Constitution of Bangladesh stringently prohibits forced labour- illustrates and explains.
The fundamental law, written or unwritten, that establishes the character of a government by defining the basic principles to which a society must conform; by describing the organization of the government and regulation, distribution, and limitations on the functions of different government departments; and by prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of its sovereign powers.
Moreover, constitution can also be stated as a legislative charter, through which a government can define its authority to act. A constitution may be defined as an organization of offices in a state, by which the method of their distribution is fixed, the sovereign authority is determined, and the nature of the end to be pursued by the association and all its members is prescribed. Laws, as distinct from the frame of the constitution, are the rules by which the magistrates should exercise their powers, and should watch and check transgressors.
Constitution thus can be compared as an appropriate guideline to establish the code & conduct in terms of establishing law & order into a country or a sovereign state. Moreover, constitution doesn’t only establish institutions’ way of behavior & functioning towards each other and the people, but also it indicates the rights of the individuals and the government’s responsibility to honor those rights.
Constitution may be written or unwritten, but the core function is to formulate legal custom and opinion. As a result, constitutions are adjusted (amended) in course of time as per the requirement of the betterment & stability of both the state and its people.
CONSTITUTION OF BANGLADESH:
Constitution of Bangladesh is the supreme law that declares Bangladesh as a secular democratic republic where sovereignty belongs to the people and lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles of the estate and spells out the fundamental rights of citizens.
The constitution of Bangladesh is ever-changing along with the emergence of governments. There has always been an ongoing controversy regarding the amendments as it is claimed that they are manipulated by the ruling party for attaining a specific goal or objective. Besides the government, almost every organization in the country has its own constitution which reflects the code of conduct, systems, rules & regulations that eventually formulates the organizational structure. But, there are often rich controversies & anomaly between the governments stated formulations & the individual company practices, which very often, hardly gains the attention of the concerned authority.
FORCED LABOR & CONSTITUTION:
The constitution of Bangladesh clearly states the prohibition of forced labor. It states: “All forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law”.
Therefore, it is clearly visible that the constitution has clear cut regulations in terms of forced labor.
BANGLADESH LABOR LAW:
The labor law that was used in Bangladesh over the last few decades was an age old one, while the first labor law was established in 1881. Later on, several laws were introduced at the British period including different labor issues like working hour, minimum wage, child labor, maternity benefit, etc. But, as the age old labor law was worn out, the government had to update the labor law following massive corrections in it. Lastly, in 2006, the government adopted the revised Bangladesh Labor Law of 2006, which is also known as BLL.
In correlation to the constitution, BLL 2006 has undergone a number of factors that include:
Maintaining employment standards (where the employees have been differentiated in six major categories) where forced labor & child labor is strictly banned. In addition to that, in order to
maintain better standards of work, workplace & the workforce, law & regulations have been emphasized in terms of wages, retirement age (57 years), working hours (8 hours a day, 48 hours a week & 1 rest day in every week), overtime OT (maximum two hours), male-female equality, etc. In addition, occupational safety & social welfare along with social protection is highly emphasized.
In terms of enforcement, BLL states that the government shall appoint Director of labor and other equivalent personnel as per necessity to monitor workplace activities. It also insists the Government to also appoint Chief Inspectors who can enter, inspect and examine any workplace premises and ascertain the observance of labour laws.
FORCED LABOR & ACTUAL SCENARIO:
In a country of 160 million people, only 40 % of them are educated. 80 % of the people are dependent on the agriculture sector. But, reality is that in the present context of our country, it is not possible to survive by the earning of these professions. As a result, people are moving to the cities to enter low scale jobs like garments work, rickshaw pulling, daily labor, etc.
On the other hand, Bangladesh is such a country where 49.6% of the entire population earns below $1.25 a day and 81.3% of the total population earns below $2 a day. Therefore, finding no other options, people often becomes a part of forced labor willingly or unwillingly. Not only this, children who are within the age range of 5-12 are also found working in different hard working, risky & hazardous workplace. “Thousands of children are being forced into bonded labour every day because of poverty and their parents’ unemployment,” Sumaiya Khair, a human rights activist and researcher into child labour in Dhaka, the capital, told IRIN.
