“forced or compulsory labour” as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”; illustrate and explain.


 The development of Bangladesh as an independent state was the result of a fight against violation of human rights in different ways. People’s constant struggle to establish fundamental rights has become a never changing phenomenon. But unfortunately, the polity is yet to overcome the barriers to human rights. Despite enough potential for progress, the country is still dipped in a miserable poverty. Incidences of violence surrounding want, discrimination and forced labour are common in country. Although the Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labour, including by children, the Government constantly keeps failing to enforce this prohibition effectively. A promising but burdensome population is not in a position to assert the due rights and resist the wrong doing by the violators whoever and the people also have to deal with oppressive police force, supremacy of the criminals in many areas, corrupt officials, isolated elected regime, backdated and slow legal system and all that, which are not favourable to having ideal human rights situation.[1]


 In 1972, Bangladesh ratified both ILO Convention No. 29 (1930), the Forced Labour Convention and ILO Convention No. 105 (1957), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention. The law prohibits forced or bonded labour and the Factories Act and Shops and Establishments Act provide for inspection mechanisms to strengthen laws against forced labour.[2]

 Mohamad Abul Quasem, founder of the human rights related NGO Uddyam and member of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said:

 “Forced labour has been present in Bangladesh for centuries. After the liberation of Bangladesh, it changed its form and has taken the new face of various ‘contracts’ associated with loans taken by poor farmers from the usurers,”

 Forced Labour Law In Bangladesh Constitution

 This lies in the fundamental rights part (III) serial no.34.[3]

 (1) All forms of forced labour 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 labour.

1.by persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence; or

2. required by any law for public purpose.

 International Labour Organization (ILO) Perception

 ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations where the Government of Bangladesh is currently the deputy member of the ILO Governing Body.  The ILO has been concerned with forced labour from its earliest years and so ILO Governing Body appointed a Committee of Experts on Native Labour in 1926.The eventual result was the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), which was adopted in 1930 and entered into force in 1932.

  Article 2 of the Forced Labour Convention defines:

 “forced or compulsory labour” as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”.

 The Forced Labour Convention was the first – and until 1999 the only – ILO Convention to require criminalization of a prohibited labour practice. In a global report on forced labour, published in 2005, the ILO observed that the offence of exacting forced labour, even when recognized under national law, is very rarely punished. Moreover, when forced labour cases are prosecuted, the sanctions are often very light compared to the gravity of the offence

 The Existing Forms Of Forced Labour In Bangladesh

 There are four main types of forced labour that exist in Bangladesh. They are as follows:

 1.Farm and rural debt bondage- Workers see all their wages go to paying for transportation, food and shelter because they’ve been “locked into debt” by dishonest job recruiters and landowners and they cannot leave because of force, threats or the remote location of the worksites.[4]

 A recent case of debt bondage occurred at Savar, on 26th of January 2011, RAB personnel have rescued 30 people including two children and two women tied up in chains from a brick kiln named Ekota Brick Field. The victims said they were forced to work against their will and they were tied uo after the days’ work. The food provided to them was insufficient. If anyone tried to escape, they were severely tortured. The law enforcers have arrested the manager and the contractor. The people rescued were aged between seven and 30 and some of them have been there for over three months. Among the victims, Ratan and Hossain told RAB that eight people, associated with the ruling party, were among the owners of the brick field. Two contractors called ‘Selim’ and ‘Ariful’ had brought the workers from Satkhira, but left without paying them although the contractors themselves had been paid in advance. “The workers were chained so that they can’t escape,” One of the rescued, ‘Faisal’, said he was tied up for 14 days. “They used to tie us up at night in a room and were watched by armed guards.”[5]

 2.Bonded labour- Another form of debt bondage, it often starts with the worker agreeing to provide labour in exchange for a loan, but quickly develops into bondage as the employer adds more and more “debt” to the bargain.[6]

 For example, a contract labour agency in Bangladesh advertised work at a garment factory in Jordan. The ad promised a 3-year contract, $425 per month, 8 hour workdays, 6 days a week, paid overtime, free accommodations, free medical care, free food, and no advance fees. Instead, upon arrival, workers who were obliged to pay exorbitant advance fees had passports confiscated, were confined to miserable conditions, and were prevented from leaving the factory. Months passed without pay, food was inadequate, and sick workers were tortured. Because most workers had borrowed money at inflated rates to get the contracts, they were obliged through debt to stay. The sad truth is that we find workers across the globe holding on to the thin hope that they will eventually get paid, or that conditions will improve, because if they leave, there is no hope that they will be able to repay the debt.

