Despite being born in the brothel, sex workers’ children get opportunities to go to school and sometimes even pursue higher studies.
“At least a dozen children of our women have successfully pursued higher education. Many other children are going to schools nearby. Education is a priority here,” said Julekha Begum, deputy sardarni (chief) of the brothel.
World Vision, an NGO that works for children’s welfare, provides support for children’s education at Banishanta.
In addition, the children have access to the local government primary schools.
“At present, 70 children born to the sex workers in the brothel go to Ghoragangmari Government Primary School here. We try to ensure that all children from there get access to education. We often visit the brothel to check if any child has dropped out of school,” Md Masum Billah, education officer in Dacope upazila of Khulna, told the Dhaka Tribune.
Visiting the brothel, this correspondent learnt that the sex workers usually get families in the nearby villages to provide lodgings to their children.
Villagers charge a monthly fee of Tk1,500-2,000 for each child to cover their academic and other costs.
“But there are some children who still live inside the brothel,” said Julekha.
She also told the story of Surobhi (not her real name), one of the children born in the brothel who scored GPA 5 in her Secondary School Certificate exams last year.
“She is now going to a college in Khulna city,” Julekha said. “There are many others like her.”
Asked about the birth registration of these children, she said: “It happens through a mutual understanding between the sex worker and the customer. Sometimes, customers get attached to the children and demand that the sex workers give them up.
“In cases like this, a customer takes all responsibility of the mother and provides his name as the father in birth registration. They become a family without wedlock.”
But there are many cases where the fathers lose interest in their families after a few years and abandon them, Julekha added.
“What is good about these children is that they are very understanding about their mothers’
situation,” she told this correspondent. “When they grow up and begin to understand what their mothers do for a living and the stigma attached to it, they show compassion and try to help their mothers, instead of turning their backs on them.”
Asked if there has been an instance of a child entering the sex trade, Julekha denied vehemently.
“It has never happened in this brothel’s history. We only give shelter to floating sex workers who need support,” she said. “If any sex worker is found recruiting her daughter in this profession, we expel them from the brothel.”
What if they come back? “We take them in. It is our policy to provide shelter to all sex workers.”