Friday, July 9, 2010

You don't have to turn on the red light

She wrings her hands, almost as though rubbing them together will wash away the past - much like the Lady Macbeth. Her eyes dart from side to side, down-cast, avoiding any eye-contact, desperately trying to hide her shame. Her story doesn't differ much from the others. Abducted from her village when she was 12, Sameera was brought to Dhaka to work. Several futile attempts to escape and return home ensured that she was locked up for months, threatened and raped. Her frail body too young to withstand such torture was then pumped with drugs and cow steroids to fatten her up, making her look more womanly and disguising her youth.

Now 18, she is pregnant with her second child. Abortion is illegal in Bangladesh. Luckily she has so far tested negative for HIV. Her first child, Ismail, is 3 yeard old. She doesn't know who the father is and young Ismail's future is pre-determined by his mother's circumstances. He will not be registered without a father's name and is not entitled to a birth certificate. Boys like him have either become pimps or enter a life of crime. If Sameera's second baby is a girl, she is likely to follow her mother's footsteps.

"Other women who work here have come willingly", she says. Their poverty and home life often lead to desperation, and now that sex-work is legalised, women see it as an alternative to begging or even factory work. "We are told we are immoral and corrupting society, but society has forgotten us and left us with no hope." Some Islamic groups argue that the scourge of prostitution in Bangladesh is a colonial legacy that was institutionalised by the British and secularists who introduced vice to destroy family values and morality but these groups have not taken action to protect the women.

Bangladesh is a country mired in poverty, with almost 80 million people living in squalor. Women bear the greater burden of the poverty with over 70% remaining illiterate. In the majority Muslim country, young girls like Sameera have few options and there is little evidence of the government or society providing viable alternatives for sex workers.

3 comments:

Wafa' said...

another victim of our stupidity and injustice . The funny thing is that we keep labeling them as the evil and we don't know how evil we are.

Sid said...

Oh ... new template. Nice.

This piece made me puke. I ... read this and I just feel so hopeless/powerless.

desert demons said...

Wafa' - it is painful that these women are forced to compromise their dignity and honour in order to survive and the state legalises the activities because they can't provide alternative sources of income for them. But the saddest thing is that the cycle continues from generation to generation.

Sid - I thought I'd give the new templates a try - experimented with some colour and then with fire theme but nothing suited me more than plain black so I stuck with that but just neated up the place a bit.
Need a sick bag? - hopeless and powerless is how we often feel but I somehow think that if we leave it all at that, then things will never change for women like Sameera.