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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 14:00 GMT
Dhaka sex workers condemn evictions
Waliur Rahman
BBC reporter in Dhaka

Hundreds of commercial sex workers have staged a demonstration in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to protest against forced evictions from brothels around the country.

Organisers say the rally is the first of a series of planned demonstrations.

Sex workers' protest poster
Bangladesh has about 2,500 registered sex workers
The Sex Workers' Network in Bangladesh says the latest eviction drive took place in western Magura district town, throwing more than 300 sex workers out of their shelters.

Sex workers' leader Momtaj Begum said women evicted from the Magura brothel, and their children, were now struggling to find alternative means of making a living.

She said the court had asked the authorities not to evict sex workers from any brothel without ensuring a full rehabilitation programme for them.

But Ms Begum said the Magura eviction was a clear violation of the court order.

'No alternative'

The fate of the Magura sex workers is similar to that of thousands of others who have been evicted from various brothels across Bangladesh.

More than 1,000 commercial sex workers were evicted from the central Narayanganj town more than three years ago.

Since they have no other alternative for a living, many are compelled to return to their old profession
Researcher
Researchers say most of them have yet to be rehabilitated, despite government assurances that they would be provided with income-generating alternatives.

"I know some of them personally," said one researcher.

"They are now in deep trouble, staying in the streets. Since they have no other alternative for a living, many are compelled to return to their old profession, but this time under the open sky."

The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association says the country has at least 18 brothels with some 2,500 registered sex workers.

But the country's conservative society is unwilling to accept their presence.

Health fears

Experts fear the growth of "floating prostitution" around hotels will lead to more unsafe sex and sexually transmitted diseases in Bangladesh.

Aid donors, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNNFPA), have insisted that wider acceptance of the profession is needed in order to tackle the health concerns.

The government says it is willing to rehabilitate the commercial sex workers, but it is constrained by lack of funding.

A project is being implemented with the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Goalanda, in central Bangladesh, to teach sex workers alternative skills and arrange education for their children.

But researchers say the sex workers need much more attention from the state to come out of the age-old trade.





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SEE ALSO:
Dhaka discusses women migrants
20 Oct 02 |  South Asia
Sex workers meet in Bangladesh
18 Jun 02 |  South Asia
Country profile: Bangladesh
22 Jan 03 |  Country profiles


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