Women and children trafficking is a national as well as global problem
Bangladesh is a small deltaic country of South Asia with a total land area of 145,035 sq. km. It contains the eighth largest population in the world. In 2001, its population stood at 130 million. Its population density is one of the highest, surpassed only by the city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong. Natural disasters such as floods, droughts and cyclones are regular features in the life of Bangladeshis, as is political turmoil. Though during the last two decades Bangladesh made strong strides in socio economic developments, nonetheless, Bangladesh still remains one of the least developed countries of the world. 25 million people (19.23% of the total population) live in extreme poverty, and the incidence of poverty is worst among the women. In every respect, ranging from health and education to nutrition and income, women are the poorest of the poor. Bangladesh is one of the two unique countries of the world where life expectancy of women is lower than that of men. Given the size of its population, the ratio of population to arable land, the overall level of economic development and the increased number of women looking for avenues to earn a livelihood, there are ample reasons why various forms of migration forced and voluntary, internal and international, might occur in Bangladesh. And taking the opportunity of this situation and possibility of netting a big cache, it is not unlikely that traffickers shall tend to fish out this stream.
Women and children trafficking is a national as well as global problem. For the last two-three years trafficking in women and children has so alarmingly increased that it has become a matter of great concern for the peace loving people of our country as well the government. Trafficking in women and children is undoubtedly a heinous crime against humanity. In fact women and children of downtrodden families who are unemployed and live below the subsistence level are the victim of trafficking as they are being allured for better job and remuneration abroad. Trafficked women and children are employed in unsocial, undignified tedious and risky job. Women are forced to the nasty profession like prostitution and children are used as camel jockeys.
Trafficking in women and children is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world, behind drugs and arms. A report recently published by US Department of State has revealed that most of the trafficking incidents have occurred in South and South-East Asia, East-Europe, Latin America and in the poverty-stricken Africa. About one million women and children are trafficked every year from these regions to the west and other places.
Trafficking in women and children within the territory of Bangladesh is also a common phenomenon. Uneducated and vulnerable woman and children deprived of financial, legal and social support and opportunities easily become victims of internal and cross border trafficking. The organized gangs of traffickers are targeting the poorest of the poor and disadvantaged women in the rural areas of the country. The victims are either abducted or allured with promises of better life by providing lucrative job or marriage offers and false proposals to visit holy places. But, practically, they become the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation and eventually embrace a life of agony and torture. Sometimes, their valuable organs are also taken away for rescuing other’s life in the clinics of different countries including India.
Most of the Bangladeshi women are sold in the brothels or forcibly engaged in prostitution or in cage brothels in the receiving countries like India, Pakistan and different Middle Eastern country. The victims who are forced into prostitution or brothels are the high-risk group for being HIV positive, and having AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. According to the information revealed by various studies and observations of different organizations, the prostitution or the brothels in Mumbai, India are the most high-risk areas for HIV and AIDS contamination.
It is a grave concern for the human community that 70% of them are women, aged between 14 to 24 and that each of them is abused sexually five times in a day. So, first of all it can be considered as a violation of human rights and secondly as a way of spreading HIV across the globe.
In recent years, the trafficking of women and children has increased in Bangladesh and in other Asian countries. But little efforts have been made to gain a meaningful understanding of the local dynamics of the problem. The task is difficult and involves delving into a complex area of legal issues, social attitudes, economic interests, and illicit activities. Nonetheless, a better understanding of the causes and consequences of trafficking is essential for any future interventions to combat this human problem, both nationally and internationally.
Despite a large number of reports and considerable media coverage on trafficking, very few systematic research studies were conducted on trafficking. The available information on community members’ perceptions of trafficking and on the underlying determinants of trafficking, for example, is limited. Similarly, the experiences of organizations working to prevent trafficking and to assist trafficked people have not been adequately documented to identify appropriate interventions for improving the effectiveness of current efforts.
This review was undertaken to produce a comprehensive summary of available information concerning trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh. Information on the magnitude of the problem, the underlying factors that foster trafficking, modes of trafficking, major trafficking routes, and consequences of trafficking has been compiled. The review also highlights the current activities of different non-government organizations (NGOs) to address the trafficking problem. This document is expected to contribute to the greater understanding of the trafficking issues, and provide a framework for future studies on program needs and research gaps on this issue.
1.2 Scope and objects
As a woman who could be a man’s mother, sister, daughter or wife, who is given the equal constitutional rights with man, who is equally fit to run the state activities like a man and who is intellectually no less fit than a man in other spheres of life is being sold and purchased like cows, goats and sheep away from her natal home in gross violation of human rights; she is being taken to unknown far off places for being used either as a cheap labour or mainly as sex worker. This trading in women has of late stirred the wisdom of the world and throughout the world this shameless abuse of humanity has raised a voice to save the woman wherever she may be and whatever may be her caste, creed or religion by enacting new laws or updating the old ones and applying them through courts and tribunals.
