Prostitution is as old as old as the hills and is known as the worlds oldest profession. In India and in every other third world country, people will have sex with prostitutes. Like every country in the world, prostitution in India is a controversial issue. Prostitution or the exchange of sex for money is legal but the related activities such as soliciting sex, operating brothels and pimping are illegal.
Hindu culture is by far the largest religious group in India. This belief enforces the cultural notions of honour, shame, purity and pollution. In this society, adolescent girls are expected to maintain their virginity or safeguard their ‘purity’ until marriage. Whatever her religion, when a woman turns to prostitution she, her children and even the place where she lives becomes forever ‘polluted’. Those who sell themselves for sex are shunned.
The law in Bangladesh allows unemployed women over eighteen years of age permission to apply to work as a prostitute. Daulatdia is a sprawling brothel and the largest in Bangladesh. It is a sex slum and has been described as a ‘den of vice and violence’ and people go there to have sex with prostitutes. It is a community of two thousand shacks with each one housing a prostitute. The women here service thousands of men a day for about two dollars a trick. In a country where sixty million people live on less than a dollar a day, many women see prostitution as an economic necessity.
The entire economy in Daulatdia is based around the selling of sex. Though the women here are considered impure, Daulatdia has its own internal class system. At the bottom of the pile are the chukri. They are young women who have been sold to a madam at a young age as a sex slave. At the top of the class system are the madams. They are normally retired prostitutes who own the chukris and the one room shacks the girls rent to sell sex. In the middle are the independent prostitutes. On a busy day they will see up to ten clients and are lucky to make twenty to thirty dollars for the day.
Child trafficking is the buying and selling of children for sex and is rife in the brothels of India and Bangladesh. Child prostitution is widespread with a large number of girls under eighteen. One third of the women in brothels of third world countries are entered as children. They are sold in or kidnapped and sold in so they had no choice but to be in these brothels.
It is understood violence is an occupational hazard for prostitutes not just in third world countries but globally. In a third world country however, a sex worker is in no position to negotiate with a client. Sexually transmitted diseases go with the territory with cases of syphilis in the brothels of India and Bangladesh being as high as forty percent. The reason is that many clients refuse to wear condoms and yet for a sex worker wearing a condom means the difference between life and death.
Non Government Organisations (NGOs) education of the prostitutes these countries can reduce sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by up to fifty percent. These programmes involve the independent prostitutes themselves who share their experiences and teach the younger women things they need to know to survive. They do not receive much in payment for this service but most of the time the prostitutes do it because it is good for the self esteem. In places like India and Bangladesh, although legal, prostitutes are still and always will be treated as outcasts.