Growing up in the red-light district

By WND Staff

Daughters of prostitutes in Bangladesh are largely following in their mothers’ footsteps as social taboos and the lack of education doom them to life on the streets, states a report by the United Nations Development Program.

Prostitutes’ sons don’t fare much better, the report finds, becoming vagabonds or entering the criminal underworld at young ages.

Surveys suggest that there are roughly 130,000 sex workers crowded into 18 recognized red-light districts across the country. They have about 20,000 children growing up in these shanties, and on average 40 babies are born every year in the darkness of each brothel.

Their birthplace determines the future of these ill-fated babies, who grow up in isolation, devoid of the privileges of normal public life.

Non-government organizations working in the Doulatdia, Jessore and Mymensingh brothels found that half of about 1,500 girls there are taking up their mothers’ profession. Their ages ranged between 10 and 15.

Doulatdia, the country’s biggest brothel, houses about 325 child sex workers.

Champa, Ayesha, Sumi and Taslima, all younger than 15 years of age, said during a spot survey that their zeal for education was doused with a negative attitude from the society outside.

“When I approached a nearby primary school, everybody had a different look at me, as if I am unwanted there,” Ayesha said, remembering her attempt at getting an education.

So, she grew up getting ready to adopt her mother’s trade. “We are born here and brought up in these surroundings. So, what better could we be,” the teen-age girl said, helplessly accepting her destiny.

Boys start their career as porters or hawkers at a nearby ferry stop or railway station, then venture out for an unknown destination and future.

About 185 child sex workers are housed in the Jessore brothel and about 190 in Mymensingh. These children give similar reasons that forced them to become prostitutes before they reached their teens.

Although inadequate, both the government and non-government organizations have initiated some programs to help these children.

The Department of Social Services, in partnership with seven NGOs, are working under a U.N.-aided project to rehabilitate the red-light children.

So far, 128 children have been sent to government primary schools and 97 adolescents given jobs. Forty-nine others were employed after taking vocational training.

Seven children’s homes have been built adjacent to the three major brothels, as well as in Dhaka, to nurture them in a different environment.

“Our aim is to detach these children from the environment where they were born and show them a new life,” a project executive said.

These homes accommodate 328 children up to 11 years old and 549 others age 11-18. “We care them for 24 hours a day,” said the executive.

Related stories:

In search of Mary Magdalene

A prostitute redeemed

Ahmed Faruque Hassan is deputy editor, news, of Ajker Kagoj, a daily newspaper in Dhaka, Bangladesh.