These Photographs Reveal Hellish Life Of Women In Bangladesh’s 200-Year Old Brothel

Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim countries where prostitution is legal.

Country’s Tangail district houses brothel that has existed for 200 years. Kandapara brothel is the oldest and second largest brothel in the country.

Demolished in 2014, the women who grew up there didn’t know where to go. Later, it re-started. German based photojournalist Sandra Hoyn, who visited Kandapara recently, has documented life of its sex workers.

1. Kandapara brothelThe brothel is huge. It is like a city within a city.

2. Customers inside the brothel
Sex workers in Bangladesh are not treated as normal citizens. Poor girls are forced into prostitution. They are owned by a Madam. Sex workers, who are not allowed to go outside, pay major part of their earning to her.

3. Megha with a customer
Megha, 23, started working with a garment factory at the age of 12. There, she met a man who offered her a better paying job. He sold her into a brothel.

4. The official age
Hoyn says, “Officially, sex workers must be 18 years old, but most of them are underage. Some of them take steroids like oradexon, a drug used by farmers to fatten livestock, to look older and healthier. The most vulnerable stage is when a young sex worker enters the brothel as a bonded girl. She is usually 12 to 14 years of age.”

5. Asma with a customer
Asma, 14, was born in Kandapara brothel. She stopped attending school when students harassed her because her mother worked as a sex worker. She has also become a sex worker now. Earlier, she used to dance in front of customers.

6. A customer tries to kiss Priya
Priya is 19-year old. She began working at Kandapara brothel at the age of 17.

7. Kajol with her six-month old baby
Kajol is on a bed with her six-month old daughter, Mehendi. Two weeks after giving birth, she was forced to have sex with customers. Because of the baby, her business is not good. She thinks she is 17 but does not know her exact age. She was married when she was 9. Her aunt sold her to the brothel.

8. Pakhi with a customer
Pakhi, 15, is with a customer in her room. She has lived here since she was 14. She got married at 12 and ran away shortly after. A man picked her from the street and sold her into a brothel.

9. Sumaiya with her customer
Sumaiya is 17 years old and is with her regular customer who is also her boyfriend. His name is Titu who is 23 and belongs to Dhaka. He visits her every month for a week.

10. Sumaiya was beaten up
Sumaiya gets beaten by Titu as they often fight. Titu wants to marry her but she refuses. She is afraid that he will take away all her money after marriage. He is jealous because she has sex with many of his friends. Sumaiya is jealous because he has sex with other sex workers in the brothel.

11. Bonna, a sex worker 
Bonna, 27, is laughing with a condom in hand. She was raped by her stepfather when she was 7 years of age. She ran away from home at the age of 10 and a man picked her from the street and sold her into a brothel. She has two regular customers. On an average, she earns 1500 Taka ($19) per day.

12. Papia with two customers
Papia is 18 years old and is with two customers lying on bed in the above picture. Her parents died when she was young. She and her husband became heroin addicts. She was put in jail where she met a woman who brought her to brothel.

13. Priya, trying to beat a friend

“Many women have their boyfriends or regular customers who pay them. I know one woman who has turned down marriage proposal of her most faithful client because she thinks he will not let her keep her money. She’d rather maintain her independence as a sex worker,” Sandra Hoyn said.

14. Used condoms lying outside Kandapara

According to Sandra Hoyn, she met a woman in the brothel who worked in a garment factory. Her co-worker in the factory told her of a more lucrative job. “On her own wish, she started working in the brothel and now doesn’t want to leave because it is a good place to earn money,” Hoyn said.

15. Dipa, a sex worker

Dipa, 26, is shown crying in the photograph. She is in the second month of pregnancy in Kandapara brothel.

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