Forced labor is a ‘social evil’. Illustrate and explain.


Forced labour is a ‘social evil’ that seems to be growing at an alarming rate throughout the world. This practice results in unimaginable human suffering and represents one of the most important human rights violations of our time, resulting in a form of ‘Modern Slavery’. For Bangladesh, this condition is more acute. In order to prevent this crime, human trafficking should be integrated as cross-cutting issue related to social protection from all sectors of the society.

  It has been observed that the forced labour is a age old problem. But the concern is that the magnitude of it is multiplying with the growing incidence of poverty and criminalization. As

Bangladesh is a poverty stricken country, human trafficking is increasingat an alarming rate. However, concerted efforts are thereon the part of the Government, the international agencies, the donor community and the NGOs to combat the problem. It has been observed that the problem has international and regional dimensions. As such, more concerted international and regional efforts should be mooted alongside national efforts to combat the menace

of trafficking of women and children from one country to the other.

However, trafficking from Bangladesh are for the purposes of sexual exploitation, involuntary domestic servitude and debt bondage. A small number of women and girls are trafficked through Bangladesh from Burma to India. Bangladeshi boys are also trafficked into the UAE and Qatar and forced to work as camel jockeys and beggars. Women and children from rural areas in Bangladesh are trafficked to urban centers for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work.

 Established law against forced labour

Forced labor is a crime violating human rights as well as health and cross-border issue. It is an offence under the Bangladesh legal system. The Constitution of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh prohibits forced and compulsory labor (Article 34). In addition, the Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 372, 373, and 466A), the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933 (Sections 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and the Repression of Violence against Women and Children Act, 2000 (Articles 5 and 6) clearly provide that trafficking is an illegal and punishable offence for which capital punishment may be imposed as the maximum punishment.

 Bangladesh perspective:

Though all kinds of forced labor is banned by Bangladesh constitution, Bangladesh does not maintain the minimum standard for preventing forced labor. Bangladesh government made limited effort to protect the victims of forced labor. Forced labor is nothing but modern day slavery. Day by day human forced labor is expanding at an alarming rate. The most common forms of human trafficking in Bangladesh are, among others, trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, domestic servitude, forced labor and other exploitations. Poverty, gender discrimination and poor governance is the main reasons for forced labor.

Just like in other parts of Asia, Bangladeshi girls (under 18 years of age) from the villages are trafficked for about 1,000 US dollars and sold to the sex industry. But human trafficking is not confined to the sex industry. Bangladeshi children (aged about 4 to 15 years) are also largely trafficked:

  1. To work in dirty, difficult and dangerous (3D) jobs as bonded or forced labor,
  2. To get their body parts, such as kidneys and other internal organs,
  3. To become “camel race jockeys” in the Arab Gulf countries that exposes them to serious physical injury (even death), misery and loneliness.

However, the low number of court cases and convictions regarding trafficking in Bangladesh demonstrates the weak implementation of existing laws. During the last five years only 53 cases of trafficking have been brought before the court, out of which 35 were dismissed by the court for lack of adequate evidence. Only 21 accused have been convicted with the highest punishment of 10 years of rigorous (hard labor) imprisonment.

 Trafficking victims, according to NGOs in Bangladesh, are lured into trafficking by false promises (promise of better life/jobs, and marriage proposal or fake marriage), force (kidnapping), and outright trade (sale done by people known to the victims such as relatives). They are vulnerable to trafficking schemes due to poverty, gender -based discrimination on social protection, lack of information among the public about trafficking, weak enforcement of existing relevant laws and policies, and general lack of good governance. The collapse of the garment industries after September 2001 is noted for causing the increase in trafficking of women and children.

Trafficking victims suffer from mental stress, bad social treatment after their rescue especially for women, and health problems (such as HIV/AIDS for those trafficked for prostitution purposes).

Actions taken by Government and other organizations

Human trafficking is an international problem; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. In Bangladesh alone, a UNICEF report says that approximately 400 women and children fall victim to trafficking each month. Most of them are between the ages of 12 and 16 and are forced to work in the commercial sex industry.

Acute poverty, illiteracy, and a lack of urban “street smarts” in small villages are some of the factors that lead to sexual exploitation of young Bangladeshi girls. Moreover, many towns are adjacent to neighboring India, the proximity facilitating the illicit smuggling of people. These prevailing socio-economic and geographic conditions provide a fertile ground for human traffickers. So, most poor people of Bangladesh are not informed about forced labour law.

 Children in Bangladesh are vulnerable to being trafficked into bonded labour or brothels;

being sexually abused in the home, the workplace, community and at school; and being

sexually exploited. There are few protections in place for children such as these.

