News/ Bangladesh: Bangladeshi sex workers eviction July 23-25 articles

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Subject: News/ Bangladesh: Bangladeshi sex workers eviction July 23-25 articles
From: A. Jordan (annj@hrlawgroup.org)
Date: Wed Jul 28 1999 - 09:56:13 EDT


July 25, 1999

Sex workers evicted

                                 From Ehsanul Haque

             NARAYANGANJ, July 24: In a pre-dawn swoop today, police evicted
             sex workers from Tanbazar and Nimtoli brothels in the town.

             Authorities said in the evening that they took 267 of the
inmates to
             government vagrant homes at Kashimpur and Pubail in Gazipur for
             rehabilitation.

             But sources in the brothels claimed that police forcibly took
away about 400
             sex workers, and about 600 fled away during the swoop.

             Some 2400 sex workers earlier left the red-light area as
trouble began in the
             brothels since the murder of a sex worker there on July 1 and a
subsequent
             government announcement for their rehabilitation elsewhere.

             There were about 3,400 sex workers in the 150-year-old

             brothels, according to earlier official estimates.

             According to witnesses, some 300 policemen laid a siege around
the
             Tanbazar and Nimtoli brothels at around 4 am. Announcement by
             loudspeaker was made calling upon the inmates to come out.

             "Come out, buses are ready to take you to the rehabilitation
centres," the
             police announced, one witness told this correspondent.

             Unwilling to respond to the call, the sex workers started
shouting in
             defiance. At this stage, police locked the collapsible gates
and started
             dragging them into 10 buses, parked near the brothels. Many
managed to
             evade the police action. They sneaked through windows and other
secret
             ways.

             Shafiul Kabir, a Director of the Social Services Department,
led the
             three-hour police drive. The Deputy Commissioner,
Superintendent of
             Police, a team of magistrates including a female one and
Officers-in-Charge
             of all the seven police stations in the district also
participated in the
             "operation".

             Most of the inmates could not take any of their household
belongings, the
             witnesses said.

             The drive over, hundreds of "mistresses", brokers and pimps of
sex workers
             and shopkeepers at the red-light area came out from hideouts.
They, along
             with many onlookers, thronged the roads adjacent to the
brothels.

             After the "operation", many sex workers who escaped the
eviction, were
             seen coming back to the red-light area and asking police to
allow them to
             take away their belongings from the brothels, still cordoned by
police.

             But the policemen did not allow them, saying the local
authorities will have
             to be sure about the ownership of their property.

             Till filing of this report late last night, police were
guarding the 21 buildings at
             Tanbazar and Nimtoli brothels. The guards of those buildings
were also
             seen.

             DC of Narayanganj Abdur Rahman was not available for comment.
But the
             SP, Sanaul Haq, told The Daily Star that they did not force any
sex worker
             to leave the red-light area. "We took only those who
volunteered to be
             rehabilitated. We just cooperated with the people of Social
Service
             Department."

             DG of the Social Service Department Mir Shahabuddin said
today's move
             was a part of a government plan for rehabilitation of the sex
workers.

             "Today we found only 267 out of 698 sex workers who earlier
opted for
             rehabilitation. We'll also take the rest if they come back to
the brothels," he
             told The Daily Star.

             The DG further said that those taken to the vagrant centres
would be given
             counselling for a normal life.

             Kohinoor, 30, who escaped from one of the buses that carried
the sex
             workers from Narayanganj, later told another Star correspondent
in Dhaka
             that she lost her three children. "I want to get them back,"
she said.

             Our Staff adds: Various social and human rights organisations
and NGOs
             yesterday issued press statements, condemning eviction of sex
workers from
             the brothels.

             Mahbuba Mahmud, Coordinator of a committee of 50 such
organisations in
             a statement alleged that more than 100 sex workers and their
children were
             injured during the police action.

             Leader of the sex workers, Sathi, was severely beaten up and
she was
             missing since the eviction drive, the statement said, and
accused a ruling
             party MP of using the Narayanganj district administration for
the eviction.

