In women and child trafficking is at present a big global issue. This trade results in unimaginable mental and physical abuse, loss of human dignity, violation of countless human rights. It is a modern form of slavery, violates national and international laws against rape, torture, abduction and murder.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh. Very little work has been done to understand the local dynamics of the Problem meaningfully. Trafficking in women and children features prominently on the global agenda both from human rights perspective as well as broader safe migration viewpoint.
“Trafficking in Persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, fraud, deception, of the abuse of power or position of vulnerability, of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation in this context shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labors or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
Trafficking, which is a serious problem and is considered a violation of human rights, is yet to be internalized emotionally by society at large in Bangladesh and also in other South Asian countries. It is yet to be emotionally internalized regarding what happens when an adolescent girl is abducted and taken to a brothel, threatened, beaten, and raped, and is compelled to submit for sex with men, seven days awake. Eventually she can become ill which may sometimes result in death. The crux of the issue is that civil society in Bangladesh is yet to internalize the mindset that trafficking and flesh trade are as bad as hatta (murder), dharshan (rape), or chhintai(mugging). When one hears or reads news about trafficking, it does not create the same reaction as other criminal activities create, such as, rape, murder, or mugging. Bangladesh has ratified many international laws and conventions. For example, Bangladesh has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Againsts Women with Reservations of Article 2, 13(a) and 16.1 (9c) and 16.1 and Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Bangladesh has also played an effective role at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and endorsed the Plan of Action. In addition, in recent years, a number of laws have been promulgated, and various policies and regulations have been approved to ensure equal rights of women in all spheres of life and also to eliminate violence against them. According to Article 34.1 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, “All forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with law.” Other available statutes with direct implication to trafficking of women and children are: (1) The Penal Code 1860, (2) The Children(Pledging of Labors) Act 1933, (3) The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933, (4) The Children Act1974, (5) The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance, 1983, etc. Nevertheless, it is also widely acknowledged that no sufficient steps have been taken to ensure the effective implementation of these laws to protect women and children from trafficking.
N.B: UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, 2000 (a supplement to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime).
This section briefly describes the context of trafficking from the global, regional and Bangladesh perspectives.
Trafficking of persons into bonded sweatshop labor, forced marriage, forced prostitutions, domestic servitude, and other kinds of work is a global phenomenon that takes place within countries and regions and on a transcontinental scale. Trafficking in women is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world with an estimated one to two million young women being trafficked annually for the purpose of forced labor, domestic servitude, or sexual exploitation. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that, in 1995, about 500,000 women were trafficked to the countries of the European Union from poorer regions of the world. So, it is not a problem of developing countries alone.
Although the concept of trafficking is often used for describing kidnapping and enslavement of women for the commercial sex industry, different government and international agencies have adopted much broader definitions of the term to include other forms of trafficking and affected groups, such as children trafficked for child labour and organ donation. The problem is usually under-reported because of the difficulties involved in tracking such clandestine activities.
In recent years, the issues relating to trafficking have become more prominent and are being discussed more openly. There are more efforts also to understand the underlying dynamics of trafficking of women and children. This may be related to increase awareness and concerns about human rights, violence against women, and about the role of commercial sex in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related epidemics. The question of trafficking has figured prominently in the agenda of recent international meetings, such as International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, World Summit for Social Development in 1995, and Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995. Accordingly, there is also a growing interest among the policy-makers and programme managers to identify effective options for preventing such exploitation of women and children and in designing appropriate interventions for them.
Trafficking in Asia accounts for a large share of the global volume of trafficked women and children. In the last two decades, the number of trafficked women and children in Asia has increased alarmingly. Trafficking across borders was included as an important issue in the ninth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in May 1997. In its 27th paragraph, the Declaration of the 9th SAARC Summit says, “Expressing grave concern at the trafficking of women and children within and between countries, the Heads of State or Government pledged to coordinate their efforts and take effective measures to address this problem.” They decided that the existing legislation(s) in Member States should be strengthened and strictly enforced. This should include simplification of the repatriation procedures for victims of trafficking.
Trafficking of women has been the part of the tradition in this region. In his review, Joardar found that the problem of prostitution is directly related to trafficking of women, and this institution has been in existence in this region in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
South Asia is considered the most vulnerable region for trafficking because of its large population, large-scale rural-urban migration, large populations living in conditions of chronic poverty, and recurrent natural disasters. Women and children are sold, traded, exchanged for sexual slavery and prostitution, and bonded labour across borders, such as from Bangladesh to India, Pakistan, and the Middle East; from Nepal to India; from Burma to Thailand; from Vietnam to Kampuchea; and from the Philippines to Japan.
It is very difficult to estimate the exact number of women and children who have been trafficked from one country to another country in the Asian region. Estimates on the number of women and children trafficked are based on sources of varying reliability from newspaper reports to cases reported to the police and other law-enforcing agencies.
Causes and consequences of trafficking in Bangladesh cannot be understood in isolation from its historical, cultural, geographical and socioeconomic perspectives and the present condition of women.
Historical and geographical contexts
After independence from British colonization in 1947, the Indian sub-continent was divided into two countries: India and Pakistan. Pakistan had two distinct geographic regions, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by 1,200 miles. Thus, many cross-border families were formed. During separation, many Muslim families from India migrated to Pakistan, particularly to East Pakistan. Again, many Hindus living in East Pakistan moved to India. In 1971, East Pakistan became independent from West Pakistan and a new nation, Bangladesh, was born. During this time, many non-Bengali Pakistanis (who were originally from India) wanted to go back to West Pakistan and are still awaiting repatriation to Pakistan. They live in 66camps scattered in 14 districts of Bangladesh. As repatriation of these people has been delayed, many cross land-borders illegally. Often with these groups, other women and children are trafficked.
On both sides of the newly-drawn border between India and Pakistan and India and Bangladesh, there are many ‘enclaves’ which are pockets of land belonging to a nation other than that which surrounds them. There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 enclaves of Bangladesh in India. Usually, these areas are not patrolled or controlled by any law-enforcing agencies.
Bangladesh, one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has 147,570 sq km of land and a population density of 755 per sq km (21). The present estimated population of the country is about 129 million.
Some estimates of trafficking in Asia:
- § About 200,000 women and girls from Bangladesh were trafficked to Pakistan in the last 10 years, continuing at the rate of 200-400 women per month. The total number of prostitutes in India is 7,936,509. UNICEF estimates that there are at least a million child prostitutes in Asia alone with the greatest numbers in India, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines .
- § Each year 5,000-6,000 Nepalese women and children are trafficked across the border into India. About 100,000 Filipino women and girls are annually trafficked as ‘entertainers’ into the booming sex industry in Japan (20).
- Japan hosts the biggest sex industry market for Asian women, and many of them are Filipinos and Thais . The sex industry accounts for 1% of the GNP, and equals the defense budget of the country.
Despite the achievements of some poverty-alleviation programmes through micro-credit and other development initiatives, the vast majority of the population in Bangladesh still live in poverty. Illiteracy and unemployment are quite high.
Recurrent natural disasters make the situation more critical for the entire population. During distress situation, lack of shelter for girls is a great problem. All these factors make women and children vulnerable, and make them easy targets of traffickers.
Rahman A. Disaster and development: a study in institution building in Bangladesh. In:
Hossainss H, Dodge CP, Abed FH, editors. From crisis to development: coping with disasters in Bangladesh. Dhaka: University Press Ltd., 1992:
Cultural and political contexts
If socioeconomic conditions present a context of persisting poverty and if underdevelopment affects large numbers of the population, this situation is most acutely felt by women, because they additionally face strong religious, historic and cultural forces that tend to shape every aspect of their lives. Legally, both women and men have the same rights and are entitled to equal treatment under the law. Nevertheless, cultural norms often act as barriers to the impel legislation against this, which was signed in 1980. The inability to fulfill commitments of dowry affects a young bride’s treatment by her husband’s relatives and increases her vulnerability of being abandoned and trafficked for immoral purposes or bonded labor.
