|Aerial view of Kandapara brothel in Tangail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh.|
Image by Ranak Martin. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2012)
The 200-year-old Kandapara brothel in Tangail, one of the oldest brothels in Bangladesh, was shuttered on July 14, 2014. Tremendous pressure from local Muslim clerics and politicians supposedly led to the brothel's closure, but the national platform of sex workers of Bangladesh has accused local authorities of land grabbing under the guise of religious piety.
More than 759 prostitutes were evicted as a result. Residents were only given a few hours' notice, human rights organizations have protested. The Facebook page of women-centered publication "Women Chapter" says that the evicted sex workers are now facing uncertainties and living in unsafe environments.
Sociologist Laura Agustín tweeted how the sex workers were evicted:
Kandapara #sexworkers group: 'Armed with sticks they told us we have one hour to leave or they would burn down the brothel with kerosene'.Twitter user ATM Zakaria warned:
— Laura Agustín (@LauraAgustin) July 14, 2014
পুনর্বাসন ব্যাতিত যৌনপল্লিটি উচ্ছেদ সমাজ এবং রাষ্ট্রের জন্য হুমকি ==========================================... http://t.co/d6yLqX9a8Q
— ATM ZAKARIA (@atmzakaria71) July 14, 2014
Eviction of sex workers without rehabilitation is a threat to the society and nation.Mogoje Curfew (Curfew in the brain) wrote on Sovyata (Civilization) blog that these sex workers did not join the profession willingly, but out of hardship or coercion. The blogger wrote what will happen to the sex workers without rehabilitation:
We can guess the future of the evicted sex workers who are oppressed. They will certainly not get any work out there. They have to beg from home to home to feed their mouths.The Kandapara brothels sprung up from 1860 to 1880 as traders arrived on commercial vessels. They had both time and money and were sex workers' main clients. The total population was until recently about 2,000, including sex workers, their children, some parents, babus (fixed lovers/permanent clients), pimps, and landlords.
It's not the first brothel to be shut down and its workers evicted in the Muslim-majority country, where conservatism is on the rise. On July 23, 1999, the Tanbazar brothels, one of the oldest and largest, were closed down and about 2,600 sex workers were evicted from their homes. Dhaka's Kandupatti, home to several thousand sex workers, was next. Then it was Magura. Last August, attacks were carried out on the Madaripur brothel and homes of approximately 500 sex workers were vandalized and looted.
|Members from Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh (SWNOB) form a human chain Image by Shafiqul Alam. Copyright Demotix (29/8/2013)|
Similar accusations were made after the eviction of the Tanbazar and Madaripur brothels. The people behind the eviction denied the allegations. They claimed that the brothels are source of criminal activity.
|Sex workers formed human chain at front of press club in Dhaka protesting the eviction of Kandapara brothel, Tangail. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (20/7/2014)|
In Bangladesh, there are 18 registered brothels and around 200,000 sex workers across the country. A recent study revealed rampant child prostitution.
Kazi Mamun Hossain, a diaspora Bangladeshi blogger, wrote on Bangla blogging platform Somewhereinblog:
I condemn the duality of the state in not banning the prostitution, but also not upholding sex workers rights. I strongly protest eviction of the sex workers without rehabilitation.The post was first published in Global Voices Online