TOKYO-2016 Book / People

Living in Solitude

  • Prize
    Bronze in Book (Series Only)/Documnetry, Silver in Book (Series Only)/People
  • Photographer
    Manel Quiros

“Reena’s stepfather refused to take care of her, and as her mother could not do anything about it, Reena was left to fend for herself. And so, she became a lonely soul wandering the streets of Chittagong, her hometown in Bangladesh. She was in desperate need of a job when she met a lady who offered her a job selling garments in Dhaka. This was all a lie. Instead, Reena was taken to an island and sold to a Madame as a sex worker at Banishanta Brothel. She was just 12 years old. That day marked the beginning of an end. That day her innocence was locked away, turning Reena into an invisible soul. There was no way back. There was no time. There was no money. Just her skin, and that was enough.” Banishanta is a tiny island of barely one square kilometer, constantly under the threat of the rising waters during the monsoon season, and ruined by climate change. A small riverbank village in Mongla, southern Bangladesh, Banishanta is only reachable via the river Pashur. The island has become home to 100 girls who never imagined themselves destined to life as sex workers, rejected by society, many of whom are still in their early teen years. Unregistered at birth, non of them know their own birthdate, and they possess no passport or document with which to identify themselves. Officially these girls do not exist. They are invisible to society. Also, this fact makes it nearly impossible for them to leave the island in search of a better life after they have completed their time enslaved as sex workers for their Madame. These girls are so deprived that they tend to retreat into their own imaginary world, where they wish to find at least some form of protection. Drugs and alcohol are part of the daily routine as a means to escape the pain of their existence. Being an extremely marginalized group exposes them to the constant risk of abuse, therefore, the isolation on Banishante Island creates bonds among the girls so strong that they become family. Learning how to live in each other’s company is to deny living in solitude.