Definition of Child
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (ratified by the Government of Bangladesh) children are persons under 18. In Bangladesh legislation, children are defined differently according to various laws. The definition of children is not uniform in the laws of Bangladesh. Different laws have defined children in different ways. Since the Definition of a child is different in different Acts and seems to be anomalous.
In the Children Act 1974 and Oppression on Women & Children Prevention Act 2000 (Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Damon Ain) they are defined as under 16 years,
While, in the National Child Policy it is 14 years,
In some otherlaws the age limit varies from 6, 7, 16, and so on.
Compulsory Primary Education Act 1990 defines the age of a child is ranging from 6-12,
In the Penal Code 1860 it is 7 and 12 (amended recently 9 and 12),
In Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 earlier age was 16, by a later amendment boy age raised to 21 and girls age raised to 18.
THE BANGLADESH LABOUR Act. 2006 — Section.2, Sub-section. (8) Defines, “Adolescent” means a person who has completed fourteen years but has not completed eight years of age; and Sub-section. (63) Defines, “Child” means a person who has not completed fourteen years of age;
According to the Indian Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. “Child” means a person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age;
According to the Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860 a child under the age of seven cannot be punished for an offence
According to the Child Act 1974, everyone under 16 is legally a child.
According to the Contract Act 1872, a person will be treated as minor who is below 18 years of old.
The Underage Marriage Prevention Act 1929 on the other hand sets two different age limits for girls and boys. For boys the minimum age is 21 and for girls the minimum age is 18.
In the Bongiyo Bhoboghuray Act 1943, a person is considered to be a child until the age of 14.
In the Motor Vehicle Act 1939, a person under the age of 18 is a child and is not allowed to drive a light vehicle and in the case of heavy vehicles, the person’s age must be at least 20.
In the Women and Children Oppression Prevention Act 2000, a person under 14 is deemed to be a child.
According to the Adolescence Act, until a person reaches the age of 18 s/he is considered to be an adolescent.
The Muslim Family Act of 1961, describes a person as a child until the age of 16.
For the purpose of juvenile justice administration the Children Act has defined a child as any person under the age of 16 years.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) to which Bangladesh is a party defines a child as any person under the age of 18 years.
An inter-ministerial meeting on juvenile justice held at the Prime Minister’s office has recently decided to consider any body under 18 years as child.
The Christian law of divorce reckons sixteen years in case of a male and thirteen years in case of a female as the age of a child.
According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, a child remains a child upto the age of sixteen while in the national child policy, the age is fourteen.
Age of Criminal Responsibility
Penal Code 1860Section 82: Nothing is an offence, which is done by a child under seven years of age.Section 83: Nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.
The UN Convention of the Rights of Children treats every human being below the age 18 years as a child. The convention allows every society to consider its own laws and customs.
Children in Bangladesh are grouped in three categories: shishu – anybody under 5 years of age, balak or balika – a child of 6 to 10 years and kishor or kishori – a child of age between 11 and 14.
WHO IS A CHILD AND HARASMENT FOR DEFINING NO PROPER AGE
Who is a Child? Who, in the eyes of the law, is a child? In Bangladesh, that depends entirely on what you are attempting to do. Rahim, 8, is a slum-dweller looking for a job. However, the Child Act 1974 lays down 16 as the age of maturity. One cannot vote, though, until one is 18, according to the law.
The Bangladesh Penal Code holds that a child under seven cannot be punished for an offence. The Underage Marriage Prevention Act 1929 lays down different marriageable age standards for boys (21) and girls (18). In the Women and Children Oppression Prevention Act 2000, a person under 14 is deemed to be a child. The Adolescence Act states that a person is an adolescent until s/he reaches the age of 18. The Muslim Family Act 1961 sets 16 as the age of maturity. Under the Bongiyo Bhoboghuray Act 1943, everyone under 14 is a child. And the Motor Vehicles Act 1939 lays down that to drive a light vehicle; one has to be above 18 and to drive a heavy vehicle, above 20.
The point that this tiring list makes is simple: At what age does a child in Bangladesh legally reach the age of maturity. Evidently, Bangladeshi laws lay down contradictory standards.
The United Nations Child Rights Charter had set the legal definition at 18, and most countries in the world follow this standard. The rationale being that the State would be bound to protect the rights of the child at least until that age. Equally importantly, a child has the right to know when s/he reaches the age of maturity.
In developing countries, childhood often ends well before the age of 18, no matter what the laws say. Children have to go out and work to contribute to the family income.
“The government is encouraging child labor by setting different age limits for children in different Acts,” says Mohammad Asgar Ali, Director, Bangladesh Child Rights Forum. “Besides fixing an age limit, the government should also make birth registration compulsory. In our country, it is difficult to ascertain the exact age of a child because of the lack of birth certificates.”
Sumaiya Khair, Professor with the Law department, DhakaUniversity, agrees in substance: “We could allocate specific jobs that are appropriate for children under 18.”
As for the difference in the marriageable age limits for boys and girls, Govinda Chandra Mondol, also with the Law department in Dhaka University, says, “This difference keeps the social perspective in mind. In our society, it is customary for the groom to be older than his bride as he is expected to the bread-winner of the family. We do not encourage marriage between two people of the same age in our culture.”
Bangladesh is not the only country that remains undecided about what age a child reaches maturity. Angela Melchiorre’s research ‘At What Age’ reveals that in 25 countries of the world, there is no set age limit for compulsory primary education for children. In 33 countries, there is no minimum age for work, and in 44 countries, girls are allowed to marry earlier than boys can. In at least 125 countries, seven to 15-year-olds are taken to court for their offences and detained in dangerous prison conditions, even though this is the age group that must go through compulsory primary education. In some countries, even the concept of compulsory primary education is missing, and children below 14 are allowed to work. There are also instances where children below 12 are allowed to marry and children as young as seven are punished for their crimes.
Bangladesh, and indeed every country, must define clearly the age of maturity, so children can enjoy their rights and the State’s responsibilities are more clearly understood.
Definition and concepts
International organizations use various definitions for describing trafficking. The definitions tend to focus on gender, age, reason for trafficking, and the issues of coercion and violence which are often associated with trafficking.
UN definition of trafficking
Trafficking is not a new phenomenon. Yet, only recently international consensus was reached on a precise and unambiguous definition of trafficking. The four early international treaties on trafficking (1904, 1910, 1921 and 1933) were consolidated in 1949 by the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. This treaty connects trafficking to prostitution across borders and within a country.
The preamble of the 1949 convention states that
‘prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community’.
It aims at punishing those who procure, entice, lead away or exploit a person for the purposes of prostitution ‘even with the consent of that person’ as well as those keeping or financing brothels.
However, the treaty has not been widely accepted and, after half a century, only 74 of the (now) 191 member states of the United Nations have ratified the 1949 convention.
According to Wijers and Lap-Chew (1999:26), reasons for non-ratification varied from ‘constitutional incompatibility to criticism of the basic assumptions of the text’, more specifically the fact that ‘many national governments permit highly regulated forms of prostitution and are not willing to sign a treaty that requires its elimination’.
In the 1980s, trafficking was put back on the international agenda and, at the end of 2000, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its three Optional Protocols were adopted by the UN General Assembly. The main focus of the convention and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children is crime prevention and combating transnational organised crime. The protocol entered into force on 25 December 2003.
In just a few years, 103 states have ratified the trafficking protocol, which goes beyond trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution by criminalising the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of persons for all forms of forced labour. Article 3 of the United Nations Trafficking Protocol, or Palermo Protocol, defines trafficking as follows:
‘Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of
payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purposes of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.’
This definition of trafficking in persons has three elements: action, means and purpose.All three have to be present to constitute trafficking. However, with regard to children, only action and purpose are sufficient, even if this does not involve any of the means listed above. Thus, the recruitment of a child for the purpose of exploitation is considered trafficking.
Article 3(b) provides that the ‘consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used’. This means that even if the victim initially consented to migrate and work for a low wage or work in the sex industry, it becomes irrelevant if the victim has been forced, coerced or deceived.
