Working in the sex industry is one of the toughest vocations going. If you can imagine the emotional and physical strain of having to work as a prostitute, now try to envision this trauma had become a part of every facet of your waking life.
Unfortunately for the women of the Kandapara brothel community in the district of Tangail in Bangladesh, their freedom is robbed and replaced with the relentless and tough life of a Kandapara prostitute from a young age. Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim countries in the world where prostitution is legal. The infamous Kandapara brothel is the oldest and second largest in the country, and has been in existence for around 200 years.
Although this district was demolished in 2014, it was re-established with the help of local NGOs after the women, many of whom had been born and raised there, demonstrated their right as sex workers.
Today the area’s “brothel district” is surrounded by a wall and has developed into its own small community, with food stalls, tea shops and street vendors. This area is a place with its own rules and hierarchies of power, where the women are weak but also powerful, and work their way to becoming independent prostitutes. The most vulnerable stage is when a young sex worker enters the brothel, where she is called a bonded girl. The bonded girls are usually between the ages of 12-14 years old. Disturbing stuff.
Unfortunately, many of the girls either come from poor families or are the victims of trafficking, and although they are eventually able to pay off their debts to the brothel after joining at the bottom rung of the ladder, they are still victims in some way, and often decide to stay and see to punters in order to continue providing for their families. German-based photojournalist Sandra Hoyn decided to travel to Kandapara to document the inside of this prison that has no barriers:
It’s a harrowing insight into a whole other world and although the women must feel a strong sense of community, these girls are not treated like normal citizens. They have no freedom, no human rights and are at risk of pregnancy and infection spread in the unsanitary conditions. It makes you really just how lucky we’ve got it.