Re: News/S. Asia: Girl-Trafficking Grows in S. Asia

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Subject: Re: News/S. Asia: Girl-Trafficking Grows in S. Asia
sschmidt@lirs.org
Date: Thu Dec 02 1999 - 17:41:52 EST


Do you know the name of the "United Nations-sponsored report" about the
trafficking of S. Asian girls, referred to in this article?

                                                                                                   
                    Melanie Orhant
                    <morhant@igc.org> To: Multiple recipients of list
                    Sent by: <stop-traffic@solar.cini.utk.edu>
                    stop-traffic@solar.ci cc:
                    ni.utk.edu Subject: News/S. Asia: Girl-Trafficking Grows
                                                 in S. Asia
                                                                                                   
                    12/01/99 08:33 PM
                    Please respond to
                    stop-traffic
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   

Girl-Trafficking Grows in S. Asia
By Parveen Ahmed
November 27, 1999

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - Chasing a dream of a better life, Ibrahim Mia and
his five daughters set out from their squalid village in Bangladesh to take
up promised jobs in Pakistan.

A year later he was back - without his daughters.

Unscrupulous employment agents, promising lucrative jobs, smuggled the Mia
family across the border into India. After traveling hundreds of miles
toward the border with Pakistan, the agents handed the father to Indian
authorities and disappeared with the girls, ages 9 through 16.

The case is one of dozens cited in a United Nations-sponsored report about
the growing traffic in girls and young women in South Asia.

Tens of thousands of them are believe to end up in brothels or as cheap
labor in homes and sweatshops in towns and cities in India, Pakistan, Dubai
or Kuwait, women's activists say.

``It is impossible to count how many people are trafficked across the
border each year,'' said Salma Ali, who heads an organization of lawyers
campaigning against human trafficking.

``There is a great demand for underage girls in brothels in India and
Pakistan as they are believed to be free from sexually transmitted diseases
and AIDS,'' said Ali, of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association.

The Association, from January to March this year, rescued and repatriated
64 women and children from brothels and detention centers for illegal
immigrants in India and Pakistan.

The study says recruitment agents prowl Bangladesh villages, where
employment opportunities are few and poverty runs deep, offering
respectable factory jobs and good marriage prospects in the Arab countries
of the gulf.

The agents provide phony travel papers and bribe border guards. Some girls
are abducted or bought from their parents or guardians.

Studies are only beginning to hone in on the extent of the traffic. The
report, conducted by Ali's group and sponsored by the U.N. Children's Fund,
examined 10 border villages believed to be main transit points.

The researchers found at least 50 people, including 42 women or girls, were
taken across the border between September 1998 and June 1999. Most of the
women were either divorced or widowed, and the girls were between the ages
of 13 and 16, the report said.

According to the Lawyers Association, at least 25,000 people illegally
cross the border each year.

Bangladesh and India share a 2,500 mile border, which officials say is
inadequately manned and not clearly demarcated in places. India is the
gateway to Pakistan and the Middle East for many aspiring migrants from
Bangladesh.

Thousands of people cross the border every day to visit families, to get
medical treatment or education, or as tourists and shoppers. It is nearly
impossible to identify those being taken unlawfully.

People traveling by boat up along rivers that traverse the border or the
coast of the Bay of Bengal often are not checked for visas.

Government officials admit illegal travelers are often difficult to detect.

``We cannot prevent people from crossing borders as it would be a violation
of human rights,'' a Home Ministry official said.

He said Dhaka had no plans to introduce exit visas for women and children
or a requirement that they be accompanied by a male relative, as some other
Muslim countries do.

Under Bangladeshi law, the maximum punishment is death for trafficking in
women and children. But few cases are ever brought to trial since most
victims cannot identify the traffickers, who usually give false names and
addresses.

``Sometimes we face hurdles while repatriating the victims as neither
country wants to take the responsibility,'' Ali said. ``Often it is hard to
prove nationality or residence status in absence of original documents or
birth certificates.''

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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