It is not widely known that, even as we enter the 21st century, millions of people around the world are subject to forced labor. Forced labor itself is such a serious human rights violation that it is recognized as an international criminal offence irrespective of whether a government has ratified the relevant conventions prohibiting it. Furthermore, where forced labor is used, a range of associated human rights abuses frequently take place, including slavery, rape, torture and murder. Forced is present in almost every country including Bangladesh in the form of child labor, sex worker, human trafficking etc. Though constitution of Bangladesh has Labor Act which prohibits forced labor and provides punishment but its effectiveness and implementation is questionable.
2. Constitution of Bangladesh:
The constitution of Bangladesh (divided into 11 parts further subdivided into 153 articles including 4 schedules) is the supreme law in Bangladesh. Bangladesh became independent on December 16, 1971. After the independence, the first constituent assembly was formed by the lawmakers from Awami League who were previously elected in East Pakistan provincial assembly in the Pakistani election of 1970. The constitution of Bangladesh was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 4 November 1972. It came into effect from 16 December 1972, on the first anniversary of the victory day.
As per the constitution of the republic, it comprises three basic organs:
- Legislative Branch
- Executive Branch
- Judicial Branch
The governance of a country revolves around these three organs. . When an organ is ineffective or does not work smoothly, weak or bad governance prevails.
3. Forced labor:
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 him/herself voluntarily (ILO 2001a). Definitions in law may not be able to Capture complexities on the ground, as a person is denied his/her rights in very particular social and economic conditions. An illustration is the Palermo Protocol, which implicitly makes a distinction between human trafficking, a form of forced labor, and smuggling. According to the protocol human trafficking is defined where coercion, threat, force, or deception is used in the recruitment, transportation and harboring of persons (United Nations Economic and Social Council 2002:7). Therefore, where none of the above occurs, but Persons are involved in illegal border crossings through complicity with recruiting agents, then this is considered a case of smuggling.
ILO provides further guidance on the meaning of menace of penalty and the involuntary nature of the work or service. Examples of menace of penalty include the actual presence or credible threat of—
? Physical violence against worker or family or close associates
? Sexual violence
? (Threat of) supernatural retaliation
? Imprisonment or other physical confinement
? Financial penalties
Denunciation to authorities (police, immigration, etc.) and deportation
? Dismissal from current employment
? Exclusion from future employment
? Exclusion from community and social life
? Removal of rights or privileges
? Deprivation of food, shelter, or other necessities
? Shift to even worse working conditions
? Loss of social status.
Examples of involuntary nature of work (coercion) include—
? Birth/descent into slave or bonded status
? Physical abduction or kidnapping
? Sale of person into the ownership of another
? Physical confinement in the work location—in prison or in private detention
? Psychological compulsion; i.e., an order to work, backed up by a credible threat of a penalty for noncompliance
? Induced indebtedness (by falsification of accounts, inflated prices, reduced value of goods or services produced, excessive interest charges, etc.)
? Deception or false promises about types and terms of work
? Withholding and non-payment of wages
? Retention of identity documents or other valuable personal possessions
4. Constitution of Bangladesh and forced labor:
Provisions of the new labor law:
Forced labor is strictly prohibited by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
Therefore, any Law approving forced labor is Void ab initio as per the constitutional framework of legislation in Bangladesh.
Article 34 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh stated as follows:
(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 by persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence; or required by any law for public purpose.
Again, the two ILO fundamental rights Conventions (nos. 29 and 105) also addresses the abolition of forced labor, and Bangladesh has ratified these two conventions long time ago. But, this constitutional guideline is still ignored in the new Labor Law as the Law has not defined the word forced labour in it and has not provided for the punishment and procedure thereof.
Therefore, forcing the worker to work in a factory for days together continuously by the factory owners against their intention should be strictly prohibited and law should address this issue as per our Constitution and ratified ILO Conventions.
5. Current situation of Bangladesh:
Though there is law against forced labor in Bangladesh we can still see forced labor of different forms in Bangladesh. Most common forms of forced labor in Bangladesh are: Child labor, sex labor, domestic worker, and human trafficking.
Child labor in Bangladesh:
Bangladesh, with 153.3 million people is one of the most densely populated countries in the world [UNDP 2008]. The majority of the people are very poor and 35% of the total population lives on less than one US dollar a day [Islam F. et al. 2007]. The absolute and relative size of the child population is quit big. UCW-project estimates reveal that Bangladesh had about 37 million children between 5 and 14 years old in 2006; they made up 24% of the total population [SIMPOC 2006].
