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) Read the rest

SKS, world's largest microfinance service, drives debtors to suicide

The Associated Press has obtained portions of a suppressed independent investigation into the role that debt collectors working for microfinance giant SKS played in the suicides of desperately poor borrowers in the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh. SKS made global headlines when it received backing from a US venture capital firm, the Boston-based Sandstone Capital, and then had a highly successful IPO. The independent investigation, commissioned by SKS itself (though the company has disavowed it) documents a pattern of usurious practices by vicious debt-collectors working for the company that drove several borrowers to grisly suicide.

The interview videos were shown to the AP by Uma Maheshwari, who said she was present during one set of recordings and visited several of the families personally. She left SKS in July.

In one video, the daughter of borrower Dhake Lakshmi Rajyam cries, gasping as she talks to an investigator in Tadepalligudem, Andhra Pradesh.

Rajyam was unable to pay off $2,400 owed to eight different companies. Employees of microfinance companies, including SKS, urged other borrowers to seize the family's chairs, utensils and wardrobe and pawn them to make loan payments, her family told investigators. Unable to bear the insults and pressure of the crowd of borrowers who sat outside her home for hours to shame her, Rajyam drank pesticide on Sept. 16, 2010, and died, the family says.

"We have lost my mother," her daughter says. "Nobody will support us."

The investigator's conclusions lay the blame on SKS employees, saying they failed to comply with company policies "and even basic moral rights."

Vautrey said he sent the case studies to three top managers, including Rao.

Read the rest

Mobile ad