Re- URGENT action on evicted brothel workers in Bangladesh

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Subject: Re- URGENT action on evicted brothel workers in Bangladesh
From: Sue Metzenrath (scarlet@dynamite.com.au)
Date: Thu Jul 29 1999 - 22:48:54 EDT


Hello all:

The following brief is rather long but please take the time to read it and act on it. Sex workers in Bangladesh need your support.

Regards
Sue Metzenrath

Bangladesh Sex Workers:

The following is a brief on the situation currently faced by sex workers in Bangladesh. The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Work Projects urges everyone who receives this note to write to the PM of Bangladesh and protest against the evictions, to UNDP (United Nations Development Program) for supporting rehabilitation programs of sex workers and the High Commissioner/Ambassador of Bangladesh in your respective country.

Sadhana Mukherjee, Chair

Sue Metzenrath, steering committee member

Background:

Tanbazar is the oldest and largest brothel in Bangladesh. It is reputed to be about two hundred years old and is situated in the river port town of Narayanganj, 25 kilometres south of the capital city Dhaka. There are more than 1600 sex workers living there with their children and it is said that the earnings from this brothel support not only other commercial activities within the brothel (shops, etc) but also extended families of the sex workers. It is impossible to estimate the true extent of the economic dimension of their support. The reason for the recent murder of Jesmin (a sex worker at Tanbazar) is conjecture but it is widely believed that the sex workers are now victims of power politics. The brothel is largely controlled by politicians of the opposition political party. The local Member of Parliament (MP) who belongs to the ruling party, Awami League, is seeking to establish his control over the brothel. A 51 member Citizen's Action Committee led by Mr. Shamim Osman, the local MP, has been holding meetings and rallies with the aim of eliminating the brothels in Tanbazar & Nimtoli by 'rehabilitating the sex workers. The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) is behind the local MP and the local administration is therefore not willing to protect the rights and interests of the women.

The Prime Minister has recently declared an allocation of Takas 20 million (~ US$ 400,000) for the "welfare" (eviction and 'rehabilitation') of the "socially disadvantaged" women. In the meantime a five year project of Taka 100 million (US$ 2,000,000) has been launched by the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh and the Department of Social Services of the GoB for the rehabilitation of "disadvantaged women and their children" living in 4 brothels in Bangladesh. The project has been designed to provide women with skill training, micro-credit, schooling for their children, health education/awareness, etc. which would all be done in the brothels, without force and with full co-operation of the women. However, the sex workers were never consulted at any stage of the project design although it is always reiterated that this rehabilitation is with and for the sex workers.

The recent murder of Jesmin in Tanbazar has been used to highlight the "underworld" nature of brothels and subsequently local community opinion against them has been strengthened. This has also allowed police and other forces to be deployed in the area, the sole effect of which has been to restrict the women. They are not allowed out and customers are not allowed in. Electricity and water was cut-off. Many of these women and their children faced starvation from lack of income. It is reputed that many women have begun to sell their jewellery and other belongings. Several meetings have took place between the local authorities regarding the future of the brothels. The sex workers were not allowed to express their views in any of these meetings. The local authorities have decided that the brothels will not continue to exist in their present form and eviction/rehabilitation will begin as early as possible.

Naripokkho (a feminist ngo) along with 23 other organisations such as Bangladesh Women's Health Coalition (BWHC), Nari Maitree, HIV/AIDS NGO Network, CARE Bangladesh, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights, Bangladesh Human Rights Journalists Forum, Coordinating Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh, Women for Women, Utsho Bangladesh, Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangstha, Ain-o-Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Foram, Bangladesh Association of Women for self Empowerment (BAWSE), Coalition for the Urban Poor (CUP), Bangladesh Environment & Lawyer's Association (BELA), Legal Awareness Forum, Phulki, Bangladesh National Women's Lawyer's Association, Ulka (association of evicted sex workers of Kandupatti brothel), Durjoy (association of floating sex workers of Dhaka) and Mukti (sex workers from a brothel in Tangail), have come together to express solidarity and mobilise public opinion in support of the sex workers in Tanbazar. It is their belief that the forces acting to evict the sex workers from the brothel have only their own interests in mind. The women in the two brothels are being forced out against their will, violating all human rights– right to movement, right to shelter, right to security. We, therefore, demand that the sex workers of Tanbazar and Nimtoli be allowed to return to the brothels and not be forced out of their profession and homes. These women are citizens who exercise voting rights and therefore have rights like any other citizen of the country.

Though it is assumed that UNDP does not recommend violent means, large scale violence IS being used at Tanbazar and at Nimtoli. Nearly 30% of all the brothel-based sex workers in Bangladesh live in these areas. Here HIV prevalence is 15 per 1000 persons and syphilis prevalence is about 50%. Hence the impact of the scattering away of these workers all over the country will result in the spread of the HIV epidemic all over Bangladesh.