It is clear, that there is no consent when one is forced, coerced or deceived into prostitution, domestic work or marriage, but when is there an abuse of vulnerability? According to the trafficking protocol, consent is irrelevant if coercion, deception, fraud or the other listed means are used. In all other instances, consent is relevant. However, in the case of children, all consent is irrelevant. Thus, the UN trafficking protocol, and rightly so, clearly distinguishes between children and adults.
In the case of children, in 1998, a research report by Archavanitkul titled “Trafficking in Children for Labour Exploitation including Child Prostitution in the Mekong Sub-region”,Compared definitions used by the UN General Assembly, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), International Organization for Migrations (IOM), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). After considering these definitions, the authors concluded that important dimensions of child trafficking include the performance of a profitable act by person(s) other than the children themselves who transport a child within or across the national borders usually using false or deceptive information for the purpose of work or services in destructive and exploitative work conditions by means of violence, abuse, or other forms of coercion. For their study, a trafficked child refers to “A child who is recruited and transported from one place to another across a national border, legally or illegally, with or without the child’s consent, usually but not always organized by an intermediary: parents, family member, teacher, procurer, or local authority. At the destination, the child is coerced or semi-forced (by deceptive information) to engage in activities under exploitative and abusive conditions”
In the case of women, the same dimensions seem to be important. For instance, the US President’s Interagency Council on Women, defines trafficking as: “All acts involved in the recruitment, transport, harboring or sale of persons within national or across international borders through deception or fraud, coercion or force, or debt bondage for purposes of placing persons in situations of forced labor or services, such as forced prostitution or sexual services, domestic servitude, or other forms of slavery-like practices”.
Similarly, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women considers that trafficking of women refers to “all acts involved in the recruitment and/or transportation of a woman within and across national borders for work or services by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt-bondage, deception or other forms of coercion”
Friedman, USAID, referred the following definition “The recruitment of girls/women by means of violence or threat, debt bondage, deception or coercion to act as sex workers under menace of penalty and for which the individual has not offered themselves voluntarily”.
Although prostitution is an important outcome of trafficking activities, there are many other exploitative outcomes and events relating to trafficking. Thus, definitions tend to be general and encompass not only the sex and age of the trafficked persons, but also the different purposes for which people are trafficked.
The countries of SAARC have a definition in their Convention for Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children. Nevertheless, a consultation workshop organized by the Resistance Network in Bangladesh in August 1999 made suggestions for changes to the convention1.
The workshop proposed the following definitions:
“Trafficking in women consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of women within and/or across border by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing a woman against her will without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations such as forced prostitution, forced marriage, bonded and forced labour, begging, organ trade, etc.”
“Trafficking in children consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of children within and/or across border by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing a woman against her will without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations, such as commercial sexual abuse, forced marriage, bonded and forced labour, begging, camel jockeying and other sports, organ trade, etc.”
In the context of Bangladesh, the BNWLA adapted the definition of the Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women, so that it could be applied to situations involving both women and children. Thus, the BNWLA defines trafficking as “All acts involved in the recruitment and/or transport of a woman (or child) within and across national borders for work or services (or marriage) by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt bondage, deception or other forms of coercion” Arriving at an appropriate definition of the phenomenon of trafficking is essential for identifying the magnitude of the problem and ways to address it. International organizations use various definitions for describing trafficking. The definitions tend to focus on gender, age, reason for trafficking, and the issues of coercion and violence which are often associated with trafficking.
How is the Trafficking Problem Internalized?
The Bangla equivalent of the word trafficking is pachar. It has a mild connotation, which means transfer from one place to another. If the term pachar is used in reference to women and children, inBangla the phrase nari o shishu pachar means illegal transfer of women and children from one place to another. Trafficking, which is a serious problem and is considered a violation of human rights, is yet to be internalized emotionally by society at large in Bangladesh and also in other South Asian countries. The term itself does not capture the total implications for an adolescent girl to be abducted and taken to a brothel; threatened, beaten, and raped; and forced to submit to having sex with men, seven days a week, for several years until she eventually becomes ill which may sometime result in death.
The crux of the issue is that civil society in Bangladesh has yet to internalize the mind-set that ‘traffickings’ is as bad as hatta (murder), dharshan (rape), or chintai (mugging). When one hears orreads news about trafficking, it does not create the same reaction as other criminal activities, such as rape, murder, or mugging. Newspapers are replete with news of rape and murder, but there are few reports on trafficking of women and children. It may be because trafficking happens behind the scenes and is hard to detect. Both print and electronic media could be used for playing a more effective role in depicting different facets of trafficking in Bangladesh.
At the NGO level, it has been observed that, although there is no disagreement regarding the seriousness of the problem, there are differences on how they internalize the problem. Some NGO representatives think that awareness about trafficking issues in Bangladesh is different when compared to other crimes. The expression was as follows: “generally, people are not treating trafficking equally with other types of offences, those who are conscious can easily relate trafficking with murder and rape, since murder and rape are crimes of such a nature which has an urgency, the reaction is quick and immediate, whereas trafficking takes place through a process behind the scenes and occurs over a period of time, so people do not have any immediate reaction” (Interview with Fawzia, PROSHIKA).
Another respondent representing an NGO looked at trafficking as a part of migration process, but was bothered by violence and illegal activities associated with trafficking. She stated, “trafficking is a kind of migration, one can go anywhere s/he likes. It is a fundamental human right. People are going from one place to another for a long, long time. But when people are taken illegally through deception and are tortured, it becomes an issue. So, violence and illegal activities associated with trafficking should be stopped.
Nature and Extent of the problem in Bangladesh
Magnitude of the Problem
There is no reliable estimate of women and children who have been trafficked from Bangladesh to other countries. According to estimates by human rights activists, 200-400 young women and children are smuggled every month from Bangladesh into Pakistan. Most of them end up prostitution. A large number of Bangladeshi women are involved in sex trade in India, mostly in the brothels of Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi .According to newspaper reports, 165,000 Bangladeshi women were engaged in prostitution in Pakistan in 1992. There is no reliable estimate of women and children who have been trafficked from Bangladesh to other countries.
Modes of Trafficking
Most reports reviewed suggest that, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Bangladeshi children and women being trafficked into India and other countries. The causes of trafficking and the factors leading to this apparent increases are multiple and complicated. These factors are embedded within the socioeconomic structure of the country and require an in-depth analysis. However, for the present purpose the factors have been categorized into two groups. The ‘push’ factors, the first group: there are the conditions in the environment of the ‘sending’ communities or countries that ensure a supply of people for trafficking. These factors include low employment opportunities, low social status of women, economic and social vulnerability of women and children, urbanization, migration, etc. The second group refers to the set of ‘pull’ factors that support the demand for trafficking activities. These include wage employment and bonded labour, migration and prostitution, and cultural myths. All these factors have been explained in this report.
Traffickers adopt different strategies and tricks to allure and enroll young children and women (and their families) into the trafficking process. The procurement process for trafficking in women in the sex industry in Bangladesh involves the entrapment of women to be sold to brothels nationally or to neighboring countries, especially in India. Inside Bangladesh, the procurers’ places of hunting are the river ports, especially the Sadar Ghat area of Dhaka, bus stations, and the railway stations across the country. The traffickers at these locations look for migrants who come from rural areas for job or poor young people abandoned by their families; they allure them with false promises of wealth and better prospects. The victims from these spots are usually sold to Bangladeshi brothels.
Estimate of children trafficked from Bangladesh
- § 13,220 children trafficked out of Bangladesh in the past five years
- § 300,000 Bangladeshi children work in the brothels of India
- § 200,000 Bangladeshi children work in the brothels of Pakistan
- § 4,500 women and children trafficked to Pakistan
- § 1,000 child trafficking cases documented in the Bangladeshi media in 1990-1992
Source: Proceedings of the Consultation, Source: Proceedings of the Consultation Meeting Prostitution. CWCS 1997
Causes of Trafficking
The causes of trafficking and the factors leading to this apparent increases in recent years are multiple and complicated. These factors are embedded within the socioeconomic structure of the country and require an in-depth analysis. However, for the present purpose, the factors have been categorized into two groups. The first group, the ‘push’ factors, includes the conditions which are responsible for trafficking of people from one country to another country. These factors have been outlined in the previous discussion about Bangladesh and its regional context and will be expanded further below. The second group refers to the set of ‘pull’ factors that support the demand for trafficked victims.
