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The Bitterest Pill – A new danger for child sex workers in Bangladesh
800 women and girls live and work inside the fortress-like brothel in Faridpur, central Bangladesh. Many of them are underage, and most receive no pay because they are chhukri – bonded workers. That girl as young as 12 should be condemned to a life of sex slavery is bad enough, but they also face a new horror, one that could snuff out any chance of a future they might have had.
The horror is a steroid called Oradexon, a drug identical to one used to fatten cattle for market. The girls are given Oradexon by their madams in order to make them look older and more attractive to prospective clients. One of its side effects is water retention, oedema, which can result in a ‘plump’ look that is considered attractive by some Bangladeshi men.
The drug is highly addictive and has severe long-term health implications, impairing the kidneys, increasing blood pressure and interfering with normal hormone production.
Nodi 15, is one of many girls who use the drug. She says she doesn’t have another name – ‘I’m just Nodi – it means River’ – and she has been in the brothel for two years. Many of the girls here have been sold by their stepmother or even their own mothers – and some are second-generation sex workers, born to a prostitute and an unknown client. ‘I started taking the cow drug a year ago, and I take two tablets a day,’ Nodi says. She thinks it makes her look healthier. ‘The customers like us to look healthy. I got a little plumper when I started taking the drug.’ The existence she describes is a miserable one. ‘How can I be happy here? God knows – there is no happiness here,’ she says.
In a conservative country prostitution is will of fate. No one knows the Story of those faceless girls who may be sold by their boyfriend, husband or parents. No basic right, having no admiration for own self & torture of uncertainty made them unvoiced. Whenever I met those young girls I tried to be one of them. They have no dreams; they only live in reality which is killing them ever.
My journey to the world of photography began long ago. For years I have been travelling widely, covering various social issues faced by the lesser known people, particularly in my country Bangladesh.
My work has been featured in many major international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue, Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London.
In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I have received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris, again being the first Bangladeshi to receive the honor. In 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my first book First Light.