The situation took a particular ugly turn at 3 a.m. 24th July, when police entered Tanbazar brothel in collusion with the project staff of UNDP. The women were herded out, beaten by police and forced into buses. Sathi, the leader of the sex workers’ rights movement against eviction and forced rehabilitation has been kidnapped by the police (though they deny it) and her whereabouts are unknown. Some of the sex workers lost their children in the melee. The fate of the women captured by the police is abuse, torture and rape. Some have fled and are living as fugitives.

All this is in blatant violation of the UN Human Rights charter, women’s rights championed by the UN, the HIV and STD reduction policies of WHO and UNAIDS.

The Tanbazar Movement Solidarity Council are going to mount a legal challenge against the "illegal eviction", as the authorities had no court order as required for eviction.

Now Tangail brothel (where CARE Bangladesh works) has been threatened with eviction by Aug 4. The sex workers there have had their lives threatened in anonymous letters and the mullahs are showing up at their houses.

We, therefore, urge all concerned groups, individuals, and organisations to rally against this eviction and attack on the livelihood of sex workers.

We would like to encourage sex worker rights and human rights organisations to demonstrate at UNDP headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Geneva and create pressure on UNDP to stop their so called "rehabilitation program" immediately at Tanbazar

The points we would like people to make are:

    a.. Many of these women want to remain in the sex industry and are demanding better working conditions. This includes access to HIV/STD education programs and knowledge on safe working conditions, with access to condoms and other tools of the trade.

    b.. That peer based and self-empowerment based support programs have been proven worldwide to reduce STD transmission and better outcomes for sex workers.

    c.. Any rehabilitation programs initiated must involve consultation and guidance by sex workers. Those that sex workers feel are important are those that involve skills development and literacy programs, and they must be VOLUNTARY.

    d.. The sex workers of Tanbazar also want the following demands to be met:

        a.. bringing back evicted sex workers to their respective brothels,

        b.. payment of compensation for loss of income,

        c.. rehabilitation of sex workers as per the plan given by them.

    a.. UNDP funding to be made available for self empowerment/rights based programs rather than rehabilitation based programs, ideally run by peers.

    a.. Allow sex workers free choice as to whether they remain in the industry or choose rehabilitation.

    a.. An end to the violence and abuse of all sex workers.

    a.. Forced eviction and forced rehabilitation drives sex workers underground where they are harder to access for HIV/STD prevention programs provided by ngos.

Addresses for protest letters and actions:

Prime Minister, Mrs Sheik Hasina

Old Sanzsad Bhaban

Dezzaon

Dhaka

Bangladesh

UNDP, Washington

United Nations Development Program

1775 K Street, NW, Suite 4th Floor

Washington, DC, 20006

Fax: (202) 331-9363

E: HQ@undp.org

UNDP, Bangladesh

House No. 60, Road No.11A

Dhanmondi Residential Area

Dhaka

Bangladesh

Fax: 880-2-813196, 817811

E: fo.bgd@undp.org

UNDP, Geneva

Director

Mr Bertrand Coppens

Palais des Nations

Geneve

Switzerland

The UNDP has a web site with a page for comments. The URL is http://www.undp.org/main/guestbk/cnt1.cfm

We encourage you to leave comments here.

Bangladeshi High Commissioners/Ambassadors in your country.

Hello all:
 
The following brief is rather long but please take the time to read it and act on it.  Sex workers in Bangladesh need your support.
 
Regards
Sue Metzenrath
 

Bangladesh Sex Workers:

The following is a brief on the situation currently faced by sex workers in Bangladesh. The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Work Projects urges everyone who receives this note to write to the PM of Bangladesh and protest against the evictions, to UNDP (United Nations Development Program) for supporting rehabilitation programs of sex workers and the High Commissioner/Ambassador of Bangladesh in your respective country.

Sadhana Mukherjee, Chair

Sue Metzenrath, steering committee member

Background:

Tanbazar is the oldest and largest brothel in Bangladesh. It is reputed to be about two hundred years old and is situated in the river port town of Narayanganj, 25 kilometres south of the capital city Dhaka. There are more than 1600 sex workers living there with their children and it is said that the earnings from this brothel support not only other commercial activities within the brothel (shops, etc) but also extended families of the sex workers. It is impossible to estimate the true extent of the economic dimension of their support. The reason for the recent murder of Jesmin (a sex worker at Tanbazar) is conjecture but it is widely believed that the sex workers are now victims of power politics. The brothel is largely controlled by politicians of the opposition political party. The local Member of Parliament (MP) who belongs to the ruling party, Awami League, is seeking to establish his control over the brothel. A 51 member Citizen's Action Committee led by Mr. Shamim Osman, the local MP, has been holding meetings and rallies with the aim of eliminating the brothels in Tanbazar & Nimtoli by 'rehabilitating the sex workers. The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) is behind the local MP and the local administration is therefore not willing to protect the rights and interests of the women.