This socially, politically and economically deplorable condition of women and recent world wisdom effect to improve their position and fate in society through motivation, legislation and awareness which have prompted me to undertake for investigating this socio-legal human problem of women of Bangladesh, India and Nepal and view it from the point of law and its practices in these countries. Trafficking in women is an international event, which has a long history. According to Indian Sociologist Bela Duttagupta, during the British rule, women form Europe, Australia and China were even trafficked to Indian sub-continent. There was also inter-border trafficking within the continent.
At present, trafficking in women is an integral part of international migration. According to human rights activists:
Demand from economically advanced countries for cheap labour created another foreign earning [sic] strategy of developing countries by promoting a labour export policy. The unequal sexual division of labour at the national and international labour market makes it difficult for women to get employment in the formal sector within and outside their country. Jobs available for women are either as domestic helpers or sex workers in the international market. The limited opportunities for women in overseas employment do not correlate to the number of women who want to work. Thus, there is a surplus of women who in turn become victims of unscrupulous recruiting agencies and human traffickers. Though trafficking in women also exists in western developed countries, it is more serious in developing one. Petro-dollars of Middle-East influence trafficking in women from South Asian countries, especially Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
There are some motives behind the incidence of trafficking in women. These are: to sell women into prostitution, to engage them in bonded labour, to remove their kidneys and sell them in the underground organ markets.
This section briefly describes the context of trafficking from the global, regional and Bangladesh perspectives.
1.3.1 Global context: Trafficking of persons into bonded sweatshop labour, forced marriage, forced prostitutions, domestic servitude, and other kinds of work is a global phenomenon that takes place within countries and regions and on a transcontinental scale. Trafficking in women is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world with an estimated one to two million young women being trafficked annually for the purpose of forced labor, domestic servitude, or sexual exploitation. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that, in 1995, about 500,000 women were trafficked to the countries of the European Union from poorer regions of the world . So, it is not a problem of developing countries alone.
Although the concept of trafficking is often used for describing kidnapping and enslavement of women for the commercial sex industry, different government and international agencies have adopted much broader definitions of the term to include other forms of trafficking and affected groups, such as children trafficked for child labor and organ donation. The problem is usually under-reported because of the difficulties involved in tracking such clandestine activities. In recent years, the issues relating to trafficking have become more prominent and are being discussed more openly. There are more efforts also to understand the underlying dynamics of trafficking of women and children.
This may be related to increase awareness and concerns about human rights, violence against women, and about the role of commercial sex in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related epidemics. The question of trafficking has figured prominently in the agenda of recent international meetings, such as International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, World Summit for Social Development in 1995, and Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995.
Accordingly, there is also a growing interest among the policy-makers and program managers to identify effective options for preventing such exploitation of women and children and in designing appropriate interventions for them.
1.3.2 Regional context: Trafficking in Asia accounts for a large share of the global volume of trafficked women and children. In the last two decades, the number of trafficked women and children in Asia has increased alarmingly. Trafficking across borders was included as an important issue in the ninth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in May 1997.
In its 27th paragraph, the Declaration of the 9th SAARC Summit says, “Expressing grave concern at the trafficking of women and children within and between countries, the Heads of State or Government pledged to coordinate their efforts and take effective measures to address this problem.” They decided that the existing legislation(s) in Member States should be strengthened and strictly enforced. This should include simplification of the repatriation procedures for victims of trafficking.
Trafficking of women has been the part of the tradition in this region. In his review, Joardar found that the problem of prostitution is directly related to trafficking of women, and this institution has been in existence in this region in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Mukherjee reported that, during village melas (fair), many village girls were lost and misled into brothels. A second study titled ‘Prostitution in historical and modern perspectives’, based on fieldwork was conducted in eight brothels in and around Kolkata by Joardar, who observed that prostitution was related with low castes. Also, the findings of Joardar on many women originally belonging to Bangladesh and other neighboring countries indicate the existence of a regional ‘circulation’ of prostitution, and the regional trafficking of women was historical . In another study, Khan and Arefeen also observed some unique features in Jessore brothel, which are specific to a border town that has various kinds of business and cultural links with the adjacent Indian region.
South Asia is considered the most vulnerable region for trafficking because of its large population, large-scale rural-urban migration, large populations living in conditions of chronic poverty, and recurrent natural disasters. Women and children are sold, traded, exchanged for sexual slavery and prostitution, and bonded labour across borders, such as from Bangladesh to India, Pakistan, and the Middle East; from Nepal to India; from Burma to Thailand; from Vietnam to Kampuchea; and from the Philippines to Japan. Table 1 shows distribution of Asian countries between which trafficking takes place. The table shows the major sending and receiving countries in the Asian region. Some sending
Countries are as well receiving countries and vice versa.
1.3.3 Bangladesh context: Causes and consequences of trafficking in Bangladesh cannot be understood in isolation from its historical, cultural, geographical and socioeconomic perspectives and the present condition of women.