 3.People trafficking- Individuals are forced or tricked into going somewhere by someone who will profit from selling them or forcing them to work against their will, most often in sexual trades. Many countries are both “origins” and “destinations” for victims.

 Human trafficking in Bangladesh, rivals illegal drug and arms trades because of its high profit and low penalty nature, according to experts. They said this illicit business has become attractive to small criminal rings and large-scale organised crime, forcing a growing number of people into slavery around the world. Poverty provides traffickers with people who have no alternatives for survival. They trust the offers of work or marriage abroad, which promise security but lead them to slavery.[7]

For example in Guwahati on 27th of March 27, the Director General of Assam Police GM Srivastava stated that neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh, continue to fuel the growth of human trafficking cases in the Northeast, particularly Assam. “There have been many instances where we have seen that professional human traffickers from Bangladesh after marrying a girl from a remote area in the State elopes back home and after keeping her in the neighbouring country for some time, finally sells her to brothels in metros of India,” said Srivastava.

 Meanwhile the government has cancelled the licenses of 32 travel and recruiting agencies in the last two months for irregularities in manpower business and involvement in human trafficking. The licenses were cancelled after law-enforcing agencies in an investigation found the agencies illegally sending manpower abroad, which in most cases led to trafficking of women and children, meeting sources said.  Police and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) are at present investigating the activities of some other agencies and their licenses could also be revoked on the same grounds, the meeting was told.

 4.Abuse of domestic workers- Maids and other domestic servants are sold to their employers or bonded to them by debts.

 Bangladesh currently has no laws against domestic violence, so Ward and Mizan enlisted SIUC law professor Sheila Simon to consult with Bangladeshi attorneys working for such legislation. Sociology professor Michelle Miller visited shelters for abused women. Saiful Islam, another doctoral student in sociology from Bangladesh, interviewed staff at women’s organizations to learn about their operations. And Mahmuda Islam (the Dhaka University sociologist mentioned earlier) visited U.S. programs for abused South Asian immigrants to see how they work with Bangladeshi women.[8]

 5.Child Labour- Child labour is work that harms children or keeps them from attending school. Large numbers of children work in commercial agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and domestic service. Some children work in illicit activities like the drug trade and prostitution or other traumatic activities such as serving as soldiers.[9]

 Children are trafficked internally, externally, and through Bangladesh for purposes of domestic service, marriage, sale of organs, bonded labour, and sexual exploitation.  The problem of child trafficking is compounded by the low rate of birth registration, since children without legal documents have no proof that they are underage, and the lack of enforcement at the borders. India and the Middle East are the primary destinations for trafficked children. Children are trafficked from rural areas of Bangladesh to its larger cities, and to countries in the Gulf region and the Middle East.  Young boys are trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar to work as camel jockeys.  However, some progress has been made in stemming the trafficking of children to the region.

 Children from Bangladesh are still being smuggled to the United Arab Emirates to work as camel jockeys, despite a law passed two years ago banning their use. It is illegal for race clubs to use jockeys younger than 15 or weighing less than 45 kilos. It is not uncommon for child jockeys to fall off and be injured while racing, and their illegal status means race track owners are often reluctant to take them to hospital.  Now the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi has given his backing to a new centre, set up to find and rehabilitate child camel jockeys.

 Current Legal Framework

Bangladeshi legislation covers various aspects of trafficking in persons. While the Bangladeshi Penal Code does not directly address trafficking in persons, it does criminalize various aspects of trafficking, such as: forced labour, kidnapping or abduction, or the buying/selling of a minor girl for purposes of prostitution.

 Article 34 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh addresses one aspect of human trafficking: “all forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.[10]

 The penality for committing the crime of forced labour under the Penal Code is: “imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”[11] This is a relatively light penalty as the offender may get off with only having to pay a fine for forcing an individual to perform labour is actually undermining the importance of forced labour being the one aspect of human trafficking clearly mentioned and prohibited by the Constitution.

 The Penal Code also addresses the prostitution of a minor by providing for a maximum punishment of ten years and a fine for either encouraging a minor with the knowledge that she may be “forced or seduced to illicit intercourse,”[12] or the buying or selling of a minor with the “purpose of prostitution of illicit intercourse.” Section 366A of the Penal code provides that “whoever, by any means whatsoever, induces any minor girl under the age of eighteen years to go from any place or to do any act with the intent that such a girl may be or knowing that it is likely that she will be, forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.”[13]