Causes of trafficking§ Break-up of traditional joint family and the emerging nuclear families
- § Pseudo-marriage
- § Dowry demand
- § Unequal power relations and discrimination in the family by gender and age
- § Negligible decision-making status of women in financial matters
- § Negative attitude toward women and female children
- § Socialization which devalues female children
- § Social stigma against single, unwed, or widowed women
- § Misinterpretation of religion regarding women
- § Religious fundamentalism
- § Complications out of conditionalities and fraudulent practices in marriages/after marriages
- § Child marriage, polygamy, or incompatible marriages
- § Easy divorce
- Physical and mental illness, and contagious diseases turning women as outcastes
- Frustration in love and failure in conjugal life
- § Enticements for better life, e.g. job and prospect of marriage
- Globalization and export-oriented growth model and consumerism
- Increased dependency of guardians on the income of their female children
- § Natural disasters making families homeless and disintegrated
- § Acute poverty forcing parents to abandon their children
- § Lack of shelter for women in distress
- § Inadequate government policies in favour of women
- § Inadequate rural development projects for women and unemployed
- § Lack of social security and safety
- Inefficiency of the law-enforcing agency
- § Corruption amongst the members of law-enforcing agencies
- § Women released from jail/hazat are given to guardians/custodians without proper/legal verification
- § These malpractice of providing affidavit for women entering into the profession of prostitution without verification of age
- § Complications of restoring to law are both expensive and time-consuming for women victims
- § Non-registration of female domestic help
Low employment opportunities
In Bangladesh, due to increasing landlessness and inadequate investment in rural industrialization the scope for employment opportunities and skill development, particularly for rural women, is less. Women have traditionally worked as unpaid family labourers in the society. Employment opportunities, access to land, and credit facilities have traditionally been limited for women. However, in recent years, there have been increasing demands on the labour of women and children in the urban informal sector, garments industry, and as domestic servants, and a growing number of women and children are involved in the workforce in the cities. Data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) show that, in general, the female labour force had reached 21.3% in 1996 compared to 6.1% in1980 .Again, among adolescent girls aged 10 to 14 years, the labour force increased to 22.4% in 1996 compared to 11.1% in 1989 . Thus, low employment opportunity for women in the rural areas and growing demand for workforce in the informal sector in the urban areas push women to migrate from rural areas to urban areas. This trend of migration creates vulnerable conditions for women and children and provides opportunities to traffickers to exploit women and children.
Picture of low employment of children
Social vulnerability of women and female children
An ideological manifestation plays a crucial role in creating a vulnerable situation for women in a changing socioeconomic setting. Patriarchy defines an asymmetrical role and relationship for men and women in the society, which has been termed as gender class by the feminists. In our society, men are considered economic providers and women their dependents whose role is related to biological reproduction. This creates specific gender roles with strong values and norms attached to each. On this again is built the ideology of sexuality whereby women’s sexuality has to be controlled by men. Again this notion of control and of protection of women leads to vulnerable exploitative situation for women in which the slightest sexual deviation or social dislocation makes them ‘polluted’ and object of social degradation. The socialization process in the family determines the role of a girl child as a future mother and wife. The girls grow up with a mentality of dependency in a male-dominant environment where their contributions toward the family are unrecognized as they perform the role of unpaid family help.
Participation of girl children in household chores, both in rural and urban setup, is seen as a process of preparing them for marriage by teaching them of becoming efficient ‘house wives’. The girls are exposed to the risks of being victimized even at the family. Sometimes the girls’ living places pose threats to their safety. Often in rural areas and urban slums, they have to live in fragile huts. In a community-based study on socioeconomic dimension of trafficking of girl children, one girl who was from rural areas of Rajshahi expressed,
“I sleep in a room with my mother along with my two sisters. The condition of our house is not at all good. The fences and the bamboo-made walls of room have almost broken down. Therefore, my mother always worries about our safety and keeps watch throughout the night. I can not sleep well out of fear and anxiety as well”.
In the urban slums, the risk of abuse of girl children within the family by the stepfather or the other family members are most fatal. For economic survival and social protection, the girls need to be submissive in such a family environment. They are exposed to constant threat of becoming sexually active not only because of the sexual aggression of men, but also by other provocative factors. For example, in urban slums, joint families comprising parents, daughters, sons, and daughters-in-law live in a tiny single room which is embarrassing for the adolescent girls, because there is no privacy.
In rural communities, early marriage, dowry system, and polygyny are commonly- practiced phenomena. Young girls and women are often the victims of gender oppression due to their low status in society. To avoid social pressure and stigma regarding the delayed marriage of women, parents try to arrange a marriage for their daughters at an early age, even before the legal age of 18 years. Often these marriages are unregistered, because the parents are ignorant about the importance of registration of marriage. Thus, it is impossible to validate many marriages, and men are easily able to remarry.
Dowry is also a common practice. Parents are often unable to marry off their daughters, because of their inability to pay a dowry. Sometimes the girls are married off to much older men to avoid the payment of dowry. This may lead to early widowhood, failure in conjugal life, or separation.
Divorce and desertion frequently on grounds of non-payment of dowry or post-marital demands for dowry are encouraged by the sanction of polygamy.
According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance,1961, men are required to obtain permission from the Union Parisad Chairman on the basis of consent from the first wife for remarrying. Men generally ignore this requirement, and if women resist, they are frequently sabandoned. It has been found that both polygyny and dowry have led to an increased incidence of domestic violence and desertion. Sometimes physical and mental illnesses and contagious diseases result in women and girls becoming outcasts. In many instances, communities and families treat these single, widowed women as outcasts and as a social and economic burden. Hence, offers of marriage or employment prospects are tempting for them. Often frustration in love or failure in conjugal life pushes women toward the allure of a better life.
Economic vulnerability of women and children
In Bangladeshi society, women get the smallest share of resources. When resources are stretched thin, it is women; the most marginalized in the first place, who suffer first and most. The state policy intervention in the agricultural sector has resulted in strong polarization of classes. The new technologies introduced became the property of the rich. The poorest section of the population was marginalized. Men were forced to look for jobs outside agricultural labour, and women were left without any work at all. Consequently, women are being pushed to extreme marginal position. The general pauperization necessitated them to work for survival. Thus, they entered the highly competitive labour market where they are forced to compete with the dominant male labour force. In the process, they are left with little choice but to take up extremely low paid, exploitative work as domestic servants, garment factory workers, prostitutes, etc. Sometimes the parents forcefully engaged their girl children in odd jobs due to extreme economic hardship in urban slum areas. They had little or no role in the process of deciding about their future.
Urbanization and migration
The population growth rate of urban areas is three times higher (6-7%) than the national population growth of 2% per year. At present, about 20% (25 million) of the country’s total population of (129million) live in the urban areas. The growth of urban slums and the homeless population are some of the gravest challenges that the country is now encountering. The environmental and socioeconomic conditions in the slum and squatter settlements are extremely poor and, in fact, very hazardous. These conditions are health hazards to the residents of these settlements and to those living outside. The densities are very high (up to 2,000 persons or more per acre or 5,000 persons per hectare). The per-capita living space is terribly low, even down to 10 square feet (or 1 sq. meter) in some settlements. Again, due to continuous in-migration of the illiterate rural poor and the increase in the number of the urban poor, the urban literacy rate has actually been declining and the total number urban illiterates has also gone up from 1,389,000 in 1961 to 3,218,000 in 1974 and 5,429,000 in 1981.. People are continuously migrating from rural to urban areas for economic and social reasons. A study, conducted by the Research Evaluation Associates for Development among vulnerable and floating groups of people in four cities of Bangladesh, reported that social factors are as important as economic factors for their vulnerability. However, this study observed that acute financial crisis, limited or no access to resources, unemployment, and crisis due to natural calamities are important economic factors for vulnerability. This study also identified that social factors, such as torture by husbands and other family members, torture (including rape in some cases) by miscreants and deception at the community level, deception regarding property by relatives, neighbors and influential men, deception by lovers and agents (dalals), remarriage of husband/wife, pressure of dowry, and infertility, including son preference, might have attributed in trafficking..