18.104.22.168 Historical and geographical contexts:After independence from British colonization in 1947, the Indian sub-continent was divided into two countries: India and Pakistan. Pakistan had two distinct geographic regions, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by 1,200 miles. Thus, many cross-border families were formed. During separation, many Muslim families from India migrated to Pakistan, particularly to East Pakistan. Again, many Hindus living in East Pakistan moved to India. In 1971, East Pakistan became independent from West Pakistan and a new nation, Bangladesh, was born. During this time, many non-Bengali Pakistanis (who were originally from India) wanted to go back to West Pakistan and are still awaiting repatriation to Pakistan. They live in 66 camps scattered in 14 districts of Bangladesh. As repatriation of these people has been delayed, many cross land-borders illegally. Often with these groups, other women and children are trafficked On both sides of the newly-drawn border between India and Pakistan and India and Bangladesh, there are many ‘enclaves’ which are pockets of land belonging to a nation other than that which surrounds them. There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 enclaves of Bangladesh in India. Usually, these areas are not patrolled or controlled by any law-enforcing agencies. Research by the BNWLA has shown that these enclaves have been used as recruitment and collection sites by traffickers.
22.214.171.124 Socio-economic context:Bangladesh, one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has 147,570 sq km of land and a population density of 755 per sq km. The present estimated population of the country is about 129 million. Despite the achievements of some poverty-alleviation programmers through micro-credit and other development initiatives, the vast majority of the populations in Bangladesh still live in poverty. Illiteracy and unemployment are quite high.
Recurrent natural disasters make the situation more critical for the entire population. During distress situation, lack of shelter for girls is a great problem. All these factors make women and children vulnerable, and make them easy targets of traffickers.
126.96.36.199 Cultural context: If socioeconomic conditions present a context of persisting poverty and if underdevelopment affects large numbers of the population, this situation is most acutely felt by women, because they additionally face strong religious, historic and cultural forces that tend to shape every aspect of their lives. Legally, both women and men have the same rights and are entitled to equal treatment under the law. Nevertheless, cultural norms often act as barriers to the implementation of egalitarian legislation. For example, due to male preference, females suffer not only nutritional neglect, but also receive less attention during sickness than males. Arranged marriages are the norm, and young women are still married relatively early in life . The most recent Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS) reported that about 60% of women aged 10-49 years were married by the time they were aged 15 years .
Legal provisions to protect women and children from exploitation are also not enforced due to organizational inefficiency and the inadequate capacity of law-enforcing agencies. As a result, some social practices, which are detrimental to a woman’s status in society, still continue many decades after their legal abolition. A case in point is the practice of dowry, which continues despite national legislation against this, which was signed in 1980. The inability to fulfill commitments of dowry affects a young bride’s treatment by her husband’s relatives and increases her vulnerability of being abandoned and trafficked for immoral purposes or bonded labour.
1.4 Routes of trafficking
There are two common types of trafficking in Bangladesh: one is internal and the other is cross border trafficking. In the case of internal trafficking, women and children are often taken away from their homes through abduction, on false promise of a better life with good employment, by traffickers who in turn sell them in brothels and ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh. On the other hand, at the cross-border level, they are smuggled by the gang of traffickers to place them further destinations such as India, Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries where their ultimate fate is a life of sexual exploitation, abuse and other forms of bonded labour. Tiny boys, who are trafficked to the Middle–East mostly, become camel-jockeys, which is a very risky and hazardous job.
According to a study conducted by the Bangladesh National Women’s Lawyer’s Association, in 250 villages in different parts of the country in 1999, every year a total of 7000 women and children become victim of cross-border trafficking. The real number is much higher, and could not be ascertained due to the absence of studies covering currently all the districts of the country. Besides, a large number of women and children are trafficked every year within this territory. In addition, it has been identified that almost all of the 1.6 million garment-worker-girls and young women are the vulnerable groups that can easily become victim of internal and cross-border trafficking at any time.
The networks of traffickers in Bangladesh are well organized with different settings of people like local political leaders, smugglers, anti-social activists and somehow law-enforcement personnel also. The traffickers take advantage of Bangladesh’s sizable borders to transport the women, often using large criminal networks and deceptive tactics to avoid detection and prosecution. It has been revealed from an interview with a local journalist that the victims of trafficking are taken and measured as a coin of exchange between the traders of India and Bangladesh. For example, if any valuable goods are smuggled from India to Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi smugglers make their payment by trafficking women and children instead of sending natural currency. This is because, it is paving the way for another illegal and profitable business, and saving the time, space and energy in exchanging the natural currency between the two countries.
There are large networks of traffickers working at the national level and across borders.
Normally, a group of traffickers collects victims from Bangladesh, and hands them over to their counterparts in India or Myanmar. From there, these agents take them to the Batrigach.
Bangladesh is mainly a country of origin for trafficking in women and children. A reported 200,000 Bangladeshi women and children have been taken out of the country in the past 10 years. At least 20,000 Bangladeshi women and children are trafficked to India and Pakistan and to Middle Eastern countries every year. According to another estimate, 50,000 Bangladeshi girls are trafficked to or through India every year. The girls end up in brothels in India or Pakistan or in Middle Eastern or South Asian countries. Women are also trafficked to Australia. Internal trafficking in women and children occurs from rural areas of the country to the capital, Dhaka.
