Requiem for Freedom
The Lives of Sex Workers in Bangladesh
Photographer Masud Alam Liton gives us a startling and stark look at the lives of sex workers in a community in Bangladesh. In the process, Liton wonders about what freedoms these women have gained through their work, what they've had to give up and what can never be taken from them.
For the sex workers of Douladia Ghat, Rajbari, Bangladesh, freedom is a dichotomy. Their profession has freed them from poverty, but in the process they've been forced to give up freedom over their own bodies. They are condemned to be free from social norms and restrictions because sex workers are not free to live in conventional society.
This dichotomy pervades every corner of the lives of the sex workers: They feel independent because they are earning money. But they have to turn the money over to the madam or the "husband." They feel happy because they have made new relationships, new sisters, and new families, but they are stuck inside their adopted community. Within the boundary of their community, they are free to dress and behave as they please, but if they should step outside, they have to cover their hair. They are free to love and marry whom they want, but they feel betrayed by the husbands who marry them for their earnings. They are free to strive to reach the top rank of their profession, a madam ruling over her own house, but their self-determination can take them only so far: they are always subject to the licensing powers and the corrupt practices of the police. They are a devout community, free to perform their religious rituals, but they are denied the right to be buried in a proper graveyard.
Yet they have one freedom remaining to them that asks no price: they are free to dream. They dream they are birds that go wherever their imagination takes them. They dream they are living the lives of their fantasies. Their dreams are requiems for true freedom.
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