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Tania Rashid Tania Rashid. Warning: This article contains graphic content. It is disturbing and not suitable for children. International Aid groups have been pouring into the neighboring refugee camps to help with the Rohingya refugee crisis. Since late last year over , refugees — mostly women and children — have fled a brutal crackdown in their home of Rakhine State by Myanmar government forces.
But despite the assistance and support of aid groups, a black market underbelly thrives, where prostitution of Rohingya girls has become a common. Inside of Kutupalong camp, a camp leader led me into some of the biggest brothels that use many vulnerable women scattered throughout the camps.
I saw first-hand women sitting outside of their huts smoking cigarettes, and female pimps draped in gold. This is an uncommon sight among the Rohingya: most refugees come from insular, conservative Muslim families. Sex work is seen as highly taboo. One of the brothels we visited was run by a Rohingya woman who married a Bangladeshi man. The huts made of bamboo and plastic sheets had four sex workers inside per day, serving both Bangladeshi and Rohingya men.
Sumaiya told me she got into sex work out of desperation after her abusive husband left her. She said she does sex work to survive. I feel bad doing it but I have to survive somehow. She usually sees Rohingya men as clients, but on occasion Bangladeshi men appear. Those men raised her suspicion, as she has seen Rohingya girls being trafficked from the camps into the main city center. We decided to find out where these brothels were. Inside the neighborhoods, local Bangladeshi tourists can be seen with cigarettes in hand, lurking outside of small hotels with fluorescent lights blinking, a sex worker in bright colors popping out every now and then.
These rows of hotels are packed with young Rohingya girls often sold for sex to local tourists. It is not easy to get inside these places. Unless you know the right people, it is impossible to navigate. Our journey began by meeting with the godfather of all the local pimps at a tea stall nearby the brothels. He told me the only way I could get in was if I pretended to be a sex worker. According to him, the brothel I was visiting was home to several Rohingya sex workers who were new arrivals.