TRAFFICKING AND BANGLADESH
In this chapter denotes what is trafficking and its natures. How trafficking problem is internalized. Trafficking means illegal transfer of women and children from one place to another. The crux of the issue is that civil society in Bangladesh is yet to internalize the mindset that trafficking and flesh trade are as bad as murder, rape, or mugging. Trafficking, which is a serious problem and is considered a violation of human rights, is yet to be internalized emotionally by society at large in Bangladesh and also in other South Asian countries.
The main purpose of definition of trafficking is to understand what it is? I describe the term women trafficking in a various ways, such as Bangladesh perspective as well as international perspectives. I describe the definition of women trafficking with Bangladesh perspectives from my own thought and from various N.G.O.’s of Bangladesh and others sources. I describe the trafficking with Bangladesh perspectives because the purpose of this research is to understand about women trafficking in view of Bangladesh. It helps to find out us the nature of trafficking in Bangladesh.
define women trafficking from various international organizations, such as U.N. General Assembly, Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), International Organization for Migrations (IOM), The International Labor Organization (ILO), USAID, etc. Those definitions may help us to know about the nature of women trafficking as an international crime.
The definition of trafficking continues to be the subject of debate, and there is no conclusive or even commonly agreed upon definition globally, regionally or even nationally. This in itself is indicative of the degree of ideological contention which marks the discourse on trafficking and related issues. Absence of consensus on the definition has crucial implications on strategic planning and programme development since some of the definitions which inform concrete practice may be contradictory to each other. However, there are some basic elements of trafficking that are widely agreed upon, such as violence, deception, coercion, deprivations of freedom of movement, abuse of authority, debt bondage, forced labor and slavery-like practices, and other forms of exploitation or use of force.
2.2.1 Bangladesh Perspective: The people of Bangladesh individually and collectively consider trafficking particularly trafficking in women and children as a heinous crime. From time immemorial, people in this deltaic region of Bengal have been living peacefully and united.
The social fabric and family network was so strong that people used to live in societies with strong sense of belongingness and security. But after independence, many things, many norms and customs have changed. With the passage of time, people saw gradual decline in the role and efficacy of social institutions, its command and applicability. The hard realities of life, harsh economic conditions and access to information and education have shattered the myths in societies and bonds of families. In the threshold of a new century traditional, age-old values were swept away by surge of modern individualistic values, that prefers individualism to collectivism, profit to charity and richness to egalitarian societies. Thus social values and family bonds that have for so long knotted our society into a solid rock were now partially or fully discarded. Consequently, women and children who were protected by the social safety network of our family and society are now no more treated so. They are left to the mercy of open market, which is usually throat cut and ruthless. Profit is the only driving force here and it determined the price of women and child, which appeared to be very lucrative.
The Bangla equivalent of the word trafficking is pachar. It has a mild connotation, which means transfer from one place to another. If the term pachar is used in reference to women and children, in Bangla the phrase nario shishu pachar means illegal transfer of women and children from one place to another. Trafficking, which is a serious problem and is considered a violation of human rights, is yet to be internalized emotionally by society at large in Bangladesh and also in other South Asian countries. The term itself does not capture the total implications for an adolescent girl to be abducted and taken to a brothel; threatened, beaten, and raped; and forced to submit to having sex with men, seven days a week, for several years until she eventually becomes ill which may sometime result in death.
The crux of the issue is that civil society in Bangladesh has yet to internalize the mind-set that ‘trafficking’ is as bad as murder, rape, or mugging. When one hears or reads news about trafficking, it does not create the same reaction as other criminal activities, such as rape, murder, or mugging. Newspapers are replete with news of rape and murder, but there are few reports on trafficking of women and children. It may be because trafficking happens behind the scenes and is hard to detect. Both print and electronic media could be used for playing a more effective role in depicting different facets of trafficking in Bangladesh.
At the NGO level, it has been observed that, although there is no disagreement regarding the seriousness of the problem, there are differences on how they internalize the problem. Some NGO representatives think that awareness about trafficking issues in Bangladesh is different when compared to other crimes. The expression was as follows: “generally, people are not treating trafficking equally with other types of offences, those who are conscious can easily relate trafficking with murder and rape, since murder and rape are crimes of such a nature which has an urgency, the reaction is quick and immediate, whereas trafficking takes place through a process behind the scenes and occurs over a period of time, so people do not have any immediate reaction” Another respondent representing an NGO looked at trafficking as a part of migration process, but was bothered by violence and illegal activities associated with trafficking. She stated, “Trafficking is a kind of migration. One can go anywhere s/he likes. It is a fundamental human right. People are going from one place to another for a long, long time. But when people are taken illegally through deception and are tortured, it becomes an issue. So, violence and illegal activities associated with trafficking should be stopped” Shamim pointed out that the word trafficking does not carry the sense of violence, such as murder or rape. She thinks that people are yet to incorporate this, although trafficking should be considered the worst form of exploitation. She highlighted another facet of the problem which is hat the outcome of traffickers is not well-understood, since there is little documentation of what happens to women and children after they are trafficked to a place.
