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Bangladesh 25 Feb Now, I cry a lot in the evenings. I cry because of my fate which brought me here. She stands in a doorway in central Jessore, the last town in Bangladesh before the Indian border. The streets outside are busy, lined with vendors and shops. Everything is for sale here: bananas, rice, hardware, textiles. And women. Bangladesh has over , sex workers, many of them underage.
It's illegal for those under 18 to work in the industry, which exists in a legal greyzone where brothels are neither banned nor fully lawful. Many hide their real age, and the "mamas" in charge of the girls — many of whom are former sex workers themselves — often give them prescription drugs for animals making their bodies sturdier and chubbier.
Young girls are trafficked from all parts of Bangladesh to the big brothels, located at main transportation hubs like Jessore, Tangail and Dalautdia. Most are lured or forced into the business which, once they've entered is hard to leave behind. An entirely new, unfree, chapter of their lives begins as they are brought inside the brothel walls. Halima, who thinks she's 17 but doesn't know exactly, lives in a small room that she shares with another girl.
It's mid-day, few customers are there. Clothes hang to dry from the balconies, the air smells of frying oil and chili. It is believed that , women work in Bangladesh's sex industry. This woman stands outside one of Jessore's five brothels. Many women see their co-workers living in the brothels as their new family. After arriving to the brothels, most have no or little contact with their families. Customers come and go, those who are returning clients know the brothels well.
Many women have special relationships with certain customers, who often develop love for them. The street outside Marwari Mandir, Jessore's largest brothel, situated right in the center of the city, just behind the big police station. The constitution of Bangladesh is unclear: is prostitution legal or illegal? Sabina, from a small town in rural Bangladesh, says that she's 18 but is in reality younger.