GMB Akash


© GMB Akash / Panos Pictures

The Bitterest Pill

Underage sex workers in Bangladesh facing a new horror: they are being forced to take a drug designed to fatten cattle for market. 800 women and girls live and work inside the fortress-like brothel in Faridpur, central Bangladesh. Many of them are underage, and most receive no pay because they are (chhukri) – bonded workers. That girl as young as 12 should be condemned to a life of sex slavery is bad enough, but they also face a new horror, one that could snuff out any chance of a future they might have had.

The horror is a steroid called Oradexon, a drug identical to one used to fatten cattle for market. The girls are given Oradexon by their madams in order to make them look older and more attractive to prospective clients. One of its side effects is water retention, oedema, which can result in a ‘plump’ look that is considered attractive by some Bangladeshi men. The drug is highly addictive and has severe long-term health implications, impairing the kidneys, increasing blood pressure and interfering with normal hormone production. I have haunting collection of portraits, some heartbreaking faces of underage sex worker which I’ve captured the world’s most innocent and tragic victims of life. They are taking Oradexon by not knowing anything. I want to do depth document on this crucial issue. Awareness through photography can stand as witnesses of cruelties that practiced over brothels being unaware or aware. By helping for detailing this issue will discover insight stories which are untold yet. This social issue needs to be got more strength to bring in lime light with sufficient information by detail documentation.


Words from our Jury Panel:

“Not only had photographer GMB Akash managed to gain intimate access into the shadowy world of the underage sex trade, his revelation that their madams are giving these young women the steroid Oradexon in order to make them look older and more attractive to prospective clients makes these disturbingly beautiful images even more poignant.”
– David Dare Parker, Award-winning photographer & co-founder of REPORTAGE

“Akash began coverage of the child prostitution – the most vicious form of child labor – five years ago while he was tackling with the issue of different types of child labour in Bangladesh. I think that, as a man, it was not easy for him to obtain the trust of these working women, and also to be permitted by the male clients who were there. He took time, and lets a photograph reach the depth of the problem carefully, one by one. These photographs talk about the reality of the situation very powerfully, and invokes energy to address this long-term issue that comes with a vicious cycle.”
– Yuko Yamaji, Curator at Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts


My journey to the world of photography began long ago. For years I have been travelling widely, covering various social issues faced by the lesser known people, particularly in my country Bangladesh. In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris. In 2005 I was awarded Best of Show at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. In 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my first book “First Light”.
In 2007 again I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30) by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and in TEDxOporto 2011 in Portugal.

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