2.2.2 International Perspective: International organizations use various definitions for describing trafficking. The definitions tend to focus on gender, age, reason for trafficking, and the issues of coercion and violence which are often associated with trafficking. In the case of children, in 1998, a research report by Archavanitkul titled “Trafficking in Children for Labour Exploitation including Child Prostitution in the Mekong Sub-region”, compared definitions used by the UN General Assembly, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), International Organization for Migrations (IOM), and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
After considering these definitions, the authors concluded that important dimensions of child trafficking include the performance of a profitable act by person(s) other than the children themselves who transport a child within or across the national borders usually using false or deceptive information for the purpose of work or services in destructive and exploitative work conditions by means of violence, abuse, or other forms of coercion. For their study, a trafficked child refers to “A child who is recruited and transported from one place to another across a national border, legally or illegally, with or without the child’s consent, usually but not always organized by an intermediary: parents, family member, teacher, procurer, or local authority. At the destination, the child is coerced or semi-forced (by deceptive information) to engage in activities under exploitative and abusive conditions”.
In the case of women, the same dimensions seem to be important. For instance, the US President’s Interagency Council on Women, defines trafficking as: “All acts involved in the recruitment, transport, harboring or sale of persons within national or across international borders through deception or fraud, coercion or force, or debt bondage for purposes of placing persons in situations of forced labor or services, such as forced prostitution or sexual services, domestic servitude, or other forms of slavery-like practices”.
Similarly, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women considers that trafficking of women refers to “all acts involved in the recruitment and/or transportation of a woman within and across national borders for work or services by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt-bondage, deception or other forms of coercion”. Friedman, USAID, referred the following definition “The recruitment of girls/women by means of violence or threat, debt bondage, deception or coercion to act as sex workers under menace of penalty and for which the individual has not offered themselves voluntarily”.
Although prostitution is an important outcome of trafficking activities, there are many other exploitative outcomes and events relating to trafficking. Thus, definitions tend to be general and encompass not only the sex and age of the trafficked persons, but also the different purposes for which people are trafficked. The countries of SAARC have a definition in their Convention for Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children. Nevertheless, a consultation workshop organized by the Resistance Network in Bangladesh in August 1999 made suggestions for changes to the convention. The workshop proposed the following definitions:
“Trafficking in women consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of women within and/or across border by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing a woman against her will without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations such as forced prostitution, forced marriage, bonded and forced labour, begging, organ trade, etc.”
“Trafficking in children consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of children within and/or across border by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing a woman against her will without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations, such as commercial sexual abuse, forced marriage, bonded and forced labour, begging, camel jockeying and other sports, organ trade, etc.”
Shamim internalized trafficking in children in its broad perspective, which included all acts involved in capture, acquisition, recruitment and transportation of children within and across national borders with the intent to sell, exchange, or use for any illegal purposes, such as prostitution, servitude in the guise of marriage, bonded labour, or sale of human organs by means of violence or threat of violence.
2.2.3. Operational Definition: In the context of Bangladesh, the BNWLA adapted the definition of the Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women, so that it could be applied to situations involving both women and children. Thus, the BNWLA defines trafficking as “All acts involved in the recruitment and/or transport of a woman (or child) within and across national borders for work or services (or marriage) by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt bondage, deception or other forms of coercion”. Arriving at an appropriate definition of the phenomenon of trafficking is essential for identifying the magnitude of the problem and ways to address
CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES AND REMEDIES OF TRAFFICKING
International dimension of Poverty, lack of education and large families are three main factors for why trafficking has been able to flourish in this country. The causes of trafficking and factors leading to this apparent increases in recent years are multiple and complicated.
Now a days, globalization and materialism are also main factors behind this growing problem. In Bangladesh, due to increasing landlessness and inadequate investment in rural industrialization, the scope for employment opportunities and skill development, particularly for rural women, is less. Women have traditionally worked as unpaid family labourers in the society. And this is why; women are forced to migrate from rural areas to urban ones. This trend of migration creates vulnerable conditions for women and children, and provides opportunities to the traffickers to exploit women and children.
Most reports emphasize that, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of children and women being trafficked from Bangladesh into India and other countries. The causes of trafficking and the factors leading to this apparent increases in recent years are multiple and complicated. These factors are embedded within the socioeconomic structure of the country and require an in-depth analysis. However, for the present purpose, the factors have been categorized into two groups. The first group, the ‘push’ factors, includes the conditions which are responsible for trafficking of people from one country to another country. These factors have been outlined in the previous discussion about Bangladesh and its regional context and will be expanded further below. The second group refers to the set of ‘pull’ factors that support the demand for trafficked victims.
3.1 Causes of Trafficking
There are some economic and social problems which are responsible for women and children trafficking. These are as follows:
3.2.1 Poverty:Poverty is one of the vital problems of our country. Poverty happens to be the prime factor behind woman and child trafficking from villages of the country’s frontier areas. At least 42% of our population lives below the subsistence level. Most of them live from hand to mouth and pass their days in hardship. Due to extreme poverty many of them prefer to go abroad for better life. About 22 percent of the total populations of the country are poor and destitute women. According to women affairs directorate, there are 17, 39,542 poor and destitute women in the country.
