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Prostitutes Protest in Bangladesh

August 26, 2001

NARAYANGANJ, Bangladesh (AP) _ Throwing glass bottles and rocks, nearly 100 prostitutes clashed with baton-wielding police, who stopped the women from reopening a red light district seven years after their eviction. At least 25 people were injured, police said Sunday.

The violence erupted late Saturday after the prostitutes, wearing white head gear, tried to enter the brothel at Tanbazar district in Narayanganj industrial town, 10 miles east of Dhaka, the capital.

``We want our place back,″ shouted the prostitutes outside the locked iron gates of the building, from where authorities had evicted nearly 3,000 prostitutes in 1994. The brothel had been in business since 1876.

Police pushed and beat back the prostitutes with batons. The prostitutes hurled bottles and rocks at police.

At least 20 prostitutes and five policemen were hurt during the hour-long confrontation, though none of the injuries was serious. Many neighborhood stores were closed but traffic in the area was jammed.

In 1994, the government asked the prostitutes to change their trade and offered them money to start small businesses such as poultry farming and tailoring.

Authorities evicted the women after they turned down the $400,000 rehabilitation project.

The prostitutes feared that society would never accept them. Similar earlier attempts to rehabilitate prostitutes had also failed and the women returned to the brothels.

Women older than 16 can legally register as prostitutes if a magistrate determines that they have no other means of support.

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