Read the story from The Daily Star.
My readers who either know me or have read my blog archives are aware that I was in Bangladesh last year. While I was there, I had the pleasure of meeting the woman in the center of the above picture. She is one of the most incredible people I've ever met.
Sex workers in Bangladesh are despised. They struggle to make enough money to raise their children, while at the same time being denied basic human rights by society. Their children cannot go to school because no man claims them as his child - the law states that "illegitimate" children cannot attend school. (When, at a conference on sex work, a woman stood up to question a public official about this law, he responded, "Why don't you just put a name on the certificate?" She responded, "Who's name should I put? Yours?" He got up and left.)
Sometimes, a woman will bribe a man to say he is her husband. These men usually exploit the woman's disadvantage and take exorbitant sums. The women also must bribe police, and most times the police take their money by force, and even rape them in especially horrific ways.
There are some aid organizations working to help, offering training in things like candle-making, embroidery and other crafts. In reality, it's not possible to make a living off of selling candles, especially when one is used to making thousands of taka per month.
My friend, pictured above, has struggled literally since she was five years old to survive. She has been beaten and raped countless times, and her body bears the scars. She has five children and she raised them herself. She has terrible health problems, which are very expensive to treat, so she does not go to the doctor.
But even after all of this, she still stands up to fight. I'm proud to know her.