Worldwide, rising unemployment and the decline of government- sponsored social services, have contributed to severe poverty in the developing world and an increase in labor exploitation. Women bear the brunt of this economic instability. Desperate living conditions and the devaluation of women and girls, make them particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Families living in absolute poverty often lack the means to feed all of their children. Parents may decide to sell one child because they cannot afford to raise that child without risking the survival of every member of the family. In many places, girls are considered less valuable than boys, and are more likely to be sold.
3.2.2 Unemployment: Bangladesh has been facing acute unemployment problem for a long time. Population is increasing in alarming rate where as job opportunities in our country are very limited. Traffickers are exploiting the situation and allured trafficked persons for employment abroad. The study shows that the organized gangs of traffickers take advantage of the crushing poverty of their victims and lure them away with prospects of job opportunities. The study said that about 90 per cent of the women were household workers or unemployed. Most of these victims were wed-locked with men who had very low incomes. Families of 61percent of victims were ‘landless’.
3.2.3 Economic and Social Disparity:In the prevailing economic system the poor are becoming poor and the rich are getting richer. The poor section of people is moving within the vicious cycle. As a result the number of landless and uprooted people in our country is increasing day by day. The uprooted and displaced people take shelter in different slums in cities and towns. They work as day labourer or servant in the houses. In the most of the cases they become the victim of human trafficking.Other major factors behind the trafficking have been identified as illiteracy, landlessness, and over-population and low levels of income.
3.2.4 Overpopulation: Overpopulation was one more important reason behind women and children trafficking in Bangladesh. According to the study, about 59 per cent of the victims came from big families, 25 per cent from medium sized families and only six per cent from small families.
3.2.5 Violence: Violence in the home, often linked to economic instability, can also make women and children more vulnerable to trafficking. Fearing for their safety, women and children often run away from situations of domestic violence. In search of shelter and food, they may become targets of trafficking agents who deceptively offer them security.
3.2.6 Conflict:Conflict and increasing militarization worldwide play a significant role in human trafficking. Traffickers often take advantage of the desperate conditions created by conflict, preying upon those living in refugee camps. The arrival of soldiers is often associated with a sudden rise in child prostitution and sex tourism, and an expansion of sex trafficking in the region.
3.2.7 Sluggish security system: The security system in our border, land, river, sea airport is not so strong and modernized. Because of sluggish security system the traffickers get easy access to fulfill their mission.
3.2.8 Corruption of security and immigration personal: On many occasion security and immigration personnel are being bribed by human traffickers for which they allow the trafficked women and children to go abroad with false passport and visa.
3.2.9 Low employment opportunities
In Bangladesh, due to increasing landlessness and inadequate investment in rural industrialization, the scope for employment opportunities and skill development, particularly for rural women, is less. Women have traditionally worked as unpaid family laborers in the society. Employment opportunities, access to land, and credit facilities have traditionally been limited for women. However, in recent years, there have been increasing demands on the labor of women and children in the urban informal sector, garments industry, and as domestic servants, and a growing number of women and children are involved in the workforce in the cities. Data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) show that, in general, the female labor force had reached 21.3% in 1996 compared to 6.1% in 1980. Again, among adolescent girls aged 10 to 14 years, the labor force increased to 22.4% in 1996 compared to 11.1% in 1989. Thus, low employment opportunity for women in the rural areas and growing demand for workforce in the informal sector in the urban areas push women to migrate from rural areas to urban areas. This trend of migration creates vulnerable conditions for women and children and provides opportunities to traffickers to exploit women and children.
3.2.10 Social vulnerability of women and female children
Khan and Arefeen have looked at women’s subordinate position in our society from a feminist- anthropological perspective. The authors observed that patriarchy with all its ideological manifestations plays a crucial role in creating a vulnerable situation for women in a changing socioeconomic setting. Patriarchy defines an asymmetrical role and relationship for men and women in the society, which has been termed as gender class by the feminists. In our society, men are considered economic providers and women their dependents whose role is related to biological reproduction. This creates specific gender roles with strong values and norms attached to each. On this again is built the ideology of sexuality whereby women’s sexuality has to be controlled by men. Again this notion of control and of protection of women leads to vulnerable exploitative situation for women in which the slightest sexual deviation or social dislocation makes them ‘polluted’ and object of social degradation.
The socialization process in the family determines the role of a girl child as a future mother and wife. The girls grow up with a mentality of dependency in a male-dominant environment where their contributions toward the family are unrecognized as they perform the role of unpaid family help. Participation of girl children in household chores, both in rural and urban setup, is seen as a process of preparing them for marriage by teaching them of becoming efficient ‘house wives’. The girls are exposed to the risks of being victimized even at the family. Sometimes the girls’ living places pose threats to their safety. Often in rural areas and urban slums, they have to live in fragile huts. In a community-based study on socioeconomic dimension of trafficking of girl children, one girl who was from rural areas of Rajshahi expressed,
“I sleep in a room with my mother along with my two sisters. The condition of our house is not at all good. The fences and the bamboo-made walls of room have almost broken down. Therefore, my mother always worries about our safety and keeps watch throughout the night. I can not sleep well out of fear and anxiety as well”.
