The use of fattening steroids among teenage prostitutes is becoming the norm in Bangladesh. Approximately 90% of sex workers in Bangladesh’s legal brothels use cow-fattening steroids to improve their appearance. Prostitution in the South Asian country is legal for those who over 18. However, some sex workers in brothels are as young as 12 and the girls younger than the legal age are made to take steroids in order to look older than they are.
Forced to take the drugs by their madams, the drugs work to increase the young girls’ appetites, which adds curves and makes them appear healthy and older. The steroids also make them stronger which allows them to take in more men and make more money. Often the young girls are forced to pay off debts like housing, food, or debts and loans previously owed. Even if they can get out of the business, they fear the social exclusion they’ll face.
These steroids are known to have several side effects like diabetes, high blood pressure, skin rashes, and headaches. Another side effect is a weakened immune system and addiction; there have already been reported deaths from the use of the drug.
Activists, such as ActionAid Bangladesh, are hoping to promote awareness of the drug as well as hoping to persuade brothels to stop using it and authorities to regulate it.
“Steroids are life-saving as well as life-destroying drugs which are used by sex workers in poor countries,” Shipra Gowshami, a lawyer and human rights activist who works with sex workers in brothels told Reuters.
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