-Mohammad Khairul Alam-
-Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation-
Lately, prompted by the concern over the spread of HIV/AIDS, commercial sex workers have been the focus of a great deal of attention, first and foremost with the aim of promoting safe sex as a method of preventing disease. Even with the many groups active among sex workers, and despite the government’s obvious interest in the matter, there has been no correct consideration of the total number of people practicing the profession in Bangladesh. Rough estimates propose that there are well over half million sex workers in the country, with the district of Dhaka, Chitagong, Khulna, and Shilet being considered “vulnerable zones of HIV/AIDS”.
If matters related to the safety of sex work and the rights of sex workers are to be addressed, it is significant first to recognize the extent of the industry, its demography as well as the conditions of work. One of the most systematic and coherent studies of the industry was recently carried out in Dhaka, a city of about eight million people.
Dhaka has a traditional profile different from other district. But as the HIV figures suggest, and as the survey confirms, the traditional image is only a veneer behind which lurk many secret dealings. The survey conducted by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation has been working with sex workers and the gay community in Dhaka for close to 1 years, estimates that there are over five thousand commercial sex-workers in Dhaka. The Join survey actually maps 3000 of these sex workers in the city area.
This hidden business continues by four element sex workers, clients, brokers and broker’s agencies. The Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation and other jointly survey focuses on the attitude, behavior and practice of Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs) in Dhaka and classifies them into four categories. They are the Residence Sex Workers (RSWs), Street Sex Worker (SSWs), Hotel Sex Workers (HSWs) and Mobile Sex Workers (MSWs). Another two categories is also found such as Call Girls or Society Call Girls (who typically have a higher socio-economic profile and provide services to wealthier clients), this type is come out of Hotel (HSWs) & Mobile Sex Workers MSWs). And other type is Floating Sex Workers, who is also a mix group; it is a sub group of Street Sex Workers (SSWs) and Mobile Sex Workers (MSWs). On the other hand we can say all type Sex Worker in Dhaka City is Mobile Sex Workers without Residence Sex Workers.
Usually Sex trade is not legal in Dhaka City. There is no any reported brothel now. A famous brothel was in central and another brothel was near the city at Narayangonj. About 6000 to 7000 thousand sex workers lived in there. After withdrawal these brothel most of the prostitutes did not get any rehabilitation facilities and a large number of them are still continuing sex trade involving with residence and hotel in Dhaka city, Of the total sample of 3000 Sex Workers, 2000 belong to the Residence category. This category lives in residential areas and operates from their homes often without the knowledge of anyone, including their neighbors. Run by aged sex workers, with their own network of regular clients, new entrants soliciting services come to these family establishments only through special contacts and they are only allowed admission after their identity has been fully verified.
The street workers, who number about 500, are the next largest category. They get their clients by waiting on the streets. Most of them run on their work separately, though some rely on brokers for help in getting clients. The favored method of work is to wait on busy streets, which make available custom as well as relative confidentiality to the contract, as opposed to the less frequented localities. Bus stops, railway stations, cinema halls and river bank are the usual locations where the contract is negotiated, from where they go to cheap hotels, under constriction building, narrow park place and lodges with their clients.
The third category is made up of mobile sex workers (Call Girl), who only number between 100 and 200. They also depend on brokers. Every evening, some one or two girls are taken out in a rickshaw or a car/cng(baby taxi) by brokers on particular courses to visit particular points. Typically these girls are sent to the clients only on the basis of prior appointments. Certain hotels and resorts in and around the city are closely associated with this arrangement, since it forms part of their hospitality services. Under this system, the hotels procure the girls for their customers through brokers who even make arrangements to transport them if needed. In this category of the profession, the girls generally have a different profile from those in the other categories. Most of their clients are short-term business visitors to the city. Given the nature of their clientele and the locales at which they provide services they are expected to be nice and well dressed. Consequently, their rates are higher. Earnings likewise are highly variable. The highest income earners are those in the mobile category (Call Girl).
The whole sex trade in Dhaka, it is said, accompaniments under police protection, without completely surprising of police CSWs have to face harassment. Owners of brothels that function openly and street sex workers pay a fixed amount of money to the police to avoid arrest and harassment.
Although the precarious conditions of the work, the sex occupation continues to attract a stable stream of adolescent girls. Most join the job because of poverty and financial obligations, mainly family liability. Often women get involved with sex trading because of trafficking or marital break-up or they are forced into it. In fact, as many as a third of the respondent said they came into the profession because their husbands had abandoned them. Social-economical security and stability is to bound to do that, other social factors also have a role to play, as is evident from the fact that 5 percent say they enrolled the trade because their lovers had deserted them.
The most of sex workers is illiterate, are married, some are bound to do it after trafficking incident, some have children and are in the 20-35 age group. Half of the respondents have a single child and rest of them two or three children or family members to look after.
It is suspected that large numbers of young and most single female low-paid workers may also supplement their low wages by occasional sex trading. Such as garment workers, cleaning workers, domestic servant, hotel workers, slum dwellers, poor female students, some of the married women living in the community having their husband living abroad for long time.
Source: Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation, UNAIDS, CARE, UNICEF