Manel Quiros (1984) is Spanish photographer from Barcelona based in the United Kingdom since 2010. He has studied professional photography at the University of Valencia and Visual Communication and Photojournalism in Edinburgh and Glasgow. He has collaborated with CC ONG, Naya Nagar ONGD, Red Cross Spain, Red Cross Burkinabe, UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) and WFP (World Food Programme). He works on long photographic editorial projects. Awards: IPA '17 (International Photography Awards - International), first place; Editorial Photographer of the Year - MIFA '17 (Moscow International Foto Awards); third place: People Category Winner - World Press Photo '17. Nominated to the Joop Swart Master Class.
Living in Solitude
Her name was Reena. It did not matter that she was only twelve, that all she wanted was to survive the streets of Chittagong in Bangladesh after being thrown out by her stepfather. The trap was simple enough: she was desperate for a job and met a lady who promised her a job selling garments in Dhaka. She never made it to Dhaka. She was taken to Banishanta island instead, sold to a Madame, and there they took her name, took her innocence and made her faceless and nameless, with no money, honour or freedom.
Banishanta is a tiny island in Mongla, southern Bangladesh, occupied by a brothel, one of twenty legal brothels in the country. It is staffed by women who have been kidnapped and sold. Most are unregistered at birth and have no identification papers, which makes it nearly impossible for them to leave the islet in search of a better life when they are no longer of value to their Madame. Drugs and alcohol are part of the daily routine, a means to escape the pain of their existence. The girls are isolated on Banishanta, so they are forced to learn to live in each other's company, where they form friendships and families. But this is all a make-believe facade for the sake of their sanity. In truth every girl lives alone.
Shanta is only 9 years old. She was born on Banishanta Island after her mom Khadisha became pregnant by an unknown customer. She will be turned into a sex worker just like her mother. Girls born under these conditions are often forced to follow the path of sex slavery, while boys end up working as drug dealers.
Winter season on Banishanta - a tiny mud island on the Pashur river that is home to a community of about a hundred sex workers. Men of all ages stop by for drinks, drugs and sex. For them this is the most popular season of the year.
Shapla lies on her bed next to a regular before intercourse.
Shirin left her husband shortly after their marriage, aged only 12. There is no place for a divorced woman in Bangladesh. The daunting prospect of a life without a husband led her to Banishanta, where men try to beat her or force themselves on her. There is no police on Banishanta island. No law.
Pictures of famous actresses next to condoms and steroids can be seen on a shelf. Steroids are used by teenagers on Banishanta to develop their bodies. They want to look healthy and strong to have more customers in a day.
Josna, a mother figure for some of the girls, observes with satisfaction a customer resting after sex with Shapla. The girl, in turn, seeks comfort from Reena.
Many sex workers have husbands or lovers. Sonale suffers physical abuse from her husband, Ujjal. She offers him money for her safety and protection. Her payments, however, do not deter his beatings. There are no rules on Banishanta island.
Reena feeds Shapla in her room, because the girl has lost her appetite. They have become close friends and manage to take good care of one another.
As she washes herself in the polluted waters of the Pashur, Shapla talks with her customer before heading to her room for intercourse.
Nargis is mentally ill and pregnant. She does not remember her life before Banishanta. She knows neither how old she is nor when she became a sex worker. Her pregnancy notwithstanding, she keeps smoking, taking drugs, drinking alcohol and doing her job.
Men consider Banishanta their escape resort during winter. It is a popular stop for men of all ages who usually visit the Sundarbans Forest and put in at Banishanta for drinks, drugs and sex. The island is not as popular during the rest of the year when it is almost isolated by high water from the monsoon season and climate change.
Young girls are considered special on Banishanta. Seema does not know her age and she is too young to remember when she arrived on the island. She was sold by human traffickers and forced into prostitution. Her youth makes her more desirable and more expensive than the older prostitutes. For this reason she is forced to have intercourse with around 15 costumers per day.
Suma shows that she has more to offer than her body. The girls often have to be creative and perform dances to seduce more customers. It is their way of making a living and getting better pay.
Reena and a customer lie on her bed getting high on drugs and playing around - a preamble to intercourse.
Jharna has cut her wrists after a conflict with Madame, who had accused her of keeping money for herself.