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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Sex workers meet in Bangladesh
Campaign poster for sex workers
Sex workers complain of constant harrassment

Hundreds of women sex workers are taking part in a two-day conference near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.


Every day you will find some of the sex workers are beaten by the police

Hossain Shahid,
aid worker
Organizers say it is the first conference of its kind ever to be held in the country.

The sex workers say the event is being held to draw attention to the difficult working conditions endured by prostitutes.

They say that they are frequently either beaten up or forced to pay bribes by the police and are routinely attacked by their clients.

The sex workers also say they want to have equal rights with other Bangladeshi citizens.

Difficult situation

The carnival-like atmosphere of this conference underlies the often difficult and dangerous conditions endured by prostitutes in Bangladesh.

Pinky, a eunuch in Bangladesh
Eunuchs also attended the conference

Ever since the authorities closed down several large brothels in Dhaka, sex workers in the city have had to ply their trade on the streets.

Hossain Shahid Shumon of the aid agency Care said this situation has made thousands of women more vulnerable.

"They are not safe. They don't have any shelter.

"Every day you will find some of the sex workers are beaten by the police," said Shumon.

Faces discrimination

Outside Dhaka, many brothels still exist, but prostitutes there are also discriminated against.

They are forbidden to move freely in the area where they live, aren't allowed to wear shoes and can't send their children to schools.

Joya is a transsexual prostitute attending the conference.

She said that every day she is harassed by police, pimps and clients, and that the reason she is attending the conference is to draw attention to the daily discrimination she faces.

But aid workers say that it will be difficult to destigmatize prostitution in a conservative Muslim country like Bangladesh and that the sufferings of Joya and thousands of other prostitutes will not easily be alleviated.

See also:

03 Mar 01 | South Asia
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24 Nov 00 | In Depth
21 Aug 00 | South Asia
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