In the urban slums, the risk of abuse of girl children within the family by the stepfather or the other family members is most fatal. For economic survival and social protection, the girls need to be submissive in such a family environment. They are exposed to constant threat of becoming sexually active not only because of the sexual aggression of men, but also by other provocative factors. For example, in urban slums, joint families comprising parents, daughters, sons, and daughters-in-law live in a tiny single room which is embarrassing for the adolescent girls, because there is no privacy. A girl of an urban slum expressed,
“As we are now old enough to understand, we feel very embarrassed to sleep in the same room where my parents and brother with his wife sleep. Feel disgraced and ashamed, but there is no way out. After my brother got married, he did not have the ability to find a separate room for himself. If I had the ability to rent a separate room, would have left this disgraced situation as early as possible”.
In rural communities, early marriage, dowry system, and polygamy are commonly- practiced phenomena. Young girls and women are often the victims of gender oppression due to their low status in society. To avoid social pressure and stigma regarding the delayed marriage of women, parents try to arrange a marriage for their daughters at an early age, even before the legal age of 18 years. Often these marriages are unregistered, because the parents are ignorant about the importance of registration of marriage. Thus, it is impossible to validate many marriages, and men are easily able to remarry. Dowry is also a common practice. Parents are often unable to marry off their daughters, because of their inability to pay a dowry. Sometimes the girls are married off to much older men to avoid the payment of dowry. This may lead to early widowhood, failure in conjugal life, or separation.
Divorce and desertion frequently on grounds of non-payment of dowry or post-marital demands for dowry are encouraged by the sanction of polygamy. According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, men are required to obtain permission from the Union Parisad Chairman on the basis of consent from the first wife for remarrying. Men generally ignore this requirement, and if women resist, they are frequently abandoned. It has been found that both polygamy and dowry have led to an increased incidence of domestic violence and desertion. Sometimes physical and mental illnesses and contagious diseases result in women and girls becoming outcasts.
In many instances, communities and families treat these single, widowed women as outcasts and as a social and economic burden. Hence, offers of marriage or employment prospects are tempting for them. Often frustration in love or failure in conjugal life pushes women toward the allure of a better life. A study of two unions in Rajshahi, conducted by the Association for Community Development, found that many young girl trafficked over land border were treated as a burden by their respective families, because they were unable to find paid work after they were deserted by their husbands.
3.2.11 Economic Vulnerability of Women and Children
In Bangladeshi society, women get the smallest share of resources. When resources are stretched thin, it is women; the most marginalized in the first place, who suffer first and most. The state policy intervention in the agricultural sector has resulted in strong polarization of classes. The new technologies introduced became the property of the rich. The poorest section of the population was marginalized. Men were forced to look for jobs outside agricultural labor, and women were left without any work at all. Consequently, women are being pushed to extreme marginal position. The general pauperization necessitated them to work for survival.
Thus, they entered the highly competitive labor market where they are forced to compete with the dominant male labor force. In the process, they are left with little choice but to take up extremely low paid, exploitative work as domestic servants, garment factory workers, prostitutes, etc. A study reported that sometimes the parents forcefully engaged their girl children in odd jobs due to extreme economic hardship in urban slum areas.
This study also found that the girls who earn in the slum are given ‘higher value’ as prospective brides, although they had little or no role in the process of deciding about their future.
3.2.12 Urbanization and Migration: The population growth rate of urban areas is three times higher (6-7%) than the national population growth of 2% per year. At present, about 20% (25 million) of the country’s total population of (129 million) live in the urban areas. The growth of urban slums and the homeless population are some of the gravest challenges that the country is now encountering. The environmental and socioeconomic conditions in the slum and squatter settlements are extremely poor and, in fact, very hazardous. These conditions are health hazards to the residents of these settlements and to those living outside. The densities are very high (up to 2,000 persons or more per acre or 5,000 persons per hectare). The per-capita living space is terribly low, even down to 10 square feet (or 1 sq. meter) in some settlements. Again, due to continuous in-migration of the illiterate rural poor and the increase in the number of the urban poor, the urban literacy rate has actually been declining and the total number of urban illiterates has also gone up from 1,389,000 in 1961 to 3,218,000 in 1974 and 5,429,000 in 1981.
People are continuously migrating from rural to urban areas for economic and social reasons. A study, conducted by the Research Evaluation Associates for Development among vulnerable and floating groups of people in four cities of Bangladesh, reported that social factors are as important as economic factors for their vulnerability. However, this study observed that acute financial crisis, limited or no access to resources, unemployment, and crisis due to natural calamities are important economic factors for vulnerability.
This study also identified that social factors, such as torture by husbands and other family members, torture (including rape in some cases) by miscreants and deception at the community level, deception regarding property by relatives, neighbors and influential men, deception by lovers and agents, remarriage of husband/wife, pressure of dowry, and infertility, including son preference, might have attributed in trafficking. When the rural poor migrate to cities, traffickers take chances and lure women and children for money and jobs.
