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Lions Roar : May 2007
AKHI, 32. Tangail, Bangladesh. At age thirteen, before she had even begun menstruating, Akhi was sold into a brothel by her aunt. After working for several years, she became deeply depressed and attempted suicide. Her failed attempt brought about an epiphany: Her life could be used to improve the lot of her fellow sex workers. Akhi accomplished the near-impossible task of gaining support from religious, political, and social groups to create an organization to advocate for sex workers’ rights. Despite being arrested three times, she prevailed and, in 1998, formed the “Nani Mukti Sangha” organization. Since the group commenced, condom use in the brothel has increased from near zero to eighty-six percent, and the number of twelve- to thirteen-year-olds recruited into the brothels has decreased.Today, she continues to fight tenaciously for sex workers’ rights and is said to have such a forceful personality that even the police are afraid of her. JASMINE, 9. Jasmine was born in a brothel to a sex worker. The children of sex workers are so stigmatized in the community that they are not allowed to go to school, and Jasmine will therefore most likely have to begin sex work in two or three years. Akhi’s efforts to end such stigmatization will create a better future for these young girls. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2007 68