The use of the Oradexon, a steroid commonly used to make cows fatter, is so widespread amongst prostitutes in Bangladesh that the UK charity, ActionAid reports approximately 90% of the country’s commercial sex workers are addicted to the drug.
Why is a steroid meant for cows so popular amongst prostitutes in Bangladesh? Hundreds of thousands of girls, some as young as 9-14 years of age, are sold into the commercial sex trade business every year. Oradexon is favored by many brothel madams as a way to mask the real age of their younger child prostitutes while making their figures more voluptuous.
But the drug also conveniently serves as a cheaper substitute for food. In a country as impoverished and with as high malnutrition rates as Bangladesh, one can get 100 Oradexon pills for less than a $1.
Despite the popularity of the drug, the majority of the country’s estimated 200,000 sex workers remain unaware of the dangerous side-effects of the drug which include heart disease, kidney failure, osteoporosis and heart failure. The drug is also highly addictive and has intense withdrawal symptoms such as skin rashes and chronic migraines.
According to AFP, sex workers in Bangladesh are owned by brothel madams and have to repay their “purchase cost.” Sex workers themselves want to use Oradexon because the plumper they are, the more clients they get, and the closer they become to buying their freedom.
“The drug is a sex worker’s only ticket to early freedom as it makes her attractive and helps her to get as many clients as possible,” Rokeya, a former sex worker told AFP.
So how can we get the drug off the market and out of the reach of these madams and their prostitutes?
Not easily. AFP reports that despite legally needing a prescription for the drug, it is readily available in the teashops that populate Bangladeshi cities, and is often even cheaper than a cup of tea.
In demand with madams, prostitutes and clients? Looks like the presence of Oradexon in the commercial sex scene of Bangladesh will not be wiped out anytime soon.
*This post of mine was also published on Ms. Magazine.