Trafficked to Hell
“It’s been 12 years that I have been familiar to them; not only as a photographer but also as a brother. Whenever I go there, they run towards me calling out “Akash Bhai!” They bring me sweets, tea and speaks and talk a lot about their dreams. These girls are weak from lack of affection. I once treated them as sisters so now they have granted me the honour of being their brother. No one knows the story of these faceless girls who are sold by their boyfriend, husband or parents. This is a one-way journey to a brothel; a place that is everything to them. By documenting them, I would like to spread their stories of pain which are only locked in each of their own madam’s castle. I recall one girl from those uncountable faces. Unsurprisingly – and despite her name – Asha, she isn’t very hopeful about her own future. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get married nor have children,’ she says. ‘No one will marry me. If they did, they’d only keep me for two or three days, and then they’d sell me back.’ She is more streetwise than some of the other girls here, many of whom share a tragic dream that one day a knight in shining armour will arrive to carry them off; then they will marry him, have his babies and love him forever. I wish there would be a knight in shining armour arriving, to carry them out from this living hell! I do wish this. I really wish it!” – GMB Akash
Sharing 10 souls and heart melting stories of 10 sisters who work as sex workers in different brothels in Bangladesh.
Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash
I came here eight years ago because once I believed in love and married the man, for whom I became a prostitute. My husband of one year brought me here and sold me to this brothel for money. For the last 7 years I have had to work here to repay that 30 thousand taka,for which my husband sold me here.
I used to call our madam ‘Maa’. She is very generous to me and loves me like her daughter and for that I got the chance to repay the money and leave here. She allowed me to go back to my former life. Last year, with thousands of dreams, I went back to my village to my parents’ home, but nobody accepted me; neither my parents, nor my family members, nor the villagers. They didn’t allow me into my own home nor into the village because they think I am a dirty thing now, they said, “even we don’t eat that food when it falls down to the ground.” Some people were saying, “we never take back the dirt from our dustbin!” I cried the whole day and night till the next morning sitting beside my home, but no one cared and they were looking at me with hatred. But you know, when I saw my husband remarried and living in the same village, I came back to my ‘maa and my Hell.
At least this Hell allows me to live: to survive, to eat, to have space where I can sleep at night. Here I don’t need to see that cruel hatred for me in the eyes of my loved one_ Nilima
I never wanted to be a mother in my life. My grandma was a sex worker; my mother is a sex worker, so this is not an exception for me. This is the oldest profession of our family; this is a chain that is ongoing. I have wanted to break this chain all of my life by not becoming a mother. But you know what? It’s very hard to stop the cycle of nature! I saw all of my mother’s pain being a sex worker. I saw how she felt standing in the same alley with me searching for customers. I know how it feels sharing the same customer who would sleep with your daughter the next day. I saw her attempting suicide in our room; fortunately, she survived.
I never wanted to be a mother but when I realized that I was pregnant, my mind changed tremendously; I didn’t want to kill my child. Everyone told me to get an abortion but I could not do it. Our madam pressured me for an abortion but I was protecting my baby with all the energy I had. Madam called the Babu, who used to come to me the most and who had once promised me that he would marry me! She told him that this might be his child and that I could blackmail him anytime! Babu beat me ruthlessly and tried to force me (to abort from his beating OR to have an abortion) but I convinced him to stop by embracing his feet and begging him for the life of my child. I signed a contract and assured him that I will never want anyone’s name for my child.
Becoming a mother is not an easy task in these brothels. Lots of women have died because of improper treatment. I had to battle a lot every day with pregnancy sickness and at the same time, I had to attend to my target customers. Some people are very ruthless and ill minded; they like pregnant women for their own indulgence and entertainment. I prayed to God for a baby boy during the whole period of my pregnancy but it’s a girl again in our family. God didn’t listen to me. Everyone is telling me this will happen again. But I am determined to get her out from this Hell. After all of this, I am not deterred from my goal; I will break this woeful chain. If a mother wants a good life for her child, nothing can stop her_ shopna
Everyone says we are bad women because we do this work; because we are sex workers. Yes, you people are right. I have never seen someone doing prostitution as a hobby in our community in my life. No one choses prostitution as a hobby. But I have seen a lot of people who have wives and family come to me for fun to indulge themselves. I was born here and started my job at the age of eight. My mother tried a lot to send me somewhere safe. She cried day and night to send me somewhere else away from this brothel. But our madam didn’t permit it because I was in such demand for a lot of clients from the beginning because of my age and youthfulness. It’s very difficult to work in front of your mother but here luckily, every woman learns the trick to kill your soul and become a dead body.
I wait hours for my clients and during these hours I have nowhere to sit. I need to stand for hours and do bodily movements and use vulgar slang in order to get a client. I look so skinny so last month my madam started giving me some tablets that make me look fat and sexy. Men choose young and healthy workers because they complain that old workers are depressing. Getting a client is also like winning a battle because I have to compete with other workers and reach my target: ‘8 clients per night’. But when I get a client it is a mixed feeling as if I have won the battle but lost at the same time. I make my living and buy my food by selling my body and dignity.
