Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Historically in Bangladesh, the person (especially women) who entertains clients with sex for money is called Beisya (prostitute). This is the most hated word in society. The larger society treats these prostitutes with social reproach, they don't even like to hear about them. In this study the researcher uses the term Commercial Sex Worker (CSW) instead of prostitute to avoid this social stigma. The study was conducted in Tangail Brothel and focuses on exploring the social and economical vulnerability of the brothel-based commercial sex workers. The brothel is a big, profitable and mysterious industry where various vested interest groups are inter-linked with their brothel-based activities. These interest groups are CSWs, traders, customers or clients, middlemen, drug sellers and drug addicts, pimps, landlords, police, Mastans, etc. The sex profession is a classic example of an oppressive social structure. The power relations between powerful and powerless groups can be easily distinguished through observing brothel activities. This study's intent is to determine the extent and areas of vulnerability of commercial sex workers at the Tangail Brothel. Both qualitative and quantitative data have been collected through surveys, case studies and field observations. The research methods also included literature review for collecting data from secondary sources. The living conditions of CSWs are inhumane and these women are always struggling to survive rather than questioning the status quo. The exploitation that these women face is from the police, their employer, musclemen, and government agencies. The major findings from the study are: Women who enter the sex trade do so mostly because of acute poverty when there are no other options open to them due to a lack of education and/or skills, sexual harassment in work places, desertion by husbands or family, and social insecurity, The society at large has a narrow view and unwelcome attitude towards commercial sex workers, thus the CSWs never get any empathy from the larger society, CSWs need to challenge the status quo and fight against exploitation and discrimination but they are disunited and disorganized. The CSWs are also highly dependent on the power structures in the brothel system, The vested interest groups of the brothel are very powerful and thus create hindrances to the CSWs gaining power, and CSWs are highly insecure economically as they age, very few can maintain a minimum standard of living. Commercial sex work continues from the most ancient times and will continue in the future. Thus, the human and women's rights organizations should support the commercial sex work and force the government and legal authority to recognize it as a legal profession. This would make available to the CSWs the social services enjoyed by any human being and would have greater impact in changing the lifestyle of commercial sex workers. On the other hand, to prevent the forced or unwilling entrance of women into the sex trade, government should stop or at least reduce the corruption in law enforcement departments. The government should start a massive action to free sex workers from the trap of the vested interest groups and let them lead their own lives. There should be proper monitoring and an investigation system before issuing any license to new sex workers.Finally, the most important thing is to increase women's literacy rate and introduce a gender re-distributive policy in every sphere of life, including the family and at the organizational level, to eliminate gender discrimination and enhance the status of women in Bangladeshi society.

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