Wage employment or bonded labour
There is an increasing demand for child labour for the sex trade, domestic work, and other exploitative events, because child labour is cheap and easily controlled. Bangladeshi children are engaged in construction sites, carpet trade, and glass bangles industries in Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, and Karachi by relatives, neighbours and influential men, deception by lovers and agents (dalals), remarriage of husband/wife, pressure of dowry, and infertility, including son preference, might have attributed in trafficking. When the rural poor migrate to cities, traffickers take chances and lure women and children for money and jobs.
Labour migration and prostitution
Very little information is available on labour migration of Bangladeshi women. Although women’s claim to work and to migrate transitionally is a legitimate human right, it is not officially recognized in Bangladesh. However, migrations of men and women have completely different dimensions because of differences in its implications and consequences. When men migrate and return to home country they are easily reintegrated. But, women are at risk of being stigmatized, particularly when they migrate alone. On the workers who share a common linguistic and cultural background. This involves the migration of sex workers from the home country.
There are reports that one of the main causes of the increasing demand for young girls is the that intercourse with a virgin can cure a man of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and rejuvenate myth him. It is also a widely prevalent belief that sex with a female child does not expose a person to STDs and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).other hand, continued migration of men seeking employment in big cities within and outside the country leads to an increased demand for cheap and available.
Modes of Trafficking and the Procurement Process
Traffickers adopt different strategies and tricks to allure and enroll young children and women (and their families) into the trafficking process. The procurement process of women for trafficking in the sex industry in Bangladesh involves their entrapment for selling them to brothels nationally or to neighbouring countries, especially to India. In Bangladesh, the traffickers hunt for their clients at the river ports, especially the Sadar Ghat area of Dhaka, bus stations, and the railway stations across the country. At these locations, the traffickers look for migrants who come from the rural areas for jobs or for poor young people abandoned by their families and allure them with false promises of better life. The victims collected from these spots are usually sold to Bangladeshi brothels. Procurement of victims in villages and towns in the border areas of the country is more frequently associated with the purpose of supplying sex workers for the sex industry in India and the Middle East. The following case studies provide examples of strategies adopted by the traffickers involved in the national and international human trade in Bangladesh.
Traffickers look for girls from poorer and vulnerable families in villages and tempt them and their parents with offers of lucrative jobs and a comfortable life in neighbouring countries, such as India and Pakistan. At times, the girls are so motivated by promises of the trafficker that they leave home without consulting their parents. A study from Nepal on the factors that influence victims of trafficking in deciding to migrate from their place of origin concluded that the majority of trafficked people were deceived by relatives and village men .Another review on trafficking of the Nepalese women and girls found that the women and girls who were victims of trafficking were deceived by someone they trusted. That the pimps and brokers persuaded them with alluring assurances of happy and married life, a secure and better income job, the life of an actress and other false promises. In addition to economic vulnerability of the family, the traffickers also look for families in which factors, such as domestic abuse and violence, are occurring.
Case Study of Employment prospect -1
Monowara Khatun (16), daughter of Islam Sarder, Mazeda (19), daughter of Alam, and Khatun(14), daughter of Ali, were taken from the village Mrigedanga, Sathkhira district. They were allured with promises of well-paid jobs, marriages, and a better life in India by a female trafficker, Jahanara. They never returned to their home village. Villagers believe that they were sold to brothels or to trafficking gangs in India.
Case Study of Employment prospect-2
Titu was one year old when his mother died, leaving him in the care of his father and grandmother. Titu’s family was very poor–his father was a rickshaw puller, and his grandmother worked as a maid. “So he was left alone and without much care,” said his grandmother. When Titu was seven, his grandmother was approached by an elderly village woman who offered to take Titu to Dubai for employment. “Everyone knew Shonai Bibi in the area. She had taken many children to Dubai. So, we immediately accepted her offer.” Shonai Bibi promised that after three months, Titu’s family would begin receiving monthly remittances of about Tk. 2,000.00. Titu says that, in Dubai, he and a number of other children (some from his home village) were put under the care of a woman. They were instructed to call her ‘mother.’ He reported he was well-fed and well-taken care of, but forced to race camels. “I used to get frightened when the camels ran very fast. They trained me for hours together.”
Titu was quite successful as a camel jockey, and was given a colour TV and gold jewellery by the man whose camels he rode. (These were, however, subsequently taken away from him by the woman whose care he was in.) However, during one race he fell and was trampled. He suffered a head and leg injury, the extent of which is not known. He was treated in a Dubai hospital. Shortly after his injury, Titu was escorted back to Bangladesh and returned one night to his home village by an unknown man who left when they reached Titu’s house. Titu is now living with his father and grandmother again. He exhibits symptoms of shock and trauma, and others believed to be related to the head injury sustained during his fall in Dubai.
Traffickers also pretend to be in love with young girls and asking them to elope. The girls believe them and leave their parents/home with their boyfriends full of illusions about a happy married life. Sometimes marriage is proposed, the girls are taken to India, and then they are sold to traffickers. In some cases, traffickers marry the girls after crossing the border, enjoy family life for a month or so, and then sell their young brides to other traffickers or to brothels.
Promise of Marriage
In addition to the strategy of alluring girls from poor families with love affairs, promises of marriage and a better future, the traffickers also take full advantage of the cultural practice of arranged marriages by parents. Sometimes they gain the confidence of parents, and manage to develop a close relationship with them before offering to marry their daughters. The poor parents agree, because the offer may appear to be a good opportunity for the family because of low or no demand of dowry. Thus, some parents innocently hand over the girls to the traffickers and find out their real motives too late.
Kidnapping, one of the methods for trafficking, is normally done by deception and by force. The number of kidnapping cases has increased significantly. One such example is given below :
Case Study of Kidnapping
A trafficker, named Shahidul, was caught red-handed by the people of Rishipara village, Keshabpur upazila of Jessore district. In Swapon’s custody, the police found a boy named Rubelof 10 years old and rescued him. The boy is the son of a shopkeeper Abdus Salam from Khadimpur village at Keshabpur. People of Bejdanga village, Keshabpur, caught another trafficker, Hajera. She was carrying Rupa across the border to India. She was also handed over to the local police.
Source: Tales of the girls recovered.
To understand the procurement process, it is important to know the purposes of trafficking.
One of the major outcomes from the trafficking of women for traders is a large profit. A special target of traders are young girls, because, among customers of commercial sex establishment, there is a perception that young girls are virgins and are less likely to be infected with HIV.
Poverty, inadequate jobs, migration for jobs, fake marriage, abandonment by the family orchusband, and kidnapping are just a few issues related to trafficking of women. The procurers take advantages of the misfortunes of women.
Case Study of Tourism
The people of Labsa village rescued Anita and Nupur, two young girls, from the hands of thectraffickers. These girls were brought to Satkhira to be trafficked across the border.They were trafficked by known persons pretending to take them for a tour. The girls, believing them, went with them. The villagers, with the assistance of the local police, rescued them and handed the girls over to their parents.
Interview with Rescued Traffic Victims
The interviews followed a checklist, which tried to cover the following information:
- § Family structure/pattern
- § Age
- § Socioeconomic condition
- § Education
- § Address or place from where he/she was trafficked
- § Route of trafficking
- § End designation
When this boy was hospitalized, an international news media broadcasted this case. The BNWLA later got involved in repatriating this boy back to Bangladesh from Dubai. Usually, after the rescue the victims are sent back to the family, if possible. But in this case he has been living in the shelter home for a year now; as he does not have a little memory about his family, how he was abducted or where his village was. However, the people in the shelter home tried to locate his parents. Now a new problem has evolved. Three different people are now claiming to be his guardian. The counsellor suspects that one of them could be a trafficker.
The following case is about a mother and a daughter who were trafficked from Chittagong.
The BNWLA rescued them from Eidhi home in Karachi, Pakistan. In this interview, the mother is the main respondent.
