Bangladesh prostitutes win job title identity ruling

Tangail brothel There are an estimated 200,000 prostitutes in Bangladesh

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The Election Commission in Bangladesh says prostitution will be recognised as a job title on new voter ID cards.

Although prostitution is legal, it has not been given this kind of recognition until now.

Campaign groups have welcomed the move, saying it will reduce difficulties faced by sex workers in offices and other public places.

As in many others parts of the world, prostitutes in Bangladesh have faced humiliation and isolation for years.

Aid groups say the workers have been stigmatised, insulted and beaten by clients and the police.

The women work under difficult conditions, they say, and need to have more rights before society can give them due respect.

'Social status'

"Sex workers can mention prostitution as a profession in the voter identity cards," Election Commissioner Shakhawat Hossain told the BBC.

"The commission decided to include it... following recommendations from human rights groups."

It has so far recognised only 25 professions but has decided to add more jobs, including journalists, priests and human rights activists.

Officials say that the information will not be on the card itself, but stored on a bar code linked to a database which can only be accessed by the election commission.

Campaign groups say there are an estimated 200,000 prostitutes in the Muslim-majority country and many brothels.

"The latest move by the election commission is a step closer to achieving social status...," Asif Iqbal, an official at the Protirodh Project charity, told the BBC.

"Hopefully, it will make it easier to get admission for their children in schools," he said.

Mr Iqbal said that sex workers with the new identity cards will now not hesitate to mention their profession in offices and public places.

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