NEWS: Women, child trafficking in Bangladesh

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (
Wed, 6 May 1998 07:31:38 -0700 (PDT)

Forwarded by John Davies, Salamon Alapitvany---

Women, child trafficking in Bangladesh

.c Kyodo News Service

DHAKA, May 5 (Kyodo) - By: Zahiduzzaman Faruque The return from India last
month of 217 Bangladeshi women and children discovered to be victims of
human trafficking drew attention again to a regional problem which the
efforts of governments, women groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
and human rights activists have so far been unable to stop.

These rescued women and children, ferried back to Bangladesh at the
intervention of the Bangladeshi government and human rights organizations,
were among the luckier victims of a heinous trade that has claimed untold
numbers, and continues to do so.

There are no exact figures on how many women and children have been
trafficked from Bangladesh to other countries, but a report last month by
the Center for Women and Children's Study said more than 200,000
Bangladeshi women were trafficked from 1990 to 1997, with 6,000 children
trafficked, abducted or reported missing during that time.

International crime syndicates are believed to be behind this trade in
human misery, operating through paid agents in the countries concerned. In
some cases they effectively buy children from their poor parents for meager
sums by offering the hope of employing them in an affluent second country.

The most widely used technique to recruit women is also the hope of a
better job abroad, or sometimes the promise of marriage. Traders even
charge their unwitting victims money to make their promised deals seem more

It is known, too, that women are also sometimes paid by the traffickers to
accompany children on their fateful cross-border journeys -- revealing that
economic reasons lie at the heart of the whole issue.

Analysts say that unless immediate measures are taken to address these
economic reasons which make most victims easy prey for traffickers, there
will be little hope of ending this appalling trade.

But since the improvement of socioeconomic conditions in a resource-poor
country like Bangladesh cannot be achieved overnight, steps toward checking
this trade have tended to be temporary and gradual.

Several reports over the years have revealed that the traffickers use 20
main points in 16 western districts of Bangladesh near the Indian border to
run their trade. The main trafficking route is Dhaka-Mumbai (formerly
Bombay)-Karachi-Dubai, and many of the victims end up in Middle East

Children are often used for sadistic practices such as camel jockeys in
desert races, as well as in sex shops. They are also used for begging or as
raw material for international human organ traders who deal in kidneys,
eyes, or other body organs.

Many of the women end up in brothels in Pakistan and India or as sex slaves
of affluent people of Middle East nations.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed stressed the urgency of
clamping down on the trafficking of women and children at the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Male of the Maldives
in 1997 and had the issue included in the Male Declaration in an effort to
fight the menace through concerted regional efforts. Women's groups are
also attempting to counter the trade under the banner of the South Asian
Alliance Against Trafficking.

The Bangladeshi government has so far acted quickly in cases of tracing or
arranging the repatriation of victims once they are tracked in other
countries. It has previously enacted the Suppression of Immoral Trafficking
Act of 1993 and other stringent laws against women and child repression,
and the cabinet recently approved a move to enact a new law retaining the
death penalty for such trafficking.

The government is now working on a five-year action plan in cooperation
with UNICEF, or the United Nations Children's Fund, and various NGOs to
make people more aware, especially parents, of the dire perils of human

AP-NY-05-05-98 0445EDT

Copyright 1998 The Kyodo News Service.

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