First News
Volume:7, Number:49
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Nation In The News

Transit for Tragedy

Bangladesh is being used as a corridor by women traffickers, most of their victims ending up in the brothels of various Indian cities

| Manik Chowdhury |

Given its geographical location, Bangladesh is a significant transit point between South Asia and the Middle East. That advantage turns into a curse when the country is being used as a route for women trafficking, especially young girls. In last one decade, 300,000 women and children, aged between 12 and 30, have been trafficked through Bangladesh. According to the National Women’s Council, 58 women were trafficked and 128 went missing in the country itself in 2016.

Around 90 percent of the trafficked women and young girls are forced into prostitution, says a recent report of the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, and 13.8 percent of them end up in the brothels of Kolkata in India. These women and young girls are given the false hope of getting better work. Most of them are cheated by the agents who promise them a bright future in the countries of Middle East. In some cases, these girls are betrayed by their lovers who lure them with promises and then sell them to brothels. According to the law-enforcement agencies, a number of recruiting agencies, travel agents, local hotel owners and workers, foreign pimps, and slum thugs are involved in the trafficking. A report by the UNICEF states that nearly four thousand women are being trafficked from the northern part of the country alone yearly.

A current human trafficking report by the USA says that the border police of both Bangladesh and India, politicians, and border guards use a “token” system to conduct trafficking, through which the traffickers are able to get away. The report also states that Bangladesh does not have an effective way to prevent human trafficking, even though the investigations regarding trafficking have increased compared to the past. To solve this serious problem, the government of Bangladesh has taken initiatives to set up ‘Drop-in Centers’ and ‘Safe Homes’ for the victims. But, in reality, after rescuing the trafficking victims, the government is not being able to provide enough support to them. Even trafficked women, in few cases, are presented as part of cultural troupes, or as tourists, and sent to countries like Malaysia and Dubai. However, this issue has become a prime concern nowadays. In a recent meeting by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, women trafficking in the name of tourism or cultural activities was discussed.

Generally, a woman is included in a cultural team for BDT400,000 to BDT500,000 and then sold as sex slaves. Sources say, from Bangladesh the trafficked women go to Mumbai in India, then to Karachi in Pakistan and in this similar way to various Middle Eastern countries, primarily Dubai. In addition, the women, who go to Lebanon and Jordan for household chores through various recruitment agencies, are later trafficked to Syria and used as sex slaves. Local traffickers are using 20 transit points in 16 districts of Bangladesh to traffic women and children. And majority of these women and young girls end up at different places in India. It is known that girls aged 10 to 15 years are bought for only BDT3,000 to BDT5,000 by the brokers and then mostly sold to brothels for BDT40,000 to BDT 50,000 in India’s Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune.But, India’s Calcutta is the center for internal and borderline human trafficking

India has a land border of about 2,220 kilometers and a waterway border of 259 kilometers with Bangladesh. Women and children are being trafficked into India through southern Chabbish Parganas, Murshidabad, northern and southern Dinajpur, Nodia, Malda and Cooch Behar. Later these girls are sent to Hyderabad and Bengaluru, according to the sources. After being rescued in India, many girls are taken to government shelters, and then they are sent back to Bangladesh. This procedure takes over two years due to the lengthy victim verification process, along with various legal red-tape formalities. Besides, lacking in knowledge of laws, victims are afraid and they do not file any complaints against the brothel owners or their agents. Therefore, they also do not get proper and timely support. Moreover, there are many social stigma that women face in the postrescue period. Firstly, their families avoid them, and often even abandon them. Secondly, many are compelled to leave their families and move to the cities again in search of work.

Advocate Salma Ali, the chief executive of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, says, “Law enforcement officials in our country take a lot of time to identify the victims and the culprits. Sometimes, they even take bribe from the victim’s family. But, if the family were aware of laws and proper steps were taken, a victim could overcome many hurdles they face. Thus raising awareness is the foremost challenge if trafficking has to be prevented.” While talking to a victim, Shahinur Begum, who was taken to Syria through Dubai to work as a housemaid at Jordan, a terrible story came out. She was sold many times; raped and physically tortured daily by her employer. Even one of her legs was broken when she refused to work. Once Shahinur contacted her mother with many trouble, her mother took the help of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to rescue her daughter. RAB is currently working to rescue 45 women including Shahinur who have been trafficked abroad. However, as there is no High Commission of Bangladesh in Syria, the victims are not getting proper help. The traffickers are trafficking a growing number of women to Syria taking advantage of this weakness in the system.

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