Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Prostitution in Bangladesh: An Empirical Profile of Sex Workers

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Prostitution in Bangladesh: An Empirical Profile of Sex Workers

Article excerpt


The paper explores the profile of the Sex Workers (SW) in Bangladesh; and the ordeals faced by them. 221 randomly selected respondents from three categories of sex workers (Hotel, brothel and floating) were interviewed using both close and open-ended questionnaire. Data show that child prostitution is quite prevalent. A higher percentage of sex workers were married compared with the singles. HSWs (Homosexual Sex Workers), on an average, entertain seven clients and BSWs (Bisexual Sex Workers) 15 clients per day. The highest percentage of child prostitutes was prevalent among the FSWs (Female Sex Workers). Hotel sex working is an emerging direction of its category. The paper concludes that dynamics of sex working in Bangladesh is extended to hotel sex working from two of its historically known categories.

Keywords: Sex workers, prostitution, HIV/AIDS pandemic


The sex market is expanding at an unprecedented pace and touching every strata of the society. To meet the ever growing and diverse sex demand in the recent years, more and more children and adult women have enrolled in the booming market. Commercial sex takes place in many kinds of ways and involves many different types of people, many of whom are in no way stereotypical. People from various backgrounds and classes sell sex and they do so for a broad range of reasons. In fact, between the educated and resourceful woman who chooses commercial sex from a broad range of possibilities and the poor, uneducated woman who is physically forced to do it, there is a whole continuum of situations.

Sex workers or prostitutes refer to that section of women population who are engaged, legally or illegally, part time or full-time, regular or irregular sexual acts for money or for any other material gain (Metzenrath, 1998). Poverty is certainly driving rural young women to cities. They take job in the garment factories or work as housemaids or in any other sectors. Their employers sexually abuse and harass them and finally drive them thus loosing chastity to the profession of prostitution. Prostitution is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Religion although does not permit prostitution, its law does not prevent a woman from becoming a prostitute if she likes to be. This oldest institution having enrooted deep in the society can not be abolished overnight. Ullah's study revealed that an overwhelming majority of the population in Dhaka city favored the existence of prostitution. Yet, the people engaged in the profession always encounter several dilemmas and vulnerabilities. Harassment by the clients, law enforcing agency under the pretext that this profession is not socially sanctioned has been a common phenomenon.

To the theoretical even more than to the applied sociologist, prostitution sets a profound problem: Why is it that a practice so thoroughly disapproved, so widely outlawed in Western civilization, can yet flourish so universally? Social theorists, in depicting the power of collective representations and the mores as determinants of human conduct, have at times implied that only favorable attitudes and sentiments maintain institutions. But prostitution is a veritable institution, thriving even when its name is as low in public opinion as to be synonymous with the social evil (Davis, 2000: Sachs, 1994; and Khan, Arefeen, 1989). A genuine explanation must transcend the facile generalizations both of those who believe that prostitution can be immediately abolished, and of those who think vaguely that human nature and the lessons of history guarantee its immortality. In what follows I have tried to give a sociological analysis to describe the main features of the interrelational system binding prostitution to other institutions (particularly those involving sexual relations). Such an analysis seems to carry us a long way toward explaining not only the heedless vitality of commercial promiscuity, but also the extreme disrepute in which it and its personnel are held. …

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