 The law that is currently most widely used in the context of human trafficking in Bangladesh is the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act, (Act VIII of 2000), enacted in 2000 and amended as recently as 2003. This Act deals with the trafficking of women and children for prostitution and other “immoral purposes.”[14]More strict penalties are available for such offenses than what are provided for by other enacted legislation. For example, the punishment for either the trafficking of a woman, whether for the purpose of prostitution or other immoral acts, or keeping a woman in one’s possession for the purpose of “torturing her in charge or otherwise” is either death or rigorous imprisonment for a range of 10 to 20 years accompanied by a fine. The punishment for the trafficking of a child ranges from “death or rigorous transportation for life and also a fine.”[15]


 It would be wise to incorporate anti-labour trafficking objectives into national anti-trafficking policies and programs and have to significantly increase criminal prosecutions and punishments for all forms of labour trafficking, including those involving false labour recruitment and forced child labour. They should investigate and prosecute government officials who may be suspected of involvement in trafficking. They should form committees to keep an eye on Bangladesh’s 700 international recruiting agencies to ensure they are not promoting practices that contribute to labour trafficking; and provide protection services for adult male trafficking victims and victims of forced labour.


 I think there are many facts about the forced labour system that is overlooked by everyone, when in reality it is very important and devastating. So the government of Bangladesh should adopt effective measures to prevent forced labours. The government should prevent trafficking through communications of understanding with destination countries addressing destination countries’ labor laws, requirements for labour contracts, and mechanisms for labour flows, although such agreements are not yet publicly available and they do not appear to comprehensively address trafficking issues. Domestically, the government should air broad public awareness campaign warning potential victims of the risks of sex trafficking through various media. In addition, airport authorities screen travellers to identify and prohibit potential victims and traffickers before they leave the country. Hopefully, if this measures are adopted there will be a definite decrease in forced labour victims.

[1] Uddin, Khawaza Main. “Human Rights in Bangladesh.” Banglarights: A News Portal on Human Rights in Bangladesh. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. <http://www.banglarights.net/HTML/HR-Situation.htm>.

[2] “IRIN Asia | BANGLADESH: The Modern Face of Slavery | Bangladesh | Economy | Governance.” IRIN • Humanitarian News and Analysis from Africa, Asia and the Middle East – Updated Daily. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. <http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=85617>.

[3] “Constitution of Bangladesh – Chapter III.” Prime Minister’s Office – Home. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. <http://www.pmo.gov.bd/pmolib/constitution/part3.htm>.


[5] “Court Bans Forced Labour in Bangladesh’s Brick Kilns | TotalGoodNews.com.” Good News Zone. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. <http://www.totalgoodnews.com/court-bans-forced-labour-in-bangladeshs-brick-kilns/>.

[6] Staff, Usa Today. “Types of Forced Labor.” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World – USATODAY.com. 19 June 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2001-05-25-labor-chart-usat.htm>.

[7] Worldwide Website Promotion for Guaranteed Top 3 Search Engine Rankings and Website Marketing. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <http://medreamlive.com/>.

[8] “Made in Bangladesh.” Perspectives Magazine, Spring 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <http://perspect.siuc.edu/05_fall/bangladesh.html>.

[9] “What Is Child Labor? – The Child Labor Education Project.” Division of Continuing Education – The University of Iowa. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. <http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/laborctr/child_labor/about/what_is_child_labor.html>.

[10] Const. of the People’s Republic of Bangl., art. 34, § 1 (1972), available at http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/pdf_part.php?act_name=&vol=XV&id=367 (select “34. Prohibition of forced labour” hyperlink).

[11] Penal Code, Act No. XLV of 1860, §§ 359-374 (1860), available at http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/pdf_part.php?id=11 (select relevant section number hyperlink) (Bangl.)

[12] Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, Act No. VI of 1933, (1933), available at http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/pdf_part.php?act_name=&vol=&id=159.

[13] Despite best efforts to obtain an official copy of the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act of 2000, we were unable to obtain a current copy as of December 14, 2010.  A link to an online but unverified version, accessed on December 14, 2010 is therefore provided.  Harv. Sch. of Pub. Health, The Parliament of Bangladesh (Feb. 14, 2000), available at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/trafficking/bangladesh.traf.00.pdf.

[14] Harv. Sch. of Pub. Health, supra note 15; see also U.N. Office on Drugs & Crime & U.N. Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, at 192 (Feb. 2009), available http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/Global_Report_on_TIP.pdf.

[15] See U.N. Asia & Far E. Instit. for the Prevention of Crime & Treatment of Offenders [UNAFEI], Resource Material Series No. 70: Protection of Victims of Crime and Victims of Abuse of Power: The Legal System in Bangladesh vis-à-vis the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power – An Overview, at 131 (Nov. 2006), available at http://www.unafei.or.jp/english/pdf/RS_No70/No70_00All.pdf (prepared by Sujayet Ullah).