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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK

World: South Asia

Sex workers protest against eviction

Sex workers are denied burial rights in Bangladesh

Hundreds of sex workers in Bangladesh have held a rally in the capital, Dhaka, against government plans to shut down the country's oldest and largest brothel.

Shirin Huq of women's group Naripokha on the government's plan to move the women
Correspondents said the prostitutes, joined by human rights activists, handed a letter into Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's office, urging the government not to close the Tanbazar brothel in the neighbouring industrial town of Narayangang.

The government says it will find homes and jobs for those prostitutes who want to be rehabilitated.

But the BBC's Kamal Ahmed in Dhaka says only a quarter of the estimated 2,500 sex workers who live and work at the brothel have said they are willing to quit the profession.

Burial rights

Their protest was fuelled by rumours that they would be forced to relocate to slum areas as had happened in the past with sex workers in other areas.

The eviction move was prompted by demands from social and religious groups.

The sex workers have also demanded to be allowed burial rights which are currently denied them because of the taboo surrounding prostitution.

Although prostitution is a taboo in Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim society, a woman over the age of 16 can legally practise prostitution if she can convince the authorities she has no other means of survival.

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