Children of Women in Prostitution and their Mothers

Children of Women in Prostitution and their Mothers

Human Rights Violation

There are no official statistics on the number of women in prostitution in the country. As far as children of women in prostitution are concerned, their living conditions in brothels and their social ‘status’, information cannot be easily found in documents, statistics or reports. However, it was generally estimated that there are around 20,000-30,000 women in prostitution working through 15-20 licensed brothels in the country.

The role of motherhood is highly valued in Bangladeshi culture; it is a religion, the ultimate purpose of womanhood. A female who is not a mother is an incomplete person, a failed woman. To have Women in Prostitution (WiP) and brothels may be a necessary evil but the popular conception goes that these women definitely should not have children.

WiP want children for a number of reasons. A woman who is not a mother is considered to be unfulfilled in her own self and inauspicious to others. Children, and especially daughters, are seen as security for the future. Most WiP strongly believe that daughters are the only kin or people they can rely on in times of crisis. Daughters also understand their mothers’ problems and feel solidarity with them. Finally, a child (son or daughter) may allow a WiP to re-integrate into respectable society upon retirement should she wish to do so. This is also possible with a husband, although most WiPs believe that the mother-child link is a much more enduring and stable one than that of husband-wife. Motherhood provides normalcy and respectability, and it is expected that a child make it easier to hide the dishonourable occupation of the past.

On the other hand, customers do not like WiP to be mothers either, as crying babies and tired mothers is an experience married men have at home. For customers, WiPs should be merry sex entertainers whose attention is undividedly devoted to the man. WiPs commonly hide their motherhood to clients. Most of them stop breastfeeding within a week or two of giving birth. Not surprisingly, infant mortality is much higher in the brothel than in village society. Yet, a sizable number of WiP in the brothels have children, and a majority of those who don’t eventually want to have children.

Mainstream society, though regulating the sex trade and profiteering thereof, widely denies WiP children to exert their human rights with regard to free movement, access to basic education, healthcare etc. as they are marginalized and stigmatized because they are children of women working in the sex trade. As a result, the WiP children remain illiterate, suffer from various diseases etc.