Case Study of a Rescued camel jockey
A little boy, aged 6-9 years, all he can now remember about his family is that he had a father, a mother, and two siblings. The father was a school-teacher, and the mother raised chickens and ducks. One day he was playing outside all by himself, two strange men came and took him away from his family. In Dubai, he was employed as a camel jockey.
In Dubai, he was employed as a camel jockey. One day while riding a camel he fell down and was seriously injured, and was taken to a hospital. (Interviewed in September 2000)
Interview with traffickers
To understand the traffickers’ perspective, two researchers from the ORP went to Jessore jail to interview the convicted trafficker on 26 September 2000. One inmate was interviewed for the study. The respondent is indicted under the Women and Children Act 1995, Section 8(2) and sentenced to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment. For the privacy and confidentiality, fictitious names and identities are adopted. A broad guideline or a checklist was developed for the interview. The purpose was to look at trafficking from a trafficker’s point of view and to know the reasons for trafficking, how the targets are selected, route of trafficking, network of trafficking, and how a person became a trafficker.
From a review of the literature and case studies, one may discern the following features of the procurement process.
Features of procurement process
- 1. There are large networks of traffickers working at the national level and across borders.
- 2. Normally, a group of traffickers collects victims from Bangladesh, and hands them over to their counterparts in India or Myanmar. From there, these agents take them to the brothels or to other countries.
- 3. Both men and women are involved in the procurement process. Although it is possible to guess from various sources that a large proportion of trafficked persons are sent out of the country, but there is no dependable data on it.
- 4. Prevailing poverty, fake dreams of a good life, prospect of a job, attraction of city life, and existing conditions at the border areas of Bangladesh help the traffickers find victims easily.
Police estimate more than 15,000 women and children are smuggled out of Bangladesh every year. (“Boys, rescued in India while being smuggled to become jockeys in camel races,” www.elsiglo.com, 19 February 1998) as of February 1998, there were 200 Bangladeshi children and women awaiting repatriation in different Indian shelters. (“Boys, rescued in India while being smuggled to become jockeys in camel races,” www.elsiglo.com, 19 February 1998)
Bangladesh and Nepal are the main sources of trafficked children in south Asia. (Masako Iijima, “S. Asia urged to unite against child prostitution,” Reuters, 19 June 1998) 27,000 Bangladeshi women and children have been forced into prostitution in Indian brothels. (Centre for Women and Children Studies reports, “Women Forced into Indian Brothels,” June 1998)
More than 200,000 Bangladeshi women were trafficked from 1990 to 1997, with 6,000 children trafficked, abducted or reported missing during that time. (Center for Women and Children’s Study report, Zahiduzzaman Faruque, “Women, children trafficking in Bangladesh,” Kyodo, 5 May 1998)
Over the last decade, 200,000 Bangladeshi girls were lured under false circumstances and sold into the sex industry in nations including Pakistan, India and the Middle East. (Tabibul Islam, “Rape of Minors Worry Parents,” Inter Press Service, 8 April 1998)
A non-government source reports that about 200,000 women and children have been trafficked to the Middle East in the last 20 years. Different human rights activists and agencies estimate 200-400 young women and children are smuggled out every month, most of them from Bangladesh to Pakistan. A women lawyers’ association estimates that on an average, 4500 women and children from Bangladesh are being trafficked to Pakistan each year and at least 200,000 women have been trafficked to Pakistan over the last 10 years. The Indian Social Welfare Board estimates that there are 500,000 foreign prostitutes in India – 1 percent is from Bangladesh and 2.7% of prostitutes in Calcutta are from Bangladesh. (Bangladesh CEDAW Report, 1 April 1997)
More than 15,000 women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh every year. (Police estimates, http://www.webpage.com/hindu/daily/980220/03/03200004.htm 19 February 1998) Every day, over 50 women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh through the land border areas. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, UBINIG, p.8, 1995) 500 Bangladeshi women are illegally transported into Pakistan every day. (Press Statement, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, “Open sale of little girls at Tanbaza brothel,” Daily Star, 2 July 1998) About 200 Bangladeshi women and children are smuggled out of the country each day, most end up as prostitutes. Many of the women and children are extremely poor, and lured with false promises. (“Human Smuggling from Bangladesh at alarming level,” Reuters, 26 may 1997) In Bangladesh, the collection points for trafficked women are usually far from the border points. Women rescued in Dinajpur (in the North) were from Cox’s Bazar (in the South). Girls from the southern part of Bangladesh are usually trafficked across the northern borders. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, p.19, UBINIG, 1995)
During the past ten years an organized gang sold more than 10,000 women from Chapainab abong to traffickers. A young girl was sold by her mother to a trafficker for 10,000 takas. Families are targeted who have daughters eligible for marriage and are very poor. There is a demand for Bangladeshi girls. (Daily Sangbad report, 16 August 1993, Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, pp.34, 35 & 36, Daily Sangbad, 16 August 1993, UBINIG, 1995)
In Kushtia area, some villages are used as stations for the traffickers. Rajshahi borders of Bidirpur and Premtali are used because there are fewer check points. Jessore border is very popular with traffickers. Some hotels and godwons are used to keep the girls brought from different parts of the country. At least 13 women are being trafficked every day. In eight months police could rescue only 28 women who were being trafficked, and arrest 38 traffickers. Usually the traffickers are not accompanying the women while crossing the border. Therefore, it is difficult for the border police to arrest them. There are female members in the trafficking gang, which helps to hide their identity.” (Ittefak, 15 October 1990, police sources, Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, pp.19 & 20, UBINIG, 1995)
30,000 Bangladeshi women are in brothels in Calcutta, India. (“Human Smuggling from Bangladesh at alarming level,” Reuters, 26 may 1997)
In 1994, 2,000 Bangladeshi women were prostituted in 6 cities in India. (CATW – Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
There are 200 trafficked Bangladeshi women and children in detention centers in India awaiting repatriation. (http://www.webpage.com/hindu/daily/980220/03/03200004.htm, 19 February 1998)
Between January 1990 and September 1997, there were 2,545 cases of trafficked children reported in the media in Bangladesh – 1,262 boys and 1,283 girls. During the same time period, 2,212 trafficked children were rescued. (President of the Centre for Women and Children Studies, Ishrat Shamin, “Trafficking in Women and Children: A Human Rights Crisis)
Between January 1990 and September 1997, there were 845 cases of kidnapped children reported in the media in Bangladesh. 512 or 84% were rescued. (President of the Centre for Women and Children Studies, Ishrat Shamin, “Trafficking in Women and Children: A Human Rights Crisis)
74 people, including 14 children, were rescued from Satkhira, en route to the border to India. The traffickers had taken 2000 to 5000 takas from each person. (Dainik Bangla report, 8 October1993, Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, p.33, Dainik Bangla, 8 October 1993, UBINIG, 1995) The price for girls is between Tk. 10,000 to Tk. 30,000 for beautiful and healthy girls. Children are bought for Tk. 7,000 to Tk. 8,000. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, pp. 20 &21, UBINIG, 1995)
2.7% of prostitutes in India are Bangladeshi, the largest population of foreigners. The majority of these females are under 18. (Social Welfare Board of India, Fawzia Karim Firoze & Salma Ali of the Bangladesh National Women Layer Association,” Bangladesh Country Paper: Law and Legislation”)
Between January 1990 and September 1997, there were 2,662 cases of missing children reported in the media in Bangladesh. Only 228 missing children, or 9 percent, were rescued. (President of the Centre for Women and Children Studies, Ishrat Shamin, “Trafficking in Women and Children: A Human Rights Crisis)
Children from middle class families risk kidnapping from schools and being trafficking to Middle Eastern countries. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, p.9, UBINIG, 1995)
There are two basic methods that traffickers obtain women and children: One is to kidnap them. The second, is to lure the women with false promises of jobs and marriage options. Traffickers pose as prospective grooms, then take the girls out of the border as their wives. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, pp.16 &17, UBINIG, 1995)
Girls are sold to traffickers by their parents who consider them to be a burden after a certain age. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, p.17, UBINIG, 1995)
Women, who believe that traffickers will assist them to find legitimate jobs, pay traffickers from Tk. 2000 to Tk. 6000. (Trafficking in Women and Children: The Cases of Bangladesh, p.18, UBINIG, 1995)
Women and children from India are sent to nations of the Middle East daily. Girl children in prostitution and domestic service in India, Pakistan and the Middle East are tortured, held in virtual imprisonment, sexually abused, and raped. (Indrani Sinha, SANLAAP India, “Paper on Globalization and Human Rights”)
Sanlaap shelter Sneha has 25 to 30 rescued prostituted children. 60% of the children rescued from prostitution are HIV positive. (Indrani Sinha, SANLAAP India, “Paper on Globalization and Human Rights”)
10,000 Bangladeshi children are in brothels in Bombay and GoaIndia. (Trafficking Watch Bangladesh, “Human Smuggling from Bangladesh at alarming level,” Reuters, 26 may 1997)
Routs of trafficking
Review of different literature showed that some 18 transit points along the India-Bangladesh borders are used for smuggling children and women out of the country. The border areas of Khulna, Jessore, Satkhira, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Mymensingh, Comilla, Brahmanbaria, and Sylhet are frequently used as land routes for trafficking. In the northern region, the districts of Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Panchagarh, Thakurgoan, Dinajpur, Naogoan, Chapai Nawabganj, and Rajshahi, and in the south, Jessore and Satkhira are the areas in which women and children are most susceptible to trafficking. Cox’s Bazaar is also a common site for recruitment of children and women to be trafficked, because there are three Muslim Rohinga refugee camps in this district from where the traffickers collect victims. Usually, the traffickers use different routes at different times to avoid police and other law-enforcing agencies. However, for entering India through Kolkata, the two most common routes are the Benapol borders in Jessore through which almost 50% of the trafficking take place and Satkhira,.