In a country where less than 10 per cent of children are registered at birth, it is difficult to

track whether children’s rights are being protected. Those who are abused, trafficked or

exploited are explicitly denied their rights to be safe from these practices under the

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They are also more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS,

drug abuse, more likely to not finish – or begin – their education, or realize their right to be

brought up with their family.

 Human trafficking in Bangladesh is believed to be extensive both within the country and to

India, Pakistan and the Middle East. Many girls are trafficked into sexual exploitation or

bonded servitude. Many boys have also been trafficked to the Middle East to become camel

racing jockeys. Children involved in camel racing (CICR) are often injured in the course of

their work, are vulnerable to abuse from their employers and there are reports of employers

deliberately keeping the children’s weights low by not feeding them enough. Many children

are taken with their parents’ consent, having been duped by stories of well-paid jobs

  UNICEF Bangladesh is working tocreate a culture of respect for children’s protection rights through development of child rights based and gender appropriate policies, advocacy, a change of societal attitudes, strengthened capacity in government and civil society responses to protection issues and the establishment of protective mechanisms against abuse exploitation and violence

 Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), initiated a new programme: The Prevention of Cross Border Trafficking in Women and Children between Bangladesh and West Bengal, India (C-BAT), in October 2005. It aims to reduce human trafficking and focuses on repatriation, reintegration and rehabilitation of the victims.

People’s Vulnerabilities

Bangladesh is one of the countries in South Asia that has been facing the problems of trafficking for the last few decades. But that has very clear connections between globalisation and the booming sex industry worldwide. Human trafficking cannot be stopped without understanding how the capitalist patriarchy, phenomenon of modernisation, concept of nation state, militarisation, war, concept of development and growth model are contributing to the increase in this trade. It is an outcome of the social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities of people that are caused by globalisation. Even wars in different countries are causing displacement of people and part of it is leading to trafficking. Globalisation has encouraged free mobility of capital, technology, experts and sex tourists. This has created a demand for trafficking in women and children for commercial gains. The testimonies of the victims of trafficking expressed in the South Asia Court of Women, which was held in Bangladesh on August 12 last year, showed clearly how the flesh trade happened due to vulnerabilities of poor people.

Trafficking is the worst form of violation of human rights. It must be stopped whatever the numerical figures are. There is global resistance against trafficking and the real causes of trafficking have to be traced so that it can really be stopped. The SAARC Peoples’ Forum has analysed in its meetings that the issues of livelihood and food insecurity are linked to human trafficking, particularly of women and children. Environmental degradation, ecological erosion and destruction of biodiversity based on production systems further accelerate the process. So one cannot blame the people moving out in search of food and work. The criminal traffickers are taking advantage of the situation and making business on these vulnerabilities. But the approach to combat trafficking cannot be only “finding” and “prosecuting” criminals within Bangladesh

 Major problem of Bangladesh is not forged documents, but people who are given a rosy picture in India about working in the Maldives and want to go abroad. They might be earning US$200 in India, but are told they can earn US$400. When they arrive they get US$120-140,”

 Human trafficking is a ‘social evil’ that seems to be growing at an alarming rate throughout the world. This practice results in unimaginable human suffering and represents one of the most important human rights violations of our time, resulting in a form of ‘Modern Slavery’. For Bangladesh, this condition is more acute. In order to prevent this crime, human trafficking should be integrated as cross-cutting issue related to social protection from all sectors of the society.


Complete elimination of human trafficking in Bangladesh is a difficult goal to attain. But there are several measures that can be done at least with the aim of preventing it. Increasing public awareness of this issue demonstration, street drama, mass media, among other means, can be used. The NGOs should play a dominant role in this regard.

The government has to be pressured to strictly enforce the existing laws and ensure punitive measures against the traffickers. Punishment of the traffickers should immediately take place and handed down within the shortest period of time using summary trial.

There is also a need to strengthen the anti-trafficking network in Bangladesh. And a shelter and rehabilitation program for the rescued women and children has to be created.

Last but not least, parents and society in general should be motivated to accept the trafficking victims back into their family with cordiality.

 Measures have to be taken for prevention rather than only targeting the criminals of trafficking. It must be acknowledged that the media’s reporting and social activities on creation of awareness have been effective in making people aware of the deceptive mechanisms adopted by the agents of trafficking. On the other hand, the government must take measures by which people have complete control over food and livelihood. However, we would also like to make a warning. We do not want “restriction” on the free movement of people. People must be ensured of secured movement.


 Tutul, H, K. October 3, 2008, Human Traffiking in Bangladesh and beyond,

Chowdhury, J,A. September 2004, Human Trafficking – A New Form of Slave Trade in Bangladesh           —a-new-form-of-slave-trade-in-bangladesh.html

9 june, 2009, Human Traffiking Bangladesh

 Human Traffiking in Bangladesh. (n,d). retrieved October 10, 2011 from

Constitutuion of Bangladesh part 3, retrieved October 10, 2011