What monsoons won’t wash away

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

In the year 2000, following a decision by the Bengali Supreme Court of Law, prostitution has been legalized in Bangladesh – one of the few Muslim countries that have done so. Prostitution is possibile as long as it only takes place in 14 official brothels. Bani Shanta is one of those venues. In fact, it is located in a tiny village on the riverbanks of the Pashur, constantly under the treat of the rising waters in the Monsoon season. About one hundred sex workers live here, many of whom in their early teen years. None of them knows their own birthdate, as the registration of newborns, being expensive, seldom happens; therefore, officially these girls and women do not exist. This strip of land – barely one square kilometre – is only reachable through the river. That is why every day boats packed with men leave the small dock of Monga towards Bani Shanta. The brothel huts, all alike, are laid out in rows, and its open fronts are used both to display the prostitutes and as a lobby where the clients make the deal. The average price of a 15 minute encounter ranges from 100 to 300 taka (1- 3 euros), depending on the age and looks of the sex worker, and an all-night stand may cost up to 1500 taka (15 euros).

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