Kamalapur railway station used as significant route of trafficking
Consequences of Trafficking
Trafficking is a violation of human rights, which has various consequences at the level of the individual, family, community, and country. It is a form of exploitation of the weaker members of the society. It can be argued that trafficking is part of a continuum of sexual exploitation that perpetuates and continually reinforces the subordinate status of women.
Trafficked people work under conditions which are hazardous to their mental and physical health. Nevertheless, there were no specific reports on the health consequences of trafficking, although a number of problems were quoted repeatedly. Perhaps, because of the link between trafficking and the sex industry, the singular most frequently-reported health consequence was the role of trafficking in HIV-associated epidemics. Children and women trafficked for purposes other than commercial sex. For instance, domestic and industrial work may also have an increased risk of HIV infection because of their exposure to instances of forced sex and perhaps also the potential initiation into substance misuse, including contact with intravenous drug users. However, a search for printed documents and a search on Internet for relevant references on this issue were unsuccessful.
The consequences of trafficking are varied and wide-ranging, affecting victims and the countries concerned in different ways.
For the victims, the first grave consequence is the serious violation of their human rights. They are exposed, on a daily basis, to physical and psychological coercion, abuse, and violence. They are often treated as criminals by officials in countries of transit and destination due to their irregular status in the country, and their status as illegal workers or sex workers.
Given their type of work and/or their working conditions, victims are often exposed to the risks and dangers of serious diseases, including sexually transmitted illnesses or mental illnesses. Many of the victims, upon returning home, are faced with reintegration problems because of discrimination and stigmatization regarding the work they have performed in other countries, or regarding the failure of their migration process.
The consequences are also grave for the countries of origin, transit, and destination. One consequence is the increase in irregular migration in countries of transit and destination. Another consequence is the presence of criminal organizations engaged in diverse criminal activities including drugs, theft, exploitation of prostitution, and other criminal violence.
Trafficking has become a global issue for the international community and for specific governments. Despite this, there is no systematic collection of data on trafficking. What is more usual is finding that data relating to irregular migration includes some data on trafficking and smuggling.
- Trafficking poses concerns for national security and contributes to the possibility of aggravated diplomatic relations with other countries. The presence of visible numbers of foreigners connected with illicit activities may trigger xenophobic attitudes in countries of destination.
- Legislation to address trafficking is often lacking, inadequate, or not implemented, making the prosecution of traffickers very difficult and often impossible. Inadequate legislation, for both prosecution and for victim and witness protection, means that police authorities often prefer not to prosecute traffickers at all because they know that the effort expended seldom results in a conviction.
- The corruption of governmental officials to facilitate trafficking is a serious threat to the functioning of the State in affected countries.
- Human trafficking is an underreported crime and the majority of cases remain undiscovered. This is due to the low priority given to the problem of human trafficking by authorities in many countries.
- Estimates of the number of persons who are victims of trafficking usually concern only the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, and not other forms of exploitation. Even these numbers are approximate and not representative. At the global level, the most widely quoted figure reflects the number of women and children believed to be trafficked worldwide each year across international borders.
- Trafficking convictions are often based on witness and/or victim testimony. Such testimony is hard to obtain, as trafficking victims are either deported as illegal migrants or, if identified as trafficked persons, are often too frightened to testify. This is another reason why police authorities often prefer not to prosecute traffickers.
Counter-trafficking policies and activities at the national level should take the following considerations into account:
- Respect for the human dignity and well-being of migrants should be reflected in all national legislation, activities, projects, and programmes.
- A gender analysis is necessary in order to understand the causes and the consequences of trafficking in persons. As trafficking can occur for different types of exploitation, for example, labour, sexual, military, organ removal, etc., traffickers will select their victims according to their sex in response to the market’s demand and the ultimate exploitation objective.
- Gender discrimination predisposes women and children toward situations of exploitation. In general, gender discrimination today tends to put women and children in a vulnerable and disadvantaging situation where it is more difficult for them to have access to correct information, to receive consideration for their rights as persons, and to have equal opportunities to fight for their rights.
- Gender should also be considered as an important indicator when trying to support the victims of trafficking. Depending on the type of exploitation, the effect on the victim will vary. For example, if men and women have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, the effects on their health may be different than the effects caused by other forms of exploitation. This factor should be considered when planning policy and activities.
Trafficking victims face a variety of risks to their health with negative consequences for their immediate family or community. Evidence indicates a particularly strong vulnerability among trafficking victims to a variety of risks to their health. These health risks include mental conditions, reproductive health conditions and a range of communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and a host of sexually transmitted illnesses.
A comprehensive policy response to the problems posed by human trafficking will address the entire spectrum of health challenges for the victim. This is done along a continuum that includes the periods before, during, and after the trafficking experience. The exploitative and abusive contexts in which they are victimized deprive victims of any empowerment that would help them realize their basic reproductive health rights. This is often compounded by poverty that renders them vulnerable to poor health and victimization, often at very young ages.
The complexities of the trafficking problem and its vast geographical extent requires concerted efforts by relevant entities at the local, national, regional, and international levels. It is vitally important to form partnerships with intergovernmental organizations, governments, NGOs, international organizations, academic communities, legislators, community leaders, and families confronted with trafficking. Partnerships will facilitate collaborative work on policy, legislation, and operational measures.
The expertise, extensive networks, access, and in-depth understanding of local communities should be an integral part of any national response to the problem of human trafficking.Information campaigns in countries of origin can be conducted to inform potential victims of the dangers of trafficking and irregular migration.
.Updated Estimates for Global Human Trafficking, USG – April 2004.
. IOM has developed a Counter-Trafficking Module Database so as to facilitate management of information gathered from all IOM Counter-Trafficking and Return and Reintegration programmes.