             Meanwhile, Shamim Osman, an AL MP from Narayanganj, hailed the
             government action. "Prayers were offered at mosques in the town
for
             closure of the two brothels," Osman later told The Daly Star.
"It was
             long-felt demand of the people of the town."

July 24

Sex workers at Tanbazar, Nimtali: Only
                   one-fifth of 3400 respond to offer for
                                 rehabilitation

                                 From Ehsanul Haque

             NARAYANGANJ, July 23: Only about one-fifth of the sex workers
in the
             country's biggest brothels --Tanbazar and Nimtoli-- are willing
to return to
             normal life under the government's rehabilitation programme.

             According to a survey by the Department of Social Services, 698
inmates of
             the two brothels expressed willingness to give up their
profession if the
             government rehabilitates them properly.

             During the four-day survey that ended on Saturday last,
officials of the
             Department found 1,053 inmates at the brothels. But earlier
estimates--both
             official and unofficial-- said there were about 3,400 sex
workers at the
             brothels.

             A large number of inmates left the brothels following the
killing of an inmate
             on July 1 while many others left before the survey began.

             Of the 1,053 sex workers who were present during the survey,
355
             expressed their intention to remain in their profession.

             The survey followed a government decision to rehabilitate the
sex workers
             who are willing to give up their profession. But no decision
has been taken
             as yet as regards those unwilling to return to normal life.

             The survey report said about 75 per cent of the interviewed sex
workers are
             illiterate, 0.7 per cent had passed SSC examinations and the
rest 24.03 per
             cent can only write their names. About 450 of them are below 18
and 304
             do not have any child.

             The report revealed that 789 of the inmates took up the
profession
             voluntarily, 54 were cheated into it and 78 were sold by pimps
without their
             knowledge.

             Meanwhile, Director General of social services department Mir
             Shahabuddin told The Daily Star that they would launch a
counselling
             programme tomorrow for those who have not agreed to come under
the
             rehabilitation programme. Those who have agreed would be taken
to Tongi
             where the department has a number of projects. Till then they
would be
             provided with food at the brothels.

July 23

Sex workers slam eviction
                          Basic rights are the need, they say
                                  By Ehsanul Haque

             Sex workers from different parts of the country yesterday
renewed their
             plea to the government not to evict them from brothels in the
name of
             rehabilitation programme.

             Instead, they urged the authorities to take up a programme
which would
             ensure education, health and vocational training for the sex
workers across
             the country.

             The call came at a rally organised by a coalition of 49
non-government
             organisations (NGOs), demanding human rights for sex workers of
             Tanbazar and Nimtoli brothels and to express solidarity with
them.

             The rally organised at Osmany Uddyan in the city yesterday was
attended
             by several hundred human rights activists and sex workers from
Dauladia,
             Tangail, Madaripur, Faridpur, Jessore, Tanbazar and Nimtoli. A
section of
             floating sex workers, who were previously inmates of now
defunct
             Kandupatti brothel also participated in the rally.

             The sex workers holding placards read: We do not want eviction
in the
             name of rehabilitation, Give security of sex workers, We want
to live in a
             peaceful manner etc.

             The coalition includes: Naripakha, Coalition for the Urban
Poor,
             Ain-O-Shalish Kendro, Bangladesh Human Rights Co-ordination
Council,
             Ganosastha Sangstha, Association for Social Advancement (ASA),
Centre
             for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed, Proshika, VHSS, Bangladesh
Womens'
             Health Coalition (WHC) and Bangladesh Society for Enforcement
of
             Human Rights (BSEHR).

             The rally was address by the representative of three
organisations of the sex
             workers - Durjoy, Ulka and Mukti Narishangha, Tanbazar brothel
Women
             and Children organisation, Human Rights Journalist Association
and
             Co-ordinator on Tanbazar movement' solidarity programme.

             Snubbing the rehabilitation plan as a political game, Shathi, a
sex worker
             from Tanbazar questioned, "Why our places should be the first
target of the
             proposed rehabilitation programme leaving 12 other such
brothels with 50
             thousands inmates across the country."