There is ambiguity in the estimation of child labor in Bangladesh; they vary from 6 to 20 million [Islam F. et al. 2007: 3]. According to the National Child Labor Survey (NSCL 2002-03) conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2002 and 2003, the number of working children in the age 5-17 years old was 7.9 million1, referring to children who did at least one hour per week in paid or unpaid work (17% of the child population in this age category). Among them were 3.4 million child labourers2, i.e. they were younger than the minimum age required for the work they performed. The majority of the child laborers are boys [Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2003; ILO/IPEC 2004
Human trafficking in Bangladesh:
 Bangladesh is a country of origin for trafficking in men, women, and children. Human rights groups in Bangladesh estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 women and girls are trafficked annually to India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. In Bangladesh, it is not only women and girls that are trafficked, but a significant number of boys and men are also trafficked internally and internationally for sexual exploitation. Poverty, social exclusion or gender discrimination, widespread illiteracy, lack of awareness and poor governance are the main contributing factors to trafficking in persons in Bangladesh. Most people do not own land and 45% of the population live below the poverty line. Urban populations have increased significantly in the last two decades with more than 60% of the increase attributed to migration flows from rural areas. Uneven regional development and massive rural-urban migration have contributed to the growth of urban poverty. Poverty provides traffickers with people who have no alternatives for survival. Impoverished and desperate, they trust the offers of work or marriage abroad, which ultimately lead them to be exploited through trafficking. Women especially are treated as second class citizens and often do not receive any formal schooling. Men are considered dominant in society and violence against women is a widely accepted and used tactic for maintaining control. This mentality often encourages the view of women as material objects rather as human beings, a mentality that often leads to abuse and trafficking of women
Trafficking in Bangladesh exists for commercial sexual exploitation and force labor. Prostitution is the major impetus in trafficking. A 2006 study on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) found that nearly 27,000 Bangladeshi women and children have been forced into prostitution in India, and around 40,000 children from Bangladesh are involved in prostitution in Pakistan. It is estimated that Bangladeshi women sold into brothels serve approximately 19 clients per week, few of which use protection. Forced labor is the other reason that Bangladeshi people are trafficked. As demand for cheap labor is so high, people are trafficked into domestic work, farm work, organized begging, and factory work. Furthermore, men seeking work abroad as expatriate labor in countries, such as in Malaysia and other Middle East countries, occasionally find themselves in exploitative situations of forced labor, with conditions including restrictions on movement, threats, and physical assault.
Other forms of forced labor in Bangladesh:
There are also many other forms of forced labor for which I could not find appropriate data. But we all know that there is forced labor in domestic workers, many informal sectors and in many cases workers who works in the leather industry are also deprived of their basic right and they are extorted. In daily newspapers we often see news about forced labor. For example: Savar, Jan 26 RAB personnel have rescued 30 people including two children and two women tied up in chains from a brick kiln at Savar. They were rescued from Ekota Brick Field around 8:30pm on Wednesday. The victims said they were forced to work against their will. After the days’ work, they would be tied up. The food provided to them was meagre. If anyone tried to escape, they would be severely tortured, they said. The law enforcers have arrested manager and contractor. The people rescued were aged between seven and 30. A child aged one and a half years was also among them. Some of them have been there for over three months.Ratan and Hossain told RAB that eight people, associated with the ruling party, were among the owners of the brick field. Two contractors—’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.” There are many examples like that and there are many forced labour of different forms still in place we don’t know about.
To lessen human trafficking Bangladesh government should integrate anti-labor trafficking objectives into national anti-trafficking policies and programs; significantly increase criminal prosecutions and punishments for all forms of labor trafficking, including those involving fraudulent labor recruitment and forced child labor; continue to investigate and prosecute government officials who may be suspected of complicity in trafficking; greatly improve oversight of Bangladesh’s 700 international recruiting agencies to ensure they are not promoting practices that contribute to labor trafficking; and provide protection services for adult male trafficking victims and victims of forced labor.
To lessen child labor and other forced labor government should provide children and poor people with education and adults with jobs. As poverty and lack of knowledge are the main reasons most people have to face forced labor. Government should also strictly enforce the law against the people who are responsible for forced labor. Many people causing forced labor get away because of poor law enforcement. Government should set examples by enforcing law strictly so others become afraid of making people do forced labor.
In Constitution Bangladesh forced labor is not defined and the punishment is not clear. In some case the punishment is only 1 year in jail which is not enough. So government should define the forced labor and strict punishment should be legally enforced.
The Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labor, including by children; however, the Government did not enforce this prohibition effectively. The Factories Act and Shops and Establishments Act established inspection mechanisms to enforce laws against forced labor, but these laws were not enforced rigorously, partly because resources for enforcement were scarce. Despite of the fact constitution of Bangladesh prohibits all sorts of forced labor and provides for punishment, there are still many sorts of forced seen in Bangladesh, many people are deprived from their basic rights in work place, and the number is really huge. So, government of Bangladesh should act really quickly to this problem as it is increasing day by day.
- Forced Labour Convention n° 29 (1930) (ILO 2001a:9
- See Bangladesh Labor Law 2006 (RMG sector) page 14
- http://www.childlabour.net/documents/worstformsAsiaproject/Ensing_Leather_Bangladesh_2009.pdf , page 1
- S. Huda, Sex Trafficking in South Asia, Int’l Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2006), available at: http://www.figo.org/files/figo-corp/docs/World%20Report%20Pages%20374-381.pdf.
- UN.Gift, Interview with Prof. Md. Zakir Hossain, the Dean, Faculty of Law, at University of Chitagong and Member, Judicial Service Commission, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, (June 9, 2009), http://www.ungift.org/ungift/en/humantrafficking/interview_-human-trafficking-in-bangladesh.html
- U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, 2008 HUMAN RIGHTS REPROT: BANGLADESH (2009), available at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119132.htm.
- bdnews24.com date: January 26 2011
 This is according the Forced Labour Convention n° 29 (1930) (ILO 2001a:9).
 See Bangladesh Labor Law 2006 (RMG sector) page 14
S. Huda, Sex Trafficking in South Asia, Int’l Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2006), available at: http://www.figo.org/files/figo-corp/docs/World%20Report%20Pages%20374-381.pdf.
 UN.Gift, Interview with Prof. Md. Zakir Hossain, the Dean, Faculty of Law, at University of Chitagong and Member, Judicial Service Commission, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, (June 9, 2009), http://www.ungift.org/ungift/en/humantrafficking/interview_-human-trafficking-in-bangladesh.html.
 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, 2008 HUMAN RIGHTS REPROT: BANGLADESH (2009), available at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119132.htm.
 See bdnews24.com date: January 26 2011