HAMIDA Begum’s recent funeral was an important event in Bangladesh. The 65-year-old was the first sex worker from Daulatdia to receive a formal Islamic funeral. Daulatdia is one of about 12 legal brothel areas operating in the country.
In Bangladesh, prostitution is legal but regarded by many as immoral. So, after death, their bodies frequently tossed into unmarked graves or dumped in the river.
More than 200 mourners attended the religious ceremony, while a further 400 went to the post-funeral feast and prayers, the police said.
“I never dreamed that she would get such an honourable farewell,” said Begum’s daughter Laxmi, who followed her mother into the trade.
She added that her mother was treated like a human being.
Islamic spiritual leaders have for decades rejected funeral prayers for sex workers because they view prostitution as immoral.
When Begum died, her family planned to put her in an unmarked grave. But a coalition of sex workers persuaded the local police to talk religious leaders into giving her a proper burial.
The Imam was initially reluctant but finally agreed to lead the prayers.
In the early 2000s, local authorities gave some groundstroke for unmarked graves, and families would pay drug addicts to carry out burials, usually at night without formal prayers.
The brothel was established a century ago under British colonial rule, but moved to its current location, near a ferry station, after locals torched the old complex in 1988.
Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim countries in the world where prostitution is legal for women aged 18 or older and workers are required to hold a certificate stating they are adults, and consent to the work.