Sunday, March 25, 2012

With Broken Bodies and Tears, They Live On


Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? How are we to achieve our salivation? I have spent multiple decades in search of finding answers to those questions, wrote a book, One God in You and Me, and yet, let me make a confession—haven’t found the answers.

The now 17 year old Hashi, (the word connotes smile—what a joke!) who was sold into prostitution only at the age of 10 and virtually a sex slave, forced to take steroids and satisfy up to 15 men on some nights, at Kandapara's brothel, may not inquire those questions, for she has no free time to ponder on those lofty thoughts. But are there any sensitive persons in Bangladesh who do—in a country, where over eighty percent people are Muslims, and Islam is the de-facto undeclared state religion?

Nita Bhalla wrote, “Their faces painted heavy with make-up, teenage girls in short, tight blouses and long petticoats loiter in squalid alleys, laughing and gesturing to potential clients who roam Tangail town's infamous red light area in the early evening. There is no shortage of men looking for "company" in Kandapara slum, a labyrinth of tiny lanes - lined cheek-by-jowl with corrugated iron shacks - a few hours’ drive northeast of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.”

Hashi is merely one of the 900 sex workers in Kandapara, where some girls are as young as 12 and their lives are bonded in debt, and the social stigma they have would ensure they would never have the normal lives of women in society. They are usually brought to the brothel emaciated and forced to take the dangerous cow fattening drug Dexamethasone, or, Oradexon so that they develop curves before their age, to attract clients.

With the going rates as low as 60 U.S. cents, the need to attract as many customers as possible is just the prescription for bare survival, the girls have no choice. “My sardarni (madam) forced me to take a tablet. She beat me up and stopped giving food. She threatened me and reminded me about my loans, Hashi said. She has a four-year-old son, whom she has not seen in two years, yet, she wants to save money for him. “In this brothel, customers always look for healthy girls. I take Oradexon. I need customers so I can pay my bills and loans. If I don't get any customers one day, I cannot eat in the next day. I wish to save some money for my son.”

These girls are often abducted from their poor, rural families and then sold to the brothels by the traffickers, for as little as $245 at times. The traffickers, the madams, the brothel owners, and the people who allow this to continue—are all Muslims. If Islam is the greatest religion of the world which is supposedly to turn “men into hearts of gold” surely it had failed miserably, just as all other religions have.

To the Muslims who come forward to defend their faith, and sometimes even the people of other religions who question me, why is this diatribe against Islam? My answer to them is, as a person born into this faith, I have every right to question these issues in Islam, surely more than any non-Muslim, and especially as one who knows its culture, practices and philosophy in a profound manner.

First published on Technorati.