Before entering to the main section of the assignment let’s briefly talk about the definition of law first, as it is the base to understand constitution and implementation of rules. According to Sen and Mitra, “Law, as it is, is the command of the sovereign. It means law has its source in sovereign authority; law is accompanied by sanctions and the command to be a law should compel a course of conduct”. In a simpler way, “law refers to any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation as by the people in its constitution”. Now here comes the question what is constitution? The new oxford American dictionary defines constitution as- “A set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organizations are governed”and “one of the basic principles of any constitution is the rule of law.” Now, let’s discuss about the forced labor and laws related to forced labor in Bangladesh constitution.
What is Forced Labor?
When an individual or group of people needs to work under strict surveillance where they are not voluntarily agreed to do so and there are restrictions posed on their fundamental rights. The ILO defines forced labor as “Work or service exacted from a person under threat or penalty, which includes penal sanctions and the loss of rights and privileges, where the person has not offered himself/herself voluntarily (ILO 2001a)”. ILO director general Juan Somavia said “Forced labor is the antithesis of decent work. It causes untold human suffering and steals from its victim”. So, from the discussion above we can clearly understand that forced labor violets fundamental rights of a human being as they are not doing things on mutual understanding rather they are forced to do so.
What does Bangladesh constitution states about forced labor? And what are the penalties stated in ‘Bangladesh Penal Code’ for the violation of this act?
Constitution of Bangladesh was enacted and adopted by the people of this country on the 4th November, 1972. In the third part of the constitution named “Fundamental Rights”, provision 34 – “Prohibition of forced labor” states that –
- 1. ‘All forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law’.
- 2. Nothing in this article shall apply to compulsory labor-
- a. By persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence
- b. Required by any law for public purpose
Now, if anyone disrespects this act regarding forced labor then according to Bangladesh Penal Code that person should be punished. Bangladesh Penal Code 374 states that–
- ‘Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both’.
What are the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution?
In the constitution of Bangladesh, several fundamental rights are stated for the citizens of this country. Now, here I am stating only the important fundamental rights- Our constitution says that everyone is same in the eyes of law and everyone will be treated same in every aspect, Equal rights for both male and female in every aspect, citizens have the right to live, go everywhere in Bangladesh. Bangladesh constitution also ensures religious freedom that every person is free to practice any religion, citizens are also free to join and form legal groups and unions. Constitution of Bangladesh ensures that every citizen has the right to communicate with each other and keep it confidential. Finally, citizens cannot be distinguished based on their religion, color, sex, birth place etc.
Forced labor in Bangladesh: The real scenario
From the report of some international news agency and international human rights organizations (NGOs), we can get few evidences of force labor. A reporter of CNN claims that in tea factories of Bangladesh people are paid less than $0.60 per day. Tea garden labors are working in severely hazardous condition and unhygienic environment with restriction on their movement where they are underpaid or unpaid working 7 days a week. In another case, the US embassy Dhaka claims in one of their reports that Bangladesh is one of the top listed country and source for trafficking children, men, and women for the purpose of forced labor and sexual exploitation. From another online source, I found that because poverty, parent’s unemployment, thousands of children is being forced into bonded labor which is clear violation of ILO Convention no 29 (1930) the forced labor convention and ILO convention no 105 (1957) the abolition of forced labor convention; in 1972 Bangladesh ratified both of the conventions. In addition to this Bangladesh prohibits trafficking in persons under the repression of women and children Act 2000.  But, in reality, let’s consider garments sector of Bangladesh where workers are paid $48 per month and to stop worker’s protest against this Bangladesh Government dismissed the license of ‘Bangladesh center for workers solidarity’ which actually works for the garments workers to protect their rights and negotiate with the employers. There are almost three million garments workers who are paid under 20 cents per hour; while they are protesting against this Bangladesh government responded by shutting down workers organizations that stands for workers right and by arresting leaders of several labor unions. One of the best example may be the arrest of Kalpona and Babul from BCWS (Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity), which was globally protested and in front of Bangladesh embassy in USA, where 30 trade unions and labor activists protested the continued imprisonment of those labor leaders.
