art of resistance, travel

Bani Shanta, Bangladesh: The island of the forgotten women.

Alessandro Grassani is an Italian photographer whose work has appeared in numerous international publications including Sunday Times, New York Times, Time, El Pais, Foreign Policy, Der Spiegel, Mare, Vanity Fair, etc. He has traveled around South America, Africa and Asia, particularly Middle East – going back to Israel, Palestine and Iran more than once.

His famous pieces are focused around the  the lives of the people forced to migrate because of climate changes and with no alternative to the illusion of a better life in the city. And, of course – conflict and conflict areas draw his attention. 

One of his photo essays is The island of forgotten women. Today, I wish to put that one in the spotlight.

Artist statement:

Ruined by the climate change and shunned by society, this is the sad destiny of the 200 women who live on the island of Bani Shanta, one of the 14 official brothels in Bangladesh, a Muslim country where prostitution is legal. Abandoned or sold by their fathers and husbands, today they must also reckon with the crisis their clients face, which is brought about by global warming: the rise of the bed of the River Pashur which has caused changes in the size of the seaport in Mongla.


To smoke in public is forbidden by prejudiced for a woman in Bangladesh, only prostitutes feels and is free to smoke everywhere. Pia is 25 years old and her family doesn’t know where she is and what she is doing. Her father promised her as spouse but she didn’t want to get married that young. (© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)


Saheda Begum is taking care to an her friend’ s baby, working in the brothel and living next door. She arrived to Bani Shanta when she was 15/16 years old. She worked as prostitute in the brothel for almost 20 years but she does’t want to tell her story because as she says ” it is too sad ti hear my story”. (© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)


A prostitute having bath in the Pashur river, all the prostitute are used to bathing in the dirty river water because the lack of bathroom in the brothel.(© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)


 Zosna ,45 years old, getting ready for a day of work. She has been working in the brothel since15 years ago and before that she was working in a rice factory. She decide to quite her job in the factory because her husband left her when her daughter was only 1 years old and with the factory salary she was not able to support her daugther. (© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)


The brothel is located in the Bay of Bengala where sea level rise is getting dangerous and dangerous for the prostitutes living in the Bani Shanta brothel which can go under water any time now. (© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)


 A local ngo with the support of the Italian Mani Tese has just started a project of alternative work to save the prostitutes from misery. The prostitutes are producing string, sold to local factory producing local handcrafts. (© Alessandro Grassani/Invision Images)

 For more of Grassani’s work, visit his official website.

5 thoughts on “Bani Shanta, Bangladesh: The island of the forgotten women.

  1. David says:

    This is terrible. I just watched a film about the island. Wow, the horror!
    This is completely crazy…

  2. Maimuna Qazi says:

    I would first like to express my deep gratitude to Shahadat Hossain for featuring Bani Shanta Island through his photographs. My heartfelt thanks to Mohammad Asadurjaman Aslam Molla for presenting his article on the Daily Sun.

    I simply had no idea that an Island called Bani Shanta existed in Bangladesh. Added to that, finding out that it is one of the 14 registered brothels in the country was groundbreaking information to me. An island, constantly threatened by River Pashur’s cruel rising waters inhabits women who have the saddest stories to tell. Rejected by families and husbands, afflicted by misery and having no source of fresh waters or even access to toilets because of lack of bathrooms, the women inhabitants live a life of horror and despair.

    I sincerely hope and pray that NGOs and other organizations reach out to help these women in dire need of a change in lifestyle. These lives simply cannot be left to get wasted on a self-devouring island.

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