The child brothels of Bangladesh (and an odd link with cattle and chemotherapy)

Hashi, a 17-year-old sex worker, embraces "husband" (known as a "Babu") inside her small room at the Kandapara brothel in Tangail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh.

Many young and inexperienced prostitutes have "lovers" or "husbands" who normally live outside the brothel occasionally taking money and sex from them in exchange for security in this male dominated society. She earns about 800-1000 taka daily ($9.75 - $12.19) servicing around 15-20 customers every day. Hashi is one of hundreds of mostly teenage sex workers living in a painful life of exploitation in Kandapara slum's brothel who take Oradexon, a steroid used by farmers to fatten their cattle, in order to gain weight and appear "healthier" and more attractive to clients. Picture taken March 4, 2012.

Here's a longer Reuters story about the plight of young prostitutes in Bangladesh, and the phenomenon of using this drug to enhance sex appeal.

The news item is a few weeks old, but I stumbled on it today while researching the origin and side effects of a steroid my oncologist is giving me during chemotherapy. Surprise: It's the same drug. I never knew breast cancer patients had so much in common with cattle and Bangladeshi child sex workers.

(REUTERS/Andrew Biraj)

11

  1. “I never knew breast cancer patients had so much in common with cattle and Bangladeshi child sex workers.”

    My apologies, but the similarities absolutely end at the steroid, right? Cancer is horrible, but surely it’s a different class of horrible than what’s going on at these brothels. 

      1. @google-86f92b2a2ab310dcdf4dd39550b3a1a3:disqus is correct. I was making black-humor light of the one weird thing we have in common: dexamethasone.

  2. That’s a powerful and complex story. Thanks for covering it.

    When I became aware of child prostitutes in my home town (city) here in Saskatchewan, Canada, it really changed the way that I looked at the world. It cut out the bullshit, effectively. I hope a lot of people experience similar enlightenment from your article. Here it was not so much a business practice, but a few loners making a dollar and trying to stay drunk off of Listerine. Surely the present wasn’t all that they were self-anesthetizing over. I can only imagine the alcohol and other drug consumption going on in Bangladesh’s brothels. But, I digress.

    I might get flack for promoting Canada’s sometimes-legal ADULT prostitution trade, but I am not sure what else to do. Sunlight helps, and the past system of prohibition obviously didn’t work too well. Will bringing this out into the open help stop child prostitution? Will bringing this out into the open help stop HIV transmission? Will bringing this out into the open help stop some serial killers? I don’t know. All I know is that what we’ve tried so far has not worked. But, I digress.

    Essentially, modern Canada has child prostitutes that will inevitably contract and spread HIV. Yet, no one talks about it. That’s utterly ridiculous. It’s funny how the federal government is up to its elbows in the prostitution situation, and yet there’s not a whole lot said about Canada’s rampant HIV problem in the Economic Action Plan 2012, because it’s a provincial responsibility to deal with health issues. What a gong show. But, I digress.

    What can we do? That is the most important question we all need to ask ourselves, right? Bah, who cares… we’re just slacktivists who have never gotten down in the dirt to find out what’s really going on.

  3. Hashi is one of hundreds of mostly teenage sex workers living in a painful life of exploitation in Kandapara slum’s brothel who take Oradexon, a steroid used by farmers to fatten their cattle, in order to gain weight and appear “healthier” and more attractive to clients.

    I read this and thought to myself, “You know what else would make her seem healthier? Food!” As deplorable as her situation is, I can’t believe they’d just give her a drug to hide her starvation as a final insult to injury. I don’t understand the world. I just don’t understand it.

    1.  Don’t bother trying to understand it. Just try to annihilate it and replace it with something comprehensible. Save your sanity.

  4. This posting hit me like a kick in the gut. “Hashi is one of around 900 sex workers – some as young as 12”. 12 year olds being sold off by their birth families and being turned out by what we might call pimps? Damn, where’s that air-sickness vomit bag when I need it?

    More importantly, where are the United Nations and the World Health Organization? What if anything are they doing about all this? Does Bangladesh need its own “Arab Spring” in order to stop this shit?

  5. What an absolutely heartbreaking story. The brain reels at merely trying to imagine such a life. And how bizarre and scary to think of ‘Dex’ being used in this way. I finished active treatment for breast cancer recently and have been (shyly!) cheering you on as you go through chemo. Oddly enough, I mentioned the terrifying lolly bag of anti-nausea meds in a post I wrote today about my first chemo session (and how The Sopranos helped get me through!). The fun just never stops, hey?!? Sending a (very gentle) cyberhug from Darwin, Australia…

Comments are closed.