Because I have to stand the whole time, for hours my leg hurts badly when I go to sleep. We can’t take an extra minute for eating, bathing or even using the toilet. If you are late for an extra minute you will get some slaps for a bonus. We can only get some time for sitting when we put our makeup on. It feels exhausting after finishing my target every night. I get such a small portion of food that even after finishing my full meal, I feel hungry all night. I never have seen a family in my life. I wish someone would marry me so that I could have a family. – Maya
I can recall the first incident of sexual harassment in my life. My mother and I were used to learning the Quran from our Moulovi every evening after finishing all our work. That evening my mother fell asleep because of her sickness so I had to sit alone with him to learn my Arabic lesson. Suddenly I was feeling uneasy. I felt that he was touching my right hand in a bad way. Although I was only an eight-year-old girl I could understand the bad vibes of his touching. I was shaking in fear and started feeling like something was stuck in my throat. I held my tears and ran to our washroom and started washing my hand with soap like a mad girl. I washed my hand for the next two hours nonstop crying relentlessly until my mother made me understand that this will never happen again.
I came here because I am a misfortunate woman; if it was not my bad luck then how can I lose both of my parents in a rail station? There was one porter who found me and he helped me to search for my parents the whole day and then waited til dusk. But I found no one; I never found them again just like I never find my luck. I lived for the next few days with the porter family who found me but his wife never liked me. She started fighting with him about me every single day. The last evening in that home she handed me over to her brother and he brought me here. It all happened like the worst possible dream I was having and it was happening in my life.
The first day, I did not allow my client to open my dress. He got so angry and tried so hard that he tore apart all my clothes but he could not manage me. After that incident my madam beats me miserably and for the next three days she forced me to sleep naked and locked me without food in a room. On day four I got my food and a new client but I didn’t get my clothes back for several days. After that day I accepted my fate. I accepted men in my room and in my life. But I could not accept men in my soul. Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m being raped every night several times. It feels I can no longer live this life for one more day and be raped by a stranger in exchange for money and a living.
Every single day I am passing in this dark hell only with the help of the cheapest drugs provided by our madam. Now I don’t wash myself anymore because no one is here to tell me this will never happen again. I don’t cry because no one will tell me to stop crying and hold me to her chest tightly. Now I am learning to die every day_ Ovagi (unlucky)
It’s been a long time I want to go to a very green field. I have never been in any green field. But I really want to go. I have a disease, I cannot breathe behind a closed door. I also cry while I laugh, I can’t control. It’s causing a lot of trouble to our mother. Our mother is our madam. I assured her I will be okay very soon, I will only laugh, will never cry. How I came to this brothel, I have no idea; I was too small to remember anything. But my only problem is, it’s very difficult to breathe here. Also I have no memory of any person; I do not see any face when I close my eyes, I feel all alone. Girls used to say they have no one too. But I tell myself, I must have someone, somewhere, may be a mother, a father or a lost family. I never had anyone to remember. So I try hard to remember a face, just any face, and there comes no one. My friend, Prinyanka usually wipes off my tears very quickly before I ruin my makeup. She always reminds me, makeup is costly than my tears. She told me that one day we will go to a green field, she will take me there and I will breathe as much as I can. Only I hope, on that day I will be able to see someone when I will close my eyes. At least once in my life, I want to feel that I am not alone.
It has been ages since I went out of these four walls. These dirty walls are as colorless as I am. Light has never been able to enter my room or my life. The windows are too narrow for that. I helplessly scream in pain but my voice never reaches anyone, not even myself. Everyone sees me smiling because no one ever pays attention to my eyes. Even after all these battles, I remained a fancy girl. I ask people to bring me flowers, only those which has no fragrance. I never look in the mirror because I was never capable of looking into the eyes of this girl; this girl crying within me. I was sold by my husband for 3000 taka. I laughed a lot when I found that out how cheap the price of my love was to him. For me, the price of my love was very high, and I’m still paying for it. Sometimes it’s very hard to breathe. I want to dry my tears under the sun, or maybe get wet in the rain and let my tears flow with it. But where should I go? Who should I go to? No one waits for a prostitute. I cannot go anywhere. Now, I try to trust the lies, try to smile, and try to sell my love at good price. – Asha
I am a liar. All my life I lied to myself. Whenever my heart shows me the truth, I beautifully lied to it. It’s very difficult for me to tell you the truth. I am also feeling nervous because I want you to show how strong I am, I do not want to show the dumb girl living inside me. I was sold when I was in my mother’s womb. They traded me before I was born. I was a born prostitute. I never had any friend, family or lover. No man looked into my eyes, or held my hand with love. But you know something; everyone needs someone, someone to love or someone to hurt. And I have no one. I sold my heart in the cost of lies without regret of suffering. Sometimes I feel, the time has stopped and I am sitting in the same place for ages. One day, I fell sick, very sick and I was taken to an old doctor. I was shivering in fever and started crying for no reason when the old man called me, ‘Maa, what’s your problem’. At the end of the prescription, he advised me to avoid things that are allergatic. I supposed to leave, but I was aimlessly sitting there. Then he asked me again to tell if I had something else to say. With great fear I asked him, ‘Sir, I am allergatic to love and lie, but that’s my life is all about, do you have any remedy?’ After a few minutes, the old doctor stood from his chair and blessed me by touching my head. That was the first time in my life someone touched me with respect and care. – Rubi
I did not want to kill him. I wanted him to be in my life. I knew that if anyone could find it out, they would kill him. But I was able to hide him for many months. Then sometimes in morning when I went to sleep I asked myself why to punish someone by bringing into my life which has no hope, no tomorrow. But he was the only one with whom I talk like a child without being afraid, without being someone else. He also responded in my stomach like a butterfly by assuring that he will never leave me.
