A powerful look at the business of Brothels and Prostitution in Bangladesh

Allison Joyce‘s photo essay on the Brothels lining the rivers of Bangladesh gives us a powerful look at a thriving and taboo business of prostitution. I was surprised to see the captures, actually, since I rarely find articles let alone photos of the business in Bangladesh. This article for ABC News ( I am “Chowkri”- Inside Bangladesh’s Biggest Brothel) focuses on the Joinal Bari brothel in Faridpur, on the banks of the Padma river. It is an important stop for the trading route, making it an especially intriguing spot for a brothel. It is all economical of course- men make up almost 100% of the business of trading and truck driving, shipments and business dealing in the region. The existence of prostitution is widely known, unspoken of, and witnessed both in the urban towns to river banks and villages. It would be harder to undertake a photo project for Dhaka’s prostitutes let alone brothels where the clientele are far more secretive and sometimes, public figures. I can’t imagine Joyce trying to cover this very important topic outside the Westin and Radisson hotels or in the affluent the narrow streets of Gulshan 2 where young women stand in the corner streets soon after 10 pm. Though the photos that I will share below from her project captures one setting, it serves as an eye opening setting to address this booming informal business sector for many young Bangladeshi women.

This photo is of Kajul, who is embraced by a customer in her bedroom. I am captivated by this photo as I wonder how they let Joyce, a white woman clearly out of place and so obviously a journalist capture this very intimate moment. When I first saw this photo, before I even read the caption, I was sure it was of something happy that came out of a dire setting. Maybe I am still not mistaken; I think we often forget that these young women, whatever their occupation, can still desire love unlike the kind they sell.

This photo is of Kajul, who is embraced by a customer in her bedroom. I am captivated by this photo as I wonder how they let Joyce, a white woman clearly out of place and so obviously a journalist capture this very intimate moment. When I first saw this photo, before I even read the caption, I was sure it was of something happy that came out of a dire setting. Maybe I am still not mistaken; I think we often forget that these young women, whatever their occupation, can still desire love unlike the kind they sell.

“I grew up in Jessore and I have been working in the brothel for 5 years. I was stalked by a local boy in Jessore and when I told my family they blamed me for the harassment so I ran away. When I was on the streets I met a woman who brought me to the brothels here in Faridpur. I miss my father and I talk to him often. I tell him that I’m working in a garment factory in Dhaka and he always asks me to come back home.” ( Ria, 22 years old) … Update: At the time of our visit Ria was excitedly planning to leave the brothels and move back home with her father to become a tailor. When we visited a few weeks later Joshna, her madame, had given her 20,000 taka, gold earrings, and sent her back to her family in Jessore.--Tiffany Hagler-Geard

This photo shows a girl named Piea who is surrounded by customers who walk through the building for their pick. Some of the men are as young as the prostitutes themselves.

To read the entire entry, click here.

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3 thoughts on “A powerful look at the business of Brothels and Prostitution in Bangladesh

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