             Expressing deep concern over the failure of the rehabilitation
of Kandupatti
             she said, "under the existing situation of our society the
profession of
             prostitution could not be stopped through eviction or
rehabilitation. Instead
             they will spread widely in different parts of the country,
creating more
             problems than the existing one.

             Referring to the street urchins who are selling flowers, waters
at different
             parts of the city, Sahnaz, president of Durjoy, floating sex
worker's
             organisation said, "these children are in a vulnerable
situation. They will be
             forced to adopt prostitution as profession at any time in order
to maintain
             their daily life".

             The authorities should take measures to check poor and under
privileged
             girls into prostitution instead of evicting the settled sex
workers from their
             respective places, Sahnaz said.

             "We are not begging on the street, we are earning money through
body, if
             needed we are ready to pay income tax for our flesh trading",
she further
             said.

             "Shoot us of give us the right to live we are not doing harm to
any body",
             she said.

             She said: "Rehabilitate those men who come to us, we need no
             rehabilitation, we want to give better education for our
children as they can
             live sophisticated live in future."

             Momtaz Begum, a sex worker evicted from the Kandupatti brothel,
"Many
             people including a section of corrupt so-called social elite
are using us at
             night, but in the morning they pretend to be very pious
people", she alleged
             adding "the leaders of the society are curbing our freedom and
we are even
             deprived of the basic rights to be buried through religious
rituals".

             She said "society will not accept us. What the government will
give us? who
             is going to marry us?

             She also called for legal action against the pimps, who were
forcing girls to
             become a prostitute.

             Sex workers urged the Prime Minister to understand their
problem and to
             take an effective measures to end the crisis.

             Helaluddin, President of Human Rights Council said definitely
there is some
             politics behind this eviction.

             "Please do not make them scapegoat of politics," he said.

             He alleged that the authorities are violating basic human
rights of the inmates
             of the red-light areas by putting restriction on their
movement.

             Helaluddin informed the rally, Hundreds of inmates of the
red-light areas at
             Tanbazar and nearby Nimtoli are passing their days in near
starvation amid
             fears of eviction. The brothel inmates are running out of money
and short of
             necessary resource to ensure two square meals for them along
with their
             dependents.

             Mahbuba Begum, leader of the women and children urged the
government
             to take proper steps to rehabilitate the women and their
children dependents
             of Tanbazar and Nimtoli before evicting them

             A eight-point demand of the sex workers were raised at the
rally. This
             includes: inclusion of sex workers and human rights
representatives in all
             future plan for rehabilitation, withdrawal of all imposition
e.g. deployment of
             police at the red-light area, which is like violation of
fundamental human
             rights, withdrawal of all imposed government steps including
withdrawal of
             police deployed at the brothel premises, demanding publication
of a white
             paper on the present situation of evicted sex workers of
Kandupatti, who
             were uprooted from the brothel three years back, they demanded
             educational and health facilities for the children of sex
workers,
             implementation of previous government pledged to rehabilitate
the children
             of sex workers, effective steps to save minor girls have been
passing days in
             uncertainty, to take effective measures to save those girls who
had been
             forced in prostitution, immediate trial and exemplary
punishment of the
             persons responsible for killing of sex worker Farida, Mala and
Jesmine, to
             eliminate all obstacles for burial of sex workers and to ensure
their burial
             after their death.

             Later, a delegation comprises human rights leaders and sex
workers handed
             over a memorandum to the Prime Minister's office to press home
their eight
             point demands.

             The delegation also submitted copies of the memorandum to Home
             Ministry, Ministry of Social Welfare, Youth Sports and Cultural
Affairs,
             Women and Children Affairs, ruling party legislator Shamim
Osman and
             Secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare.

             Later, sex workers brought out a procession chanting slogans
against their
             eviction move, which paraded different streets and ended at the
Jatiya Press
             Club.
Ann Jordan
Director, Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons
International Human Rights Law Group
1200 18th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
P:202-822-4600
F:202-822-4606
www.hrlawgroup.org


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