Trafficking and Development
Bangladesh, like other neighboring countries, is at risk of entering into the HIV/AIDS era. Prostitution of Bangladeshi girls in foreign countries, with a background of trafficking, is one of the major reasons for a great threat of this pandemic disease in the country. The association between trafficking and the threat of HIV/AIDS conjures up a picture of a looming disaster that can affect the whole direction of development in such a less-developed country, like Bangladesh, and can have a significant impact on economic and social structure. Labour-intensive work will be affected due to the shortage of a healthy and productive workforce. A study in Africa found that, in areas with a high prevalence of HIV, crop yield is less. Soil fertility is declining. Pest and plant disease is spreading which results in a lower yield. Crops of low-nutritional value are replacing labour-intensive traditional crop .Support systems will falter with growing high demands; overburden of caregivers will aggravate the situation, and the society will have to bear the economic burden of caring for orphans. Trafficking also deprives the trafficked population of the opportunity to pursue education and develop socially and psychologically to achieve their full potential. Thus, it deprives a nation of vital human resources for development and contributes to the persistence of a vicious circle of exploitation and poverty that generates a mal-distribution of wealth and results in feminization of poverty. Most studies outline the health consequences of trafficking and the physical and emotional aspects of violence, human rights abuse, and sexual exploitation. Further research on morbidity and mortality effects of trafficking and its impact on overall national productivity is needed. There is also very limited and inconclusive information on the consequences of organ transplant and employment of children in sports, such as camel races.
NGO work for preventing trafficking
Current Approaches to Address the Trafficking Problem in Bangladesh
Both government and NGOs have been working in combating trafficking. Their current activities can be grouped as follows: targeted research, strengthening anti-trafficking network capacity-building, prosecution and protection, and anti-trafficking prevention activities (Annexure B; Map 3).
For a better understanding of what can be done to reduce the problem of trafficking, appropriate and targeted research is needed. Although some research reports on the trafficking issues are available, very little is known about the deep-routed causes and antecedents of trafficking. We also do not know much about the impact of our work on trafficking. A systematic research agendum that includes both qualitative and quantitative methods is mandatory. Also an information system needs to be developed for getting updated information. However, some national NGOs, e.g. UBINIG, CWCS, BNWLA, ACD, Human Rights Journalists Forum of Bangladesh, INCIDIN, and UDDIPAN, undertake research for advocacy on trafficking in women and children by identifying the causes, mechanisms, trends, highrisk areas, and routes of trafficking. The present reviews identified some research needs:
Type of research done:
- § Literature review and situation analysis
- § NGO inventory
- Mapping exercises
- § Victim database
- § Documentation of practices
- § Community-based qualitative research on trafficking antecedents
- Market research for nationwide awareness campaign
- § Indicator development review
- § Impact assessment
Networking activities are essential for standardization of messages, materials, and interventions on a particular issue. Networks also act as a focal point for information, dissemination, and referrals. NGOs working on trafficking in Bangladesh have been organizing national, regional and international networks to share information and experience through cooperation and coordination. These NGOs work as a combined front to rescue, repatriate, and reintegrate victims. The NGOs have also been covering the trafficking issues in their programmes to raise public awareness and encourage community involvement. To prevent trafficking, NGOs have been working together with the government and trying to develop national (and regional) policies and programmes.
Type of activities being done through networking
- § Establishment of focal points for moving the national anti-trafficking agenda forward
- § Establishment of a resource centre to provide data on the subject when requested
- § Collection and dissemination of information
- § Training and advocacy to increase awareness
- § Technical support to grassroots level organizations
Many organizations lack skills in planning, implementation, and evaluation, and in not reaching their full capacity. For better planning, management, and implementation, these organizations need to build capacities to be able to reach more of their inherent potentials. Some NGOs are working on capacitybuilding.
ATSEC Bangladesh Chapter is committed to enhance the capacity of its member organizations. With the financial support of USAID and with the help of Save the Children Denmark (Red Barnet), the ATSEC launched a project on “Capacity-building and Networking to Combat Child and Women Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children.” Under the project, two training modules–
(a) Sensitization Workshop for Policy-planners and
(b) Training for Field-level Development Activities have been developed.
A team of senior consultants, who have a wide range of experience in the field of research, training, and advocacy to combat trafficking of women and children, developed these modules. The modules contain situation analysis of trafficking, relevant laws and its implications, and various interventions undertaken, and finally, to get the commitments of participants to address the issue.
Prosecution and Protection
Bangladesh has ratified many international laws and conventions. For example, Bangladesh has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women with Reservations of Article 2, 13(a) and 16.1 (9c) and 16.1 and Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Bangladesh has also played an effective role at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and endorsed the Plan of Action. In addition, in recent years, a number of laws have been promulgated, and various policies and regulations have been approved to ensure equal rights of women in all spheres of life and also to eliminate violence against them. According to Article 34.1 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, “All forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with law.” Other available statutes with direct implication to trafficking of women and children are: (1) The Penal Code 1860, (2) The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act 1933, (3) The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933, (4) The Children Act 1974, (5) The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance, 1983, (6) The Women and Children Repression (Special Provision) Act 1995 (Resistance Against Trafficking in Women & Children in South Asia, 1997), and (7) Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000. Nevertheless, it is also widely acknowledged that no sufficient steps have been taken to ensure the effective implementation of these laws to protect women and children from trafficking. Therefore, it is important for the policy-makers to distinguish between elimination of violence against women and also combating the trafficking of women and children (Annexure C).
Currently, the government has undertaken a project called “Child Development: Coordinated Programme to Combat Child Trafficking.” The programme would start as a pilot project in 12-15 highrisk areas for trafficking. The project will establish a system of multi-sectoral task forces at the national, district and upazila levels to conduct motivational programmes and support the efforts of organizations working in the areas of prevention, rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation of trafficking victims.
Rescue is a thorny issue, and has its limitations and unacceptability, largely due to the attitude and violent behaviour of the law-enforcing agencies. Newspapers often carry items about “many women and children are rescued by the police”, but what happens to the rescued persons is largely unknown.
These rescue processes are often violent, aggressive, and ‘male-dominated’ (42). Sometimes the minors are sent to the state-run remand homes or an NGO shelter. Most are unable to go back home because of a whole series of problems, and when they are released they are again at risk of being picked up by the traffickers.
Rehabilitation is the most challenging activity that requires a pragmatic programme of action to restore the trafficked women and girls in their social life. Various papers have mentioned the need of rehabilitation programmes with proper employment opportunities. However, the prevailing norms and value systems of our society do not easily accept the returnees in family and social life.
‘Repatriation’ means voluntary return to the country of origin of the person subjected to trafficking across international frontiers. The minors have no choice, and they have to be taken back to their place of origin, but an adult women has the right to choose to stay in the country if she so wishes. The choice of women is not even considered, because the focus has always been to protect the interest of state over and above the interest of women.
‘Reintegration’ means social and economic integration acknowledging her right to self-determination. It is a better alternative to rehabilitation and implies a far less judgmental. Most importantly, it incorporates the notion of social acceptance and the reclaiming of dignity for women. However, often the societies become judgemental in re-integrating the victims into the society.
Anti-trafficking Prevention Efforts
Most NGOs which work on anti-trafficking-prevention activities have awareness-raising activities. The important NGOs working in these fields are BNWLA, CWCS, Resource Bangladesh, Theatre Centre for Social Development (TCSD), BITA, UDDIPAN, PROSHIKA, and UBINIG.
In recent years, the volume of trafficking of women and children as a problem has acquired global dimensions. For South Asian countries, the issue is already considered a serious regional problem that demands a concerted response. Accordingly, trafficking was high on the agenda of the Ninth Summit of SAARC heads of governments held in the Maldives in 1997.
The trafficking issue is closely linked with the human rights issue with important ramifications in the area of health, law-enforcing, and socioeconomic development in general. Poverty, attitudes toward women and deeply-entrenched gender discrimination, unemployment, cultural norms about marriage, well-organized national and international networks of traffickers, and weak law-enforcing agencies are few critical factors relating to trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh.
This criminal activity cannot be addressed through tougher laws alone. Several legislations,including the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000, already provide penalties for violence against women and children, including trafficking and kidnapping. Yet, implementation of these legislations remains a formidable challenge.
This review found that many research reports are based on information gathered through anecdotes from secondary analysis and unreliable data. The review also quoted extensively from a few good reports that collected field information and described the trafficking practices and mapped out the trafficking routes.
Although more studies need to be conducted to shed light on trafficking antecedents, there are already several reports documenting the trafficking issues in Bangladesh. There is a need for studies that can generate first-hand information on social, economic, political and health implications of the problem. It is critical also to identify the current and potential roles of the government and NGOs and also in what ways civil society contributes to this immoral practice. Recommendations from these reports often fall within the categories listed below.
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