The Prime Minister has recently declared an allocation of Takas 20 million (~ US$ 400,000) for the "welfare" (eviction and 'rehabilitation') of the "socially disadvantaged" women. In the meantime a five year project of Taka 100 million (US$ 2,000,000) has been launched by the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh and the Department of Social Services of the GoB for the rehabilitation of "disadvantaged women and their children" living in 4 brothels in Bangladesh. The project has been designed to provide women with skill training, micro-credit, schooling for their children, health education/awareness, etc. which would all be done in the brothels, without force and with full co-operation of the women. However, the sex workers were never consulted at any stage of the project design although it is always reiterated that this rehabilitation is with and for the sex workers.

The recent murder of Jesmin in Tanbazar has been used to highlight the "underworld" nature of brothels and subsequently local community opinion against them has been strengthened. This has also allowed police and other forces to be deployed in the area, the sole effect of which has been to restrict the women. They are not allowed out and customers are not allowed in. Electricity and water was cut-off. Many of these women and their children faced starvation from lack of income. It is reputed that many women have begun to sell their jewellery and other belongings. Several meetings have took place between the local authorities regarding the future of the brothels. The sex workers were not allowed to express their views in any of these meetings. The local authorities have decided that the brothels will not continue to exist in their present form and eviction/rehabilitation will begin as early as possible.

Naripokkho (a feminist ngo) along with 23 other organisations such as Bangladesh Women's Health Coalition (BWHC), Nari Maitree, HIV/AIDS NGO Network, CARE Bangladesh, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights, Bangladesh Human Rights Journalists Forum, Coordinating Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh, Women for Women, Utsho Bangladesh, Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangstha, Ain-o-Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Foram, Bangladesh Association of Women for self Empowerment (BAWSE), Coalition for the Urban Poor (CUP), Bangladesh Environment & Lawyer's Association (BELA), Legal Awareness Forum, Phulki, Bangladesh National Women's Lawyer's Association, Ulka (association of evicted sex workers of Kandupatti brothel), Durjoy (association of floating sex workers of Dhaka) and Mukti (sex workers from a brothel in Tangail), have come together to express solidarity and mobilise public opinion in support of the sex workers in Tanbazar. It is their belief that the forces acting to evict the sex workers from the brothel have only their own interests in mind. The women in the two brothels are being forced out against their will, violating all human rights– right to movement, right to shelter, right to security. We, therefore, demand that the sex workers of Tanbazar and Nimtoli be allowed to return to the brothels and not be forced out of their profession and homes. These women are citizens who exercise voting rights and therefore have rights like any other citizen of the country.

Though it is assumed that UNDP does not recommend violent means, large scale violence IS being used at Tanbazar and at Nimtoli. Nearly 30% of all the brothel-based sex workers in Bangladesh live in these areas. Here HIV prevalence is 15 per 1000 persons and syphilis prevalence is about 50%. Hence the impact of the scattering away of these workers all over the country will result in the spread of the HIV epidemic all over Bangladesh.

The situation took a particular ugly turn at 3 a.m. 24th July, when police entered Tanbazar brothel in collusion with the project staff of UNDP. The women were herded out, beaten by police and forced into buses. Sathi, the leader of the sex workers’ rights movement against eviction and forced rehabilitation has been kidnapped by the police (though they deny it) and her whereabouts are unknown. Some of the sex workers lost their children in the melee. The fate of the women captured by the police is abuse, torture and rape. Some have fled and are living as fugitives.

All this is in blatant violation of the UN Human Rights charter, women’s rights championed by the UN, the HIV and STD reduction policies of WHO and UNAIDS.

The Tanbazar Movement Solidarity Council are going to mount a legal challenge against the "illegal eviction", as the authorities had no court order as required for eviction.

Now Tangail brothel (where CARE Bangladesh works) has been threatened with eviction by Aug 4. The sex workers there have had their lives threatened in anonymous letters and the mullahs are showing up at their houses.

We, therefore, urge all concerned groups, individuals, and organisations to rally against this eviction and attack on the livelihood of sex workers.

We would like to encourage sex worker rights and human rights organisations to demonstrate at UNDP headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Geneva and create pressure on UNDP to stop their so called "rehabilitation program" immediately at Tanbazar

The points we would like people to make are:

 

Addresses for protest letters and actions:

Prime Minister, Mrs Sheik Hasina

Old Sanzsad Bhaban

Dezzaon

Dhaka

Bangladesh

UNDP, Washington

United Nations Development Program

1775 K Street, NW, Suite 4th Floor

Washington, DC, 20006

Fax: (202) 331-9363

E: HQ@undp.org

UNDP, Bangladesh

House No. 60, Road No.11A

Dhanmondi Residential Area

Dhaka

Bangladesh

Fax: 880-2-813196, 817811

E: fo.bgd@undp.org

UNDP, Geneva

Director

Mr Bertrand Coppens

Palais des Nations

Geneve

Switzerland

The UNDP has a web site with a page for comments. The URL is http://www.undp.org/main/guestbk/cnt1.cfm

We encourage you to leave comments here.

 

 

Bangladeshi High Commissioners/Ambassadors in your country.


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