Not only for forced labor & child labor, the constitutional announcement & the actual scenario are completely opposite of each other in the general Bangladeshi labor market. The labours are often hardly treated as human beings in most of the organizations. At the time of recruitment or contract, they are hardly given any appointment letter; rather labours are employed as per oral conduct. This often results in dismissal without notice & also delay of monthly salary & wage. The 8 hour work limit per day has remained just a statement only. And the 2 hour overtime OT is not maintained with no rest day in the entire week, at times in the entire month. Moreover, the minimum wage limit is not also maintained. More than half (52.4%) of the respondents do not know whether they are receiving wages according to their grades. A large number (about 40 %) of respondents in the garments industry also do not know whether the minimum wage is
implemented at their workplaces. More than half (54.7%) of the garments workers and
almost all (98.1%) of the construction workers do not receive pay slip or any other document concerning the payment of wages and benefits. Apart from the wages, forced laborers also suffer from gender discrimination, occupational safety problems, occupational illness, unhealthy & threatful workplace problems.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AS PER CONSTITUION & ACTUAL SCENARIO:
The difference between the constitutional statement & the actual scenario differs from night & day. Though BLL has stated a number of conditional factors in terms of enforcement of maintaining the workers’ & workforce standards, but there is no well defined statement regarding the violation of it. In some cases the law is a silent spectator as it is like in terms of forced labor. Often the law enforcement agencies are manipulated by the powerful individuals. As a result, despite of being accused for violation of law, the convicted people are easily getting away either by bribing the law enforcement agencies or by following some other illegal means of action. As a result, they are continuing the same illegal activities in a much free environment & in a much greater extent.
One major yet alarming source of forced labor is human trafficking. There has been recent news of extensive trafficking in women and children, primarily to India, Pakistan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and within the country, mainly for prostitution and in some instances for labour servitude. And the actual number is yet unknown.
In addition, Bangladeshi men and women migrating to the Middle East and elsewhere for work often face bonded labour as a result of fraud or illegal fees demanded by recruitment agents. On the other hand, people who are sent abroad through different agents and media, are not even aware of the type of work they will be doing there. There are sent without any prior notification & with lack of or no information at all. But after going there they often finds themselves in miserable condition. As a result, they become victims of forced labor at times. Even in our country, people become victims of fraudery and has to adopt forced labor finding no other alternatives.
In context to the constitution of Bangladesh, as per the protection in respect of trial and punishment, no person can be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.
But we can see that the low end laborers are victims of both physical & mental torture almost every day. It is mostly prevalent in the garment sector & in terms of the household servants (who are mostly child labors and are under the age of 12 years).
It is clearly defined in the constitution that no person should be prosecuted & punished more than once for the same crime.
But, in the real case scenario we can see that the victims who are accused of any mistake are penalized in multi-various ways. For example, in the garment sector, the employees are penalized for any mistake in terms of the production of the garment goods and are also penalized financially where the equal amount of money is cut down from their respective salary.
The constitution also refers that; every individual accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy & public trial by an independent & impartial court or tribunal established by the law.
But in reality, we can see that the actual criminals are roaming around in pride whereas the innocent people are punished very often. Here, due to corruption, things have gone in such a way, that reflects that law is only against the poor & deprived; on the other hand, law is only for the benefited & powerful. This indicates that, the reach of law & order is limited in some specific cases. The written law is limited to its extent in the book, whereas anarchy is prevailing in the actual world. Corruption and the limitations of the constitution itself has let the culprits to find a way out though the loop-holes. And that is why, despite of specific rules and regulations, the people who are accused or convicted, cannot be brought under trial due to various shortcomings of the law & the constitution itself.
In conclusion, we can state that the constitution of Bangladesh is obviously defined for the welfare & betterment for the people of this country. Especially as per the fundamental rights stated in the constitution, there are specifications against forced labor & allocated punishments associated with the violation of it. But, due to corruption and some of its’ loopholes, it is unable to serve the people in the manner it was meant to do. Political polarization, gap of law & mostly the implementation of illegal power is well practiced in our society, as a result, the mass people are mostly deprived of their fundamental rights stated in the constitution in terms of forced labor & associated punishments for the violation of it.