3.2.13 wage employment or bonded labor: There is an increasing demand for child labor for the sex trade, domestic work, and other exploitative events, because child labor is cheap and easily controlled. Bangladeshi children are engaged in construction sites, carpet trade, and glass bangles industries in Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, and Karachi. In large cities, such as Karachi, it is not uncommon to find Bangladeshi women and children recruited as housemaids. Due to lack of identity papers, these women and children are often exploited and abused.
Camel racing is a profitable sport in some middle-eastern countries, particularly in Dubai. This requires lightweight jockeys, and has led to an increased trafficking of Bangladeshi boys, as young as five years old
3.2.14 Labor Migration and Prostitution: Very little information is available on labor migration of Bangladeshi women. Although women’s claim to work and to migrate transitionally is a legitimate human right, it is not officially recognized in Bangladesh. However, migrations of men and women have completely different dimensions because of differences in its implications and consequences. When men migrate and return to home country they are easily reintegrated. But, women are at risk of being stigmatized, particularly when they migrate alone. On the other hand, continued migration of men seeking employment in big cities within and outside the country leads to an increased demand for cheap and available sex. Often male migrant laborers desire sex workers who share a common linguistic and cultural background. This involves the migration of sex workers from the home country.
3.2.15 Cultural Myths: There are reports that one of the main causes of the increasing demand for young girls is the myth that intercourse with a virgin can cure a man of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and rejuvenate him. It is also a widely prevalent belief that sex with a female child does not expose a person to STDs and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
3.3 Modes of Trafficking and the Procurement Process: Trafficking in Bangladesh exists for the purposes of forced labor and forced prostitution. Although exact figures on the scope of the problem vary widely, the consensus is that the trafficking problem is growing rapidly. An estimated 90 percent of trafficked women were forced to engage in prostitution. Reportedly, 400,000 Bangladeshi women are engaged in forced prostitution in India, and 300,000 Bangladeshi boys have been trafficked to India. According to one report, every day 50 Bangladeshi girls are lured across the Indian border and sold. India shares 4,222 kilometers of its border with 28 districts of Bangladesh, and most of that border is open to traffic. Bangladeshi girls who are trafficked to India by organized networks usually end up in brothels in Kolkata or Mumbai. Many victims are raped by their traffickers or by Bangladeshi and Indian border patrol guards.
An estimated 40,000 female children are exploited in Pakistani brothels. From January 2000 to June 2003, an estimated 2,405 Bangladeshi children disappeared. Of those, 510 boys and 451 girls were confirmed to have been trafficked
Street children living in the capital are among the prime targets of organized child-trafficking rings. According to some surveys, Pakistan and oil-rich Arab states are the principal destinations of Bangladeshi children. Boys are mostly taken to the Persian Gulf (particularly the United Arab Emirates) to work as camel jockeys or farm workers, while the girls often end up working in brothels in India and Pakistan.
Traffickers adopt different strategies and tricks to allure and enroll young children and women (and their families) into the trafficking process. The procurement process of women for trafficking in the sex industry in Bangladesh involves their entrapment for selling them to brothels nationally or to neighboring countries, especially to India. In Bangladesh, the traffickers hunt for their clients at the river ports, especially the Sadar Ghat area of Dhaka, bus stations, and the railway stations across the country. At these locations, the traffickers look for migrants who come from the rural areas for jobs or for poor young people abandoned by their families and allure them with false promises of better life. The victims collected from these spots are usually sold to Bangladeshi brothels. Procurement of victims in villages and towns in the border areas of the country is more frequently associated purpose of supplying sex workers for the sex industry in India and the Middle East. The following case studies provide examples of strategies adopted by the traffickers involved in the national and international human trade in Bangladesh.
3.3.1 Employment Prospects: Traffickers look for girls from poorer and vulnerable families in villages and tempt them and their parents with offers of lucrative jobs and a comfortable life in neighboring countries, such as India and Pakistan. At times, the girls are so motivated by promises of the trafficker that they leave home without consulting their parents. A study from Nepal on the factors that influence victims of trafficking in deciding to migrate from their place of origin concluded that the majority of trafficked people were deceived by relatives and village men. Another review on trafficking of the Nepalese women and girls found that the women and girls who were victims of trafficking were deceived by someone they trusted. This study reported that pimps and brokers persuaded them with alluring assurances of happy and married life, a secure and better income job, the life of an actress and other false promises.
In addition to economic vulnerability of the family, the traffickers also look for families in which factors, such as domestic abuse and violence, are occurring. Two case studies quoted in Shamim, Kabir and Ali is illustrative of common situations:
Case Study 1. Employment prospect
Moonward Khatun (16), daughter of Islam Sarder, Mazeda (19), daughter of Alam, and Khatun (14), daughter of Ali, were taken from the village Mrigedanga, Sathkhira district. They were allured with promises of well-paid jobs, marriages, and a better life in India by a female trafficker, Jahanara. They never returned to their home village. Villagers believe that they were sold to brothels or to trafficking gangs in India.