May 22, 2013 | 03:12 AM (BD Time)
22 May, 2013 Wednesday
Eliminating cross-border human trafficking
The Cabinet on December 12, 2011 approved a new draft law to combat human trafficking with capital punishment topping the punitive measures. The government did what most people wanted it to do. Now the question remains whether it will at all help curb the human trafficking, which is considered the world's third largest organized crime after narcotics and arms trafficking.
The endorsement came at a regular meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. "The cabinet has approved a draft law to prevent and curb human trafficking with the highest punishment, including death sentences and Tk 0.5million fine. The proposed bill will be tabled in parliament and it'll become a law on approval," said the PM's Press Secretary after the approval.
Salma Ali, Executive Director, Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) and a human rights activist, hopes that the law will be comprehensive and it will help curb this heinous crime.
However, an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs, says, "Bangladesh has enough laws to check crimes but implementation of these laws is not a priority of the government."
The official who spoke on condition of anonymity went on: "The laws dealing with human trafficking are not acting as a deterrent for those involved in the business. They know that prosecution will take years."
He said the main focus should be to prevent trafficking. "We have to reach the root cause of human smuggling and we should see that development programmes taken for the poor reach them."
According to him, anti-human-trafficking policies and laws are some of the most difficult measures to enforce as this illicit business is deeply rooted in society where corruption is all pervasive.
Human smuggling is considered a crime against humanity. "It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them." Thousands of men, women and children fall prey to traffickers every year. Each country is affected by trafficking as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. UNODC, as custodian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocols thereto, helps states enforce their laws in this regard.
So far, Bangladesh does not have a single comprehensive law to fight out human trafficking. The major anti-trafficking laws that provide penalties for the commission of acts, processes and the end-product of human trafficking are the Penal Code of 1860, the Suppression of Immoral Trafficking Act of 1933, the Children Act of 1974 and the Prevention of Repression against Women and Children Act of 2000 (as amended in 2003).
The Constitution of Bangladesh prohibits forced and compulsory labour (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.
However, the low number of court cases and convictions regarding trafficking in Bangladesh demonstrates the weak implementation of existing laws. During the last five years only 53 cases of trafficking have been brought before the court, out of which 35 were dismissed by the court for lack of adequate evidence. Only 21 accused have been convicted with the highest punishment of 10 years of rigorous (hard labour) imprisonment.
Numerous surveys over the decades show that human smugglers use 20 main points in 16 south and south-western districts of the country near the Indian border to carry on their illicit trade. The main trafficking route is the Dhaka-Mumbai-Karachi-Dubai route. People on both sides of the Bangladesh and Indian border are involved in this trafficking chain.
Girls under 18 years of age are trafficked from Bangladesh villages and are sold in various countries at high prices. According to NGOs, women and children are also largely trafficked:
To work in dirty, difficult and dangerous (3Ds) jobs as bonded or forced labour
To work in sex industry
To get their body parts, such as kidneys and other internal organs
To become 'camel race jockeys' in the Arab Gulf countries that expose them to serious physical injury (even death), misery and loneliness.
It is difficult to exactly say how many women and children are trafficked out annually as it is basically a hidden crime. Quoting a survey of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), Prof Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University at a seminar in Dhaka on June 1, 2010 said some 25,000 women and children are trafficked to other countries from Bangladesh every year.
Rights groups working in the country put the figures of trafficking in Bangladesh like this:
200-400 young women and children are smuggled and trafficked every month from Bangladesh to Pakistan and Arab Gulf countries;
An estimated 10,000-15,000 women and children are trafficked from Bangladesh to India annually;
An average of at least 70-80 women and children are trafficked daily from Bangladesh to other countries;
An estimated 200,000 women have already been trafficked in different countries, including girls as young as 9 years old.
Lack of awareness
Lack of information among the public about trafficking
Weak enforcement of the existing relevant laws and policies and
General lack of good governance
According to NGOs, women and children are lured into trafficking by false promises of a better life, jobs, and marriage proposal or fake marriage, kidnapping, and sale done by people known to the victims such as relatives.
Trafficking victims usually 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.
Putting an end to human trafficking in Bangladesh is an uphill task. But experts say there are some measures that the government can take to prevent it. Increasing public awareness about the issue is among them. And the NGOs could be used in carrying out campaign, providing training and staging street drama. The media also have an important role in this regard. They can allocate more time and space to campaign against the heinous crime.
It is also necessary to create a pressure on the government to strictly enforce the existing laws and ensure strict legal steps against the traffickers apart from creating anti-trafficking networks and taking a rehabilitation programme for those who are being rescued, particularly women and children.
Most importantly, society in general and parents in particular need to be motivated to accept the trafficking victims back into their families with wholeheartedly.
"Any effective and sustainable effort to combat human trafficking must be integrated, transnational and collaborative", says Professor Md. Zakir Hossain, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Chittagong.
On August 19, 2011, Martin Reeve, a regional advisor to the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) agrees a comprehensive approach is needed to curb human trafficking beyond law enforcement and include other sectors of the community, including business.
"Certainly law enforcement can't do it on its own, neither can government policy, neither can civil society," said Reeve.&nb
Art and Culture
Focus on Chittagong
Fashion & Beauty
Food and Drink
Law and Justice
New Nation Supplement
Editor: Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Adviser Editor: A.M. Mufazzal, Printed and Published by Mainul Hosein from the New Nation Printing Press, 1.R.K Mission Road, Dhaka-1203 Phones: New Nation PABX: 7122654, 7114514, 7122655, Fax: 880-2-7122650, 9512775 email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com for advertisement, firstname.lastname@example.org