Story of a sex worker, accepting the indelible past
Due to the extremely traumatic experience and frustration with her life, Lucky finally fled home at a tender age of 12, back in 2002.
She was just in her late 20s, but had been sold eleven times at the very same brothel, after every time she left it in search of a better life. Insatiable greed of the pimps and their wide network, coupled with ‘bad luck’ and abject poverty, forced her to keep selling sex at the brothel in Tangail, from 2002 to 2014 to earn a living.
Like any ordinary village girl, Lucky Begum (not her real name) grew up with her parents in her home district of Mymensingh. She lost her mother at the age of 10, and ever since then, her father considered her a ‘burden’ in his poverty-stricken home.
Moreover, young Lucky regularly had to tolerate extreme mental and physical abuse from her stepmother. Due to the extremely traumatic experience and frustration with her life, Lucky finally fled home at a tender age of 12, back in 2002. She eventually moved to Dhaka.
With a simple ambition to make her own living, either by begging on the streets or working as a domestic help, Lucky firstly arranged an accommodation at the capital’s notorious Karwan Bazar slum in a bid to discover freedom.
But her ill fate continued to follow her trail. Unfortunately, Lucky begum ended up at the hands of sex traffickers.
She was sold to a ”Sardarni” (brothel owner, previously a prostitute herself) at the infamous red- light area of Kandapara in Tangail Sadar, the second largest brothel in Bangladesh.
In 2014, after the authorities knocked down the red-light district where she had been working for nearly 14 years since 2002, Lucky had no other choice but to continue selling her body for money. Fatefully, her streetwalking profession turned out to be even more difficult after the government led eviction.
Discreetly, she decided to continue as a floating sex worker in the capital city to make her a living. Sharing her depressing life’s account with Dhaka Tribune, Lucky said: “When I was being sold at the brothel, I was merely 11 years of age, and had little idea about what was waiting for me. The Sardarni promised me a decent job as a house-help at her sister’s residence. I vividly remember that trade negotiation over a woman’s body on that very day. I was sold at Tk500, the highest price, only for being a virgin ‘Chukri’ (child sex worker),” she said.
Her first client was a middle-aged man and the Sardarni pocketed all the money he had offered for Lucky’s service, whose first month at the brothel was like ‘living in a hell.’ After a little while, she managed to escape the brothel and went into hiding in Dhaka. Undesirably, she could not evade the claws of sex traffickers who again spotted Lucky and sold her to yet another Sardarni at Kandapara.
This time around, Lucky, against her will, spent some time there and started to become accustomed to the atmosphere . Finally, she realized that this was no way to live. Driven by the sense of living like a human being, she yet again fled the brothel, and was later caught and sold there at the Kanda. And the same thing was repeated until the 2014 eviction.
Steroids pushed for a feisty look
Lucky said most of the underage sex workers at the brothel have been forced to take steroids
to look healthier and thus draw more customers; that too, at a higher pay. “Many experienced sex workers used to advise me to do so, citing that steroids reduce body pain,” she said, adding that the drug eventually affected her body.
“My body swelled up like a balloon and now I have hypertension. I didn’t know about the side effects of steroids,” she maintained, adding: “Despite being 29, I look like a 40-year-old woman.
“I thought the drug was meant for common usage, because it was available even at tea stalls in the brothel,” she said. “All they (brothel managers) wanted was for us to look more sassy, with a mature physique, before clients,” the woman added.
According to Bangladesh Sex Worker’s Network (SWN), a non-government organization, some 90% of brothel-based young sex workers are tricked into consuming steroids. In most cases, they are advised by their peers to take the drug to get rid of bodily aches and pains, but in reality it is not the case, the SWN says.
Miseries still there
When the nearly 200-year-old red-light district was demolished in 2014, Lucky, who was 24 at that time, made numerous attempts to switch to other means of generating income, but all her efforts were in vain. “Over the past five years, I had to change a number of jobs- from a garment worker to a housemaid- it was mainly due to my job history of being a sex worker,” she said.
Taking advantage of her past ‘weaknesses’, most of her male colleagues at almost every workplace harassed her, she recounted, adding: “I was once even raped at a garment factory after my previous profession was leaked there.”
Deeply depressed, Lucky confided that after being in prostitution, the concerned persons experience the deepest darkest depths of our society: an immeasurable and unimaginable amount of violence, humiliation, lies and inhumanity.
The repeated exploitation prompted her to start selling sex again, but as a streetwalker. Lucky now lives at Mirpur-1, where she is among scores of women, mostly aged between 11 and 30. Their work area stretches all the way to Manik Mia Avenue.