It’s been called world’s oldest profession yet it’s always been taboo – prostitution. Around the world the sex industry presents many faces. From the violent sex slums of Bangladesh, to the deadly sidewalks of the United States. From the stylish bordellos of Australia, to Europe where the disabled pay for sex, and where man are videotaped in futuristic cyber-brothels. Step into the forbidden world of sex for sale. Those who sell sex, whether male or female, are shunned and labeled as whores or hookers.
Those who buy it are seen as sleazy and immoral. But does prostitution change its nature when it steps from the third world to the first, or are violence, drug abuse and disease global realities? When street pimps give away to legal brothels, is prostitution destigmatized?
And when sex is sold as a service to the disabled does it become legitimate? As old as the hills, but forever changing, prostitution takes more forms than ever before. But are they all still taboo?
On the banks of the river Padma, in Bangladesh, Maya stares across the water toward her former home, the city of Dhaka. This mighty river symbolizes Maya’s separation from her family and her past life. It reminds her that she can never return for she is a prostitute. Maya is trapped in a sprawling brothel town called Daulatdia – a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. Trucks, laden with goods for Dhaka, line up for days waiting to cross the river. This giant traffic jam spawned Daulatdia, a roadside sex slum of over 2000 shacks, each housing a prostitute. The women there service thousands of men a day, for two to four dollars at a time.
In a country where nearly sixty million people live on a less than a dollar a day, many women see prostitution as an economic necessity. In fact the law allows unemployed women over eighteen to apply for permission to work as a prostitute. Although legal, Bangladeshi society still treats these women as outcasts. Prostitution is closely related to the notion of two concepts called “purity” and “pollution” which originally come from Hindu culture. Hindus form the second largest religious group in Bangladesh. Whatever her religion, when a woman turns to prostitution she becomes forever tainted.