Human trafficking is a crime violating human rights as well as health and cross-border issue. No country is immune to human trafficking. Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders. It has also become the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Bangladesh is one of the source countries as well as transit points for human trafficking. Every year thousands of people are trafficked out.
The mode and the way of trafficking changes from time to time, place to place and environment to the environment but the basic components of trafficking stay persistent. So, the core of the definitions of trafficking should be the recognition that it is not incorporated. It is different from illegal forms of migration. All illegal form of migration is not trafficking, but any kind of trafficking is illegal.
Trafficking is a vigorous concept, the parameters of which are relentlessly changing to respond to changing economic, social, and political situations. Although the purposes for which women have trafficked change and ways in which women are trafficked from one country to others also change but the fundamental components remain perpetual. At the core of any definition of trafficking must be the recognition that trafficking is never consensual. It is the non-consensual nature of trafficking that distinguishes it from other forms of migration. The lack of informed consent must not be confused with the illegality of certain forms of migration. While all trafficking is or should be, illegal, all illegal migration is not trafficking.
Bangladesh is a significant trafficking hub that links South Asia to the Gulf region. The principal route what the traffickers follow starts from Dhaka to Mumbai of India, Karachi of Pakistan and then Dubai. Human traffickers use 20 transit points located in 16 districts to smuggle people from Bangladesh to India. Some other newly transit points have been discovered very recently to smuggle people from Bangladesh to southeast Asian countries using water routes.
Trafficking victims, according to NGOs in Bangladesh, are enticed into trafficking by false promises (the promise of better life/jobs, and marriage proposal or fake marriage), force (kidnapping), and outright trade (sale done by people known to the victims such as relatives). They are vulnerable to trafficking schemes due to poverty, gender-based discrimination on social protection, lack of information among the public about trafficking, weak enforcement of existing relevant laws and policies, and general lack of good governance.
Trafficking victims suffer from mental stress, bad social treatment after their rescue especially for women, and health problems (such as HIV/AIDS for those trafficked for prostitution purposes).
Generally, traffickers apply the following techniques in recruiting and transporting women and children from Bangladesh. Women and children are generally recruited from rural areas or small towns. In the transshipment process, they are handed over and taken over by numerous procurers, brokers, and intermediaries. In the recruitment process, traffickers enlist the help of local persons and villagers to identify vulnerable families. It has been observed that traffickers operate in an organized network having their agents make contacts with unsuspecting women and children around bus and train stations.
The main reasons behind the increased rate of human trafficking in Bangladesh are poverty, gender discrimination, social exclusion, lack of awareness, illiteracy, and poor governance system. All these components are directly or indirectly stimulating traffickers to get a noteworthy space to open up the illegal enterprise so rapidly. Bangladesh sends a significant number of labors outside every year. But most of the recruitments are done by agencies which lack proper accountability. This is another reason, the trafficking business in the country is boosting up.
The donors, both bilateral and multilateral, working in Bangladesh have also shown their concerns about the increasing problem of trafficking of women and children in this part of the world. Some of them have taken several programs and projects to combat the problem. Noteworthy among them are the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), International Labor Organization (ILO), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), NORAD, Asia foundation, and International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
In Bangladesh, many NGOs and women’s organizations, from the last decade, have initiated interventions to prevent and eliminate prostitution as well as provide rehabilitation and support services to sex-workers and their children. Such interventions include education, awareness development, research and documentation, action programs, advocacy and media participation for combating women and child trafficking.
The government has to be pressured to strictly enforce the existing laws and ensure punitive measures against the traffickers. Punishment of the traffickers should immediately take place and handed down within the shortest period using a summary trial. There is also a need to strengthen the anti-trafficking network in Bangladesh. And a shelter and rehabilitation program for the rescued women and children has to be created.
Trafficking has emerged as one of the worst and most pervasive forms of human rights violation of women and children. Trafficking is today a major social and political concern both globally as well as nationally. It has also become the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. The problem of trafficking has generated a lot of concerns and apprehensions among the international and national policymakers and governments and the civil society at large.
As Bangladesh is a poverty-stricken country, human trafficking is increasing at a terrifying rate. However, rigorous efforts are there on the part of the Government, the international agencies, the donor community and the NGOs to combat the problem. It has been observed that the problem has international and regional dimensions. As such, more concerted international and regional efforts should be mooted alongside national efforts to combat the menace of trafficking of women and children from one country to the other.