Bangladesh sex workers plump up on cow steroids

FARIDPUR, July 7, 2010 (AFP) – Whenever Bangladeshi brothel owner Rokeya, 50, signs up a new sex worker she gives them a course of steroid drugs often used to fatten cattle. For older sex workers, tablets work well, said Rokeya, but for younger girls of 12 to 14 — who are normally sold to the brothel by their families — injections are more effective.

“It’s the quickest way to make a girl plump and hide her actual age if she is just a teenager,” Rokeya said, adding that the drug, called Oradexon, is cheap and widely available.

An estimated 200,000 women and teenage girls work in Bangladesh’s sex industry and as many as 90 percent of them may be addicted to Oradexon or similar steroids, according to British charity ActionAid.

Doctors say long-term use can be fatal but at the vast, government-registered brothel 100 kilometres (60 miles) outside Dhaka, most of the 900 sex workers use Oradexon daily to give them plump, full bodies.

When sex worker Shahinur Begum first arrived at Faridpur, divorced and bankrupt with a daughter to support, she worried about being too thin to attract clients.

“Oradexon gave me a full body, making me attractive,” she said,