Analysis and Evaluation in relation to the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution with relevant applications:
Here in the previous section I have stated an overview of third part of Bangladesh constitution which is “Fundamental rights” and now I’ll relate the forced labor act 34 of “Fundamental rights” with the real life scenario with proper application. First of all, as fundamental rights, act 34 strictly forbids any form of forced labor as it is violation of human rights; we should implement the penal code 374. In reality, there still exist different forms of forced labor as some of them I have stated already, so for example the tea garden case and garments case, government should properly investigate the real scenario and provide strict penalty instantly. Breach of law is very harmful for any sovereign country and in these cases Bangladesh was globally criticized. In a word, acts of constitution have very little practice in reality which the government should take care of it immediately. Second of all, Bangladesh constitution gives the freedom to go and live anywhere and forbids any kind of restriction, but in so many cases it has been found that employees poses restriction on the movement of their workers which is legally not right at all and there is penal code also, what we need to do is to implement. Third of all, under ‘Fundamental Rights’ of Bangladesh constitution, it is stated that citizens are free to form unions and groups as long as those organizations are legal, but in reality a few days ago Bangladesh government dismissed the license of BCWS which works for worker’s interest of garments industries which was globally criticized. Government should not impose any kind of restriction which doesn’t have any legality according to the constitution.
To stop the breaching of law, Bangladesh government should strictly follow the constitution; penal code and apply penalty for everyone guilty as in the eye of law very citizen is same. Besides, Bangladesh government should educate the citizens about their fundamental rights stated in the constitution as most of the victims of forced labor don’t know about their fundamental rights and they are also unaware about the legal actions which they can take over. On the other hand, surveillance should be stronger over the sensitive sectors of forced labor in our country like-garments industries and tea industries. Violation of acts or laws happens in these sectors most of the time; it is globally identified and criticized by several labor organizations, trade unions, NGOs, human rights organizations and several foreign governments also. Finally, in a word, government should be more careful about this fact, otherwise we will not be able to get rid of criticisms by several international organizations and foreign governments.
Written acts in the constitution will not be able to bring justice as long as those acts don’t have any real life implementation. There is penal code for breaching of acts of constitution, what we need to do is strictly watch over for any violation of law and bring necessary actions towards the guilty person by following the penal code. In a word, everyone is same under the eyes of law and we just need to ensure it in reality.
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 See Sen, A. K., & Mitra, J. K. (2009). Commercial law and Industrial law (S. Mukherjee, ed.) India: World Press. P1
 The New Oxford American Dictionary. (2005). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
 See Halim, M. A. constitution, constitutional law and politics: Bangladesh Perspective. Khan, M. & Yousuf Ali (Eds.). Dhaka: Rico Printers.
 See Brace, L. (2004). The politics of property: labour, freedom and belonging. Edinburg University Press.
 This is according to the forced labor convention. Available at http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_081991.pdf [accessed 14th October 2011]
 See Bangladesh: The modern face of slavery. Available at http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=85617 [Retrieved October 15, 2011]
 See Bangladesh Constitution, available at http://www.supremecourt.gov.bd/scweb/constitution/constitution/957___PREAMBLES.pdf [accessed 15th October, 2011]
 See Bangladesh constitution, available at http://www.supremecourt.gov.bd/scweb/constitution/constitution/957_3__.pdf [accessed on 15th October, 2011]
 See Bangladesh Penal Code 374. Available at http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/print_sections_all.php?id=11 [accessed on 15th October, 2011]
 See Bangladesh Constitution part three ‘Fundamental rights’ act from 26-47. Available at http://www.supremecourt.gov.bd/scweb/constitution/constitution/957_3__.pdf
 See Kara, S. (2010, August 09). On the trail of forced labor in Bangladesh. Available at http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-09/world/kara.human.traffic.bangladesh_1_human-trafficking-bangladesh-tea-industry?_s=PM:WORLD [Retrieved October 15, 2011]
 See Bangladesh (Tier 2). (n.d.). Available at www.dhaka.usembassy.gov: http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/uploads/images/_eiMjTc6SWJ-60-XQlruCA/Bangladesh_TIPS.pdf [Retrieved October 16, 2011]
 See Bangladesh: The modern face of slavery. (2009, August 07). Available at http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=85617 [Retrieved October 15, 2011]
 See Bangladesh Women and Children Act 2000 (Amended in 2003)
 See Do you have clothes made by Bangladesh garments workers? (2010, September 03). Available at http://www.shoptostopslavery.com/do-you-have-clothes-made-by-bangladesh-garment-workers-938.html [Retrieved October 16, 2011]