Sex workers’ rights organisation PIACT Bangladesh says there are up to 4,000 sex workers based in brothels and around 100,000 ones floating or hotel-based.
One streetwalker, Sumi (not her real name), said brothel-based sex workers were luckier and safer since they have a leader or “Ma.”
“With their Ma’s support, they are able to better handle customers,” she explained.
Streetwalkers rarely know their fate and where they will be the next day.
According to Sumi, her broker only cares about his share of money and is unconcerned about her.
“If we complain about a customer, the broker just asks us to do what we are paid to,” she said.
The brokers even threaten to stop the supply of customers for the floating sex workers if they complain.
“If one prostitute leaves, I’ll simply get another. Just remember that you will not get customers without us,” she recalled being told by a Tejgaon-based broker.
Another streetwalker working at Shahbagh said she paid money to police almost every night.
“Three to four policemen take money from us,” she said, failing to recall their names.
According to her, the policemen carry out fake raids where streetwalkers work.
“Upon receiving money, police ask us to flee the spot and return after some time,” she said.
Policemen even have sex with the streetwalkers without paying them.
Mina, another streetwalker, said: “I had to have sex with three policemen who refused to pay me. When I asked for money, they severely beat me. They even took away all my money.”
The next day, Durjoy Nari Sangha (DNS), an organisation working with 54,000 streetwalkers in 26 districts, rescued and aided her to get medical help, she added.
When contacted, DNS Executive Director Rahima Begum said these incidents are fairly regular.
Demanding justice for the streetwalkers, Sex Workers Network General Secretary Chumki Begum said: “Sex workers do not get justice in most cases.
“Around 200 sex workers died over the last three years due to different forms of violence against them.”