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Trafficking: A social curse

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Gazi Shariful Hasan :
A thirteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl was taken away from her family in Jamalpur and tricked into going to neighbor country. Once there, she was sold to a dance bar owner. She was forced by that owner for doing works which she never did here in Bangladesh. First time she denied doing that nasty work but then she was tortured for days until she finally agreed to do this. Many girls like her acquire an illness that deteriorates their body for doing such type of work. Some turn into sex workers and die from serious diseases. This story shows a typical example of a trafficking situation that happens to some women and children of Bangladesh.
According to US Department of State Bangladesh is primarily a source for men, women and children subjected to force labor and sex trafficking. Some Bangladeshi men and women who migrate willingly to work in the Middle East, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labor. The United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, adopted in November 2000, defines trafficking as: "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, or deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs". Today, women and children are the main targets of trafficking. Hundreds of thousands of women and children are now commodities traded on local and international market. They are marketed, transported and sold by traffickers. Women and children are often trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, mostly for the growing sex industry in cities and urban areas around the world. Human trafficking is essentially a new term for slave trading. People who are socially and economically vulnerable are easy victim of trafficking. Poverty is the major cause behind woman and child trafficking from rural areas. Other important factors behind trafficking are illiteracy, landlessness and over-population and low levels of income. Lack of employment and opportunities make people vulnerable.
Bangladeshi children and adults are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced and bonded labor, including forced begging. Lack of awareness and respect for human rights of women and children make them vulnerable to exploitation. The unequal balance of power between men and women paves the way for trafficking leaving women and girls powerless. As a result, women and girls get less education and less access to resources. Consequently the overwhelming majority of the victims of trafficking are women and girls. It is also found that existing social structure, economic system, cultural condition and geographical setting of Bangladesh affect trafficking of women and children.
Bangla equivalent of the word 'trafficking' is 'pachar'. In Bangla the phrase 'nari o shishu pachar' means illegal transfer of women and children from one place to another. 20 main points in 16 western districts of Bangladesh near the Indian border are used by the traffickers. The main trafficking route is Dhaka-Mumbai-Karachi-Dubai. Bangladesh is a source and transit country for men, women, and children. Both internal and cross-border trafficking exists in Bangladesh. In the case of internal trafficking, women and children are often taken away from their homes on false promises of a better life with good employment and traffickers sell them to brothels. Women and children from Bangladesh are also trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Estimates on the number of trafficked women and children are difficult to make. However, various studies reveal that over 1 million women and children have been trafficked out of the country in the last 30 years. Human trafficking is an international problem. In Bangladesh, a UNICEF report says, 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.
There are two basic methods that traffickers use: one is by kidnapping women and children and the second one is by luring the women with false promises of jobs and marriage options. Both government and NGOs have been working in combating trafficking in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has ratified many international laws and conventions like Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women with Reservations of Article 2, 13(a), 16.1, and 16.1 (9c) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Human trafficking is a 'social evil'. This is also 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. The trafficking in women and children is not only a national issue but also a global issue. It is growing at an alarming rate throughout the world. In order to prevent this crime, government has to strictly enforce the existing laws and ensure proper punishment against the traffickers.
We have to establish a system of multisectoral task forces at the national, district and upazila levels to conduct motivational programmes on trafficking issue. Law-enforcing agencies should mobilize the community through local government bodies, educational institutions, and religious institutions to aware people. It has also played an effective role to prevent trafficking all over the country. Rescue is a thorny issue. It has its limitations though the police rescue many women and children. These rescued women and children sometimes are sent to state-run remand homes or to an NGO shelter. Most are unable to go back to their home because of various social problems. There is also a need to strengthen the anti-trafficking network in Bangladesh. A rehabilitation program for the rescued women and children should also be created by the government. Only fear of punishment can't stop the traffickers to stop their crime. It needs a strong social movement and awareness building to stop this crime. Media can play a vital role on this emerging issue.
The Government of Bangladesh made clear anti-trafficking law enforcement progress over the reporting period by passing a comprehensive counter-trafficking law and increasing the number of investigations and prosecutions, although the number of convictions declined compared to the previous year. UNICEF Bangladesh is working to create 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.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. No country is immune from human trafficking. Regional cooperation is essential to coordinate action plan against trafficking. Sharing Information among the countries which are affected most by this problem is also very important to stop and combat women and children trafficking. Ministries of Women and Child Affairs, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Social Welfare should work together to combat trafficking of women and children though Government is aware of trafficking problem. Government should take some additional measures to prevent this curse. Government can strengthen the border posts. Implementation of the existing laws by law-enforcers is very much needed to punish the traffickers. The law enforcing authorities and the judiciary need to be much more sensitized about the issues.
(PID-UNICEF Feature)

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