Covid-19 pandemic has hit hard the sex workers in Bangladesh.
Thousands of sex workers in the country have face hunger and many face abuse because they have failed to to pay their brokers due to the deadly disease.
Bangladesh is home to about 100,000 sex workers and charities estimate that seven out of 10 are struggling to survive, three months after the country shut down to stop the spread of the virus, bdnews24.com reported.
Although sex work is legal in Bangladesh, the vast majority operate outside registered brothels, on the streets or in private residences.
According to the United Nations, most of the sex workers have little protection from abusers.
KSM Tarique, deputy chief executive of the charity Lighthouse, which helps sex workers access healthcare and education for their children, said most were now having to skip meals and complaints of violence or harassment had surged.
“In January and February, we used to get seven to 10 complaints per week. But in certain weeks in May we got more than 200 complaints from workers,” he said.
“This happened because there were lockdowns in place and street-based sex workers who were hungry and went out to look for work were either verbally harassed or beaten during that period by different groups.
“Another reason behind the physical harassment, especially for sex workers in brothels, is that they haven’t been able to pay their pimps the money that they are supposed to,” he added.
Rina Akter, a former sex worker who now campaigns for their rights, said at least 35 out of about 150 women she surveyed in Dhaka reported being beaten, either by a pimps or a stranger.
“Girls aren’t able to stand at their spots. Customers are scared because of the virus and 70 percent of the country’s sex workers are struggling to survive right now,” said Aliya Akhter Lily, general secretary of the Bangladesh Sex Workers Network.
The government said it was talking to charities to find a way to support sex workers.