have joined together in condemning the forced evictions as a gross violation of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

Since the evictions were not carried out by the owners of the buildings from which the brothels operated but by the home ministry it is the responsibility of the government to release the sex workers from the vagrant homes, volunteers said.

Failing to impress the government, the volunteers filed a writ petition in the High Court on behalf of over 50 human rights organistations, early this month, challenging the arbitrary evictions and illegal confinement of the sex workers.

The court has summoned the Secretaries of the ministries of home affairs and social welfare among other officails to explain why the evictions could not be treated as human rights violations and illegal action.

Meanwhile, pimps, musclemen and brokers have been frequenting the Kashimpur and Pubail homes to secure the release of the sex workers so that they could be put back into the flesh trade in other parts of the country.

With pressure mounting the social welfare department set some of the sex workers free on the condition that ‘guardians' take charge of them. Many fell into the hands of pimps masquerading as guardians.

Since the sex workers lost all their money and belongings during the raids they have little choice but to become sex slaves earning money for the pimps.

On release, each sex worker was given 140 dollars by the social welfare department to enable them to buy sewing machines and get self-employed. But the sum is meagre compared to what they lost during the raids.

“I lost valuables and personal belongings worth 4000 dollars because the police did not allow me to collect them when I was picked up from Tan Bazaar brothel,” Saathi said.

Many of the younger sex workers were in tears on discovering that they had been ‘rescued’ by pimps and now faced a future as sex slaves in distant and unknown places.