The day my madam found out I was pregnant; she wanted to kill my child. She was trying to kick me and I held her legs. I screamed, begged her to give me a chance to live. I did not leave her feet for how long I cannot say; then she stopped pushing me and asked me why I wanted to bring lifetime suffering. She left without hurting me anymore.
Then the time arrived. During delivery I had eclampsia and severe blood loss. Through the entire time I did not stop talking to my child, I whispered to him that we had to make the journey. Till then we survived many miracles. He was then three months old, his only favorite thing was bird. But we were caged; I was not able to show him any bird. We had no room and I had to go back to attend clients. With every passing day, I was afraid that one day my boy will hate me most. But whenever I looked at him he always smiled by assuring that all I had is him.
He was three months twenty days old when I handover him to a childless couple. They were crying after holding my baby. I looked from distant; felt he was in the right hands. My madam requested me to keep Murad, told me that I won’t survive without him. But my mother heart felt Murad will be happy with them than me. When they were leaving, the woman came to me, put a packet of money in my bag and said they will keep his name Murad, they will not change it. I said nothing. Then the man came closer to show me Murad for the last time. Told me that when he will grow older they will bring him back to me and if he wants to be with me, they won’t stop him. I looked at my child, he smiled to me like always. I said, ‘Never tell him, his mother was a prostitute. Never let him to search me. He should never know he was born in a cage. I want him to be a bird, to fly in the sky, if you can, helps him to do that.’ I returned their packet and was able to come back to the brothel without looking back; I do not want my child to smile at a prostitute. – Momota
My uncle sold me in the brothel when I was nine, that time I was innocent. A type of innocent that I had no idea what is the difference between a mosque and a brothel….
A few days ago I was not in a mood for love, when my client was promising how much he loved me and how badly he wanted to take me away from this living hell to his beautiful heaven. With promises he kept telling me how badly he wanted to marry me; I was not up for drama that day, I just secretly dial his wife’s number from his phone. Then I continued to listen to him attentively, for solid thirty minutes in pin drop silence. When he asked me how I felt about him, I handover his phone and told him to ask his wife..
Yes, I am badass woman, I smoke, I sing, I dance. I’m tough and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, it’s okay. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself, which is enough. Now excuse me, your attention won’t pay my bills.
– Princess Lucky
I had a very bad habit of falling in love with people whenever they showed me some love. I never get any love from anyone; I don’t even remember my family members or where I come from. I get nothing except extreme torture to my body and humiliation from people during my whole life in this place. I have fallen in love several times with a lot of my Ford customers or with whoever showed me their love and some compassion for me. Lots of men promise me that they will marry me and give me a family and then cheat me with money and flee never to be seen again. Though I know men cannot be trusted and they have broken my heart so badly but somehow I believed them and fell in love again and again. I don’t fall in love anymore. Now I know love is not for us. We prostitutes don’t belong to ‘Love’. People don’t think of us as human beings; how could they possibly love us?
For the last week, a strange middle-aged man has been visiting me. He was holding a bag in his hand with different sarees and machine-made blouses every day. The first day he came with a red bridal saree and asked me to wear it. He showed me a photo of a woman and asked me to put on my makeup like her as much as possible. At first, I laughed at him but after seeing his seriousness, I tried to put on the makeup myself following that photo. It was a very funny experience for me. That man sat with me the rest of the night but said no words and did nothing to me. That night was a very uncommon night for me. Then the next day he came with another ordinary saree and asked me to wear that one. With hesitation, I asked why he was doing these kinds of strange acts every night. And I was not prepared for his answer. His wife fled with someone else after their love marriage and he never married again after that incident.
That day he told me a lot about himself and his story and we fell asleep together. For the last week he has been coming every night for the whole night only to sleep beside me. I don’t know why I am feeling worried. I think I fell in love again with that strange man. I have been waiting the whole day for him and for when it will get dark and my strange man will come. I am waiting for him, brother. Last night was a very bad night for me. I didn’t sleep the whole night waiting for him but he didn’t show up. I am eagerly waiting and wishing that he will show up tonight_Ontora