Hijra Monika on the doorstep of her house
About the project
Late at night Hijras Annonya and Shamima climb the Dhaka station bridge to meet with clients and sell sex. Since the 1990s, organizations working to promote the rights of hijras in Bangladesh have highlighted their significant social and economic exclusion, often linked to high levels of violence, familial rejection, police harassment and, above all, their reliance on sex work.
Mahi, 37 years old. As most of hijras, he has to deal with rejection from family members. Once or twice a year he can go home to see his parents, now that they still alive. But after their demise he knows that his siblings and neighbours will reject him
Hijra Mahi playing and making fun of children. Hijras making and dressing up always attracts the curiosity of the neighbourhood.
Hira Sati making up before leaving her house. Medicines and hormonal treatments are usually too expensive for them. Make up and unwanted hair removal is the only way to become as female.
Mahi sitting on the bed. None of the hijras can afford to live in a proper house. They usually live in few square meters cubicles, without any facility, where they sleep, eat and receive clients.
Annonya receives clients where she lives, in a cramped room located in a crumbled building which already houses tens of families with childrens. They respect and love me -she said- Here we take care of each other
The suburban area where guru Sheela's community has settled. Most of the people living in the neighborhood, expecially those who doesn't know them personally, still express mistrust and prejudices towards hijras
Hijra Monika getting dressed with her traditional feminine saree and veil. Although many dress as women, hijras define themselves as people who are neither male nor female.
Three 'chelas' sharing the same bedroom. The afternoons spent away from the streets alternate between moments of serenity and despair, laughter and bitterness
Mahi and Sheela. As outcasts in society, the number of hijras who have turned to prostitution has risen dramatically. This is possibly partly the result of a high demand for hijra sex workers by male clientele.
Guru Sheela's cheelas walking the streets of the neighborhood to collect money from the villagers. This practice, a sort of 'istitutionalized' form of begging is carried out every month in turn from among the areas of the suburban district. No one perceiving a salary can refuse them a little cash contribution.
Sati and Mahi occasionally take care of the child of a neighbor. Few people living next door have long known they can completely trust Sati and her "sisters"
Hijra Sahanaj was evirated when she was 16. Most of Hijras have been born with all male attributes: some of them undergo an initiation rite of eviration, but the process is usually carried out without the aid of modern anesthesia or antibiotics. Most of them simply choose to forswear their lives as men while retaining their sex organs.
Sakila and Mahi resting
Hijra Sakila jokes improvising herself in the role of mother
Walking through the streets of Dhaka. Hijras usually find it hard to mingle in the crowd, because of people's prejudices and scornful glances.
A group of Hijras called to celebrate the birth of a child, to bring him fortune and prosperity. Much of their skills in song, dance and other creative arts, comes from the fact that hijras typically live together in large groups overseen by a leader called Guru. This is not necessarily a choice, but the only option for them as outcasts.
Hijras of guru Sweety's community playing sex. The relationship between the guru (which is considered as a 'mother') and her chelas (daughters or disciples) becomes very intimate, being a lifelong bond of reciprocity in which the guru takes care of her chelas, and chelas remain loyal and obedient to the guru.
Annonya combing her hair.
Annonya and Mahi waiting for clients in a few square meters room
Mahi is jokingly teased by her 'chelas' for her undeveloped breast
Annonya's waiting for the time to go out and catch up with clients
On the Dhaka station bridge. The working night has almost come to an end.