“Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”
— Haim Ginott, Child PsychologistImagine a situation about how do you feel if you are deprived of your legal or basic rights? Did you ever think how do those children born into poor families feel when they grow up observing that their peers are having better economic privileges in the society? And did you ever have the leisure time to contemplate the kind of fate that the children born into brothels inherit at the very outset of their life journey? The answer is inevitably ‘no’ for most of us because brothel is that lane of our life that is often visited by many of us but very rarely discussed when it comes to ensuring the rights of the children and other people living in that red-light area. And do you know who live a cursed life despite being innocent? It is none other than the children born into brothers who get accustomed to the ways of the world at a very tender age. The moment they begin to realize things around them they quickly become aware of the fact that they are not welcome in the valleys of mass people rather their lives as well as fates are sealed within the boundaries of the brothels. The society restricts them in their own world, which seems far behind from the society we live in. They grow up in an environment that is totally estranged from mainstream society in terms of life style, grooming, language, behaviour and custom. From the very beginning of life, these children are discriminated and left behind to experience the darkest episodes of our fleeting humanity despite the fact that our constitution ensures equal rights for all irrespective of age, gender and caste. However their lives are hardly measureable by those mere words scripted in our constitution as they are often stigmatised as the ramification of sin.
Though the society accepts prostitution as a profession for fulfilling physical desire of men and women by selling their bodies willingly, the unwanted children (born into brothels) are always overlooked. From different sources, it is known that there are 14 registered brothels in Bangladesh where more than 20,000 children live. At the same time it is assumed that the actual number of prostitutes’ children is much higher than the official figure as we know that there are many independent prostitutes and unregistered brothels.
However children living in the brothels undergo terrible situations and experiences. First of all, even if we ignore the kind of ambience they live in, there is no denying that they are facilitated with almost no psychological support there. Owing to the facts that the children remain mostly unaccompanied when their mothers attend their clients and they have odd working hours, mothers fail, to a great extent, to take care of their toddlers. Consequently those children grow up with permanent psychological damage.
Secondly, the children are exploited in different ways. For example- they are often forced into prostitution. In the brothels young female children are compelled to help their mothers and learn about prostitution at a very young age. Even if mother tries to shelter them from the negative influence of brothel, ‘sardarni’ (retired female hooker) and other related people try to inculcate the feeling in those children that their mothers or siblings are prostitutes and they will also have to pursue the same path in future. As a result, the majority of girls growing up in brothels become prostitute, most having their first sexual experience by the age of 8 or 9. These young girls are taken advantage of by buyers, brothel owners, and policemen and consequently the girls face a very dangerous time during their early years of being prostituted.
Thirdly, such forceful inculcation of negative feelings by the brothel-related people seems to be effectual in consequence of the fact that the children of sex workers are excluded from the mainstream society. Some of the children, for example, are enrolled in schools, most of whom dream of rescuing their mothers from prostitution. However, in reality the children are often cruelly bullied over their mothers’ profession. Such teasing demotivates them to mix with the society and a sense of low self-esteem and disenfranchisement grows among them. In the meantime another important factor to consider is that they are denied even their most basic human rights such as housing and health due to a number of complex factors such as lack of political commitment and most significantly the dominance of conservative and stereotypical ideas in our society. These factors ultimately make the girls particularly more vulnerable and they are bound to follow their mothers.
Fourthly, another concern regarding the children born into brothels revolves around their safety. The children of sex workers often become the victims of the power structures in their local community as well as the greater society that leaves them exposed to inhumane life conditions such as the obligation of drug abuse, no legal protection, extortion, trafficking and everyday violence. These children do not grow up in a safe environment and are not even taken care of by the law enforcement agencies. So they are always in an increasing risk of becoming victims of dangerous racket of sex trade and organ trafficking.
However for a prostitute’s child, it is important to have other people around them supporting their mothers and pushing towards positive goals. Well, there are some organisations that run shelter home for brothel children and provide lodging, food, education, psychosocial support and finally assist them to mingle with the mainstream society. But these are not enough. The government and the state organs, law enforcement agencies and human rights commission in particular, have roles to play to save these children from segregation. To put in plain words, if we want to reduce the stigmatization and isolation of the children of sex workers, it is vital for them to socialise with mainstream children as these children have a critical background. They should be brought up in institution where the environment will be quite favourable to them, so that they do not face any challenges when they step out from the institution into the mainstream society.
To conclude, it is matter of regret that we often dishonour women in our society for selling their bodies to earn money. But this is just one side of the story as we are hardly in a position as a society to chide the men who buy sex merely to satisfy their sexual needs. Actually both of them are equally responsible for bringing a child in this world without any identity. But these children's rights are violated from the very beginning of their lives because of their mother’s profession. Isn’t it unfair? How can men’s folks deny their responsibility and role in this regard? So, the society should take all these points into consideration while stigmatizing the children and sidelining them from the mainstream. As a human being everyone has the right to live on his/her own terms and with dignity. So, as a society we cannot discriminate against anyone, no matter whether the child is born into a brothel or anywhere else.