Child Trafficking

Reefat Imam

Every member of our society is well aware of the vulnerable and unsecured situation of the children. Apart from natural obstacles, children are facing different types of problems, and trafficking is one of them. They are treated as commodities by the traffickers who trade them for money. The reach of such people is from the grass root to the international level. These traffickers or their agents pick up illiterate, distressed or needy children from various parts of the country particularly the villages. They also apply different techniques or strategies for trafficking, like offer of job, kidnapping, rape, marriage, deception etc. On most of the occasions the little boys are sold for re-creative sports of the Sheikhs as camel jockeys. There are some cases where children are used for begging. Although various laws and the constitution of Bangladesh are protecting the rights of children, yet the children are harassed. An organized group of traffickers are smuggling helpless children to various countries through various routes. They are taken to India, Pakistan and mainly Middle East. Alas! Their desire for better living is used as the pretext to smuggle them out of the country. Lured by false promises of well-paid job abroad, these children are ruthlessly exploited by their own countrymen. The number of children sold into sexual slavery has reached global proportions. Painful truth is that Bangladesh has become a very profitable sector for the traffickers.

Falling into the Hand of the Traffickers:

To start with I would like to, highlight the present condition of the children, who were once smuggled out of the country and then rescued by BNWLA (Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association) and are now being kept in the shelter home of the organization. While visiting the shelter home “Proshanti” a few days ago, I met a few of the trafficked victim. They are…

Radha Roy (`now 18 years) is from Khulna. At the age of 1 her mother died, she was having problems with her stepmother. So at the age of 8, with her step uncle she left home for her paternal uncles in Calcutta. Immediately after crossing the border she was sold to a middleman. Instantly she understood that something is wrong and she managed to escape somehow. She roamed in the streets starving, homeless and helpless until the police picked her up. After eight days in the police custody she was sent to the Lilua Home (a shelter home for the distressed in India). She stayed there for eight years till November 20, 1997. The Indian authority finally handed her over to advocate Salma Ali, Executive Director of BNWLA (Bangladesh National Women Lawyers association) at the Benapole border with two other girls. Since then she has been living at the organizations’ shelter home ‘Proshanti’.

Khadeja a 13-year-old girl from Faridpur was almost trafficked to India by a self-proclaimed (!) ‘Peer’ Murad who was her elder sister’s husband. Khadeja’s parents the devoted disciples of the ‘Peer’ were afraid to antagonize him and bring curse to the family. So when Murad told them that Khadeja was sick and needs to go to Ajmir they agreed without hesitation. One day they started for India and after crossing the border she was left in the hands of his people. Khedeja managed to escape with the help of a local man and came back to her village home afterwards. Murad came home after a few days and filed a case of kidnapping! After many ups & downs she is now in the safe hands of BNWLA, waiting for justice.

Noor and Kollol (5 and 6 respectively) were rescued from the same place. One left home for adventure the other left home after having a scolding from his mother. They both were in the grips of the same traffickers’ chain. They were promised jobs in tea-stalls. They were taken to Lalmonirhat and were kept in a room under lock and key. BDR after acting on secret information rescued both. Now they are living in ‘Proshanti’.

Masoom (4 years) has a different story. He is living in ‘Proshanti’ for the last one year. It was learned that he used to do the job of jockey in Middle East. One day he fell from the camel and broke his leg. Eventually he was admitted to a hospital, from there the police rescued him. Later Bangladeshi non-government organizations made arrangements to bring him home. As Masoom is too young a child and can’t speak clearly he is not going to make his way to his family.

Number of Incidents: January 1997 to June 1998

It is quite difficult to estimate the number of children who are trafficked annually within and beyond the borders of Bangladesh. The BNWLA made some estimates from January 1997 until June 1998 based on newspaper reports and their own survey. According to their investigation, the number of victims who were trafficked in 1997 was 832. Out of 832, the women and children were 615 and 217 respectively and out of 832, 563 were rescued in 1997. The number of arrested traffickers was 158. And from January 1998 to June1998, a total of 384 victims were trafficked. Out of these 384, minor boys and minor girls were 195 and 62 respectively and 127 were women aged over 16. In other words, out of these 384 victims, 50.8% were minor boys, 16.1% were minor girls and 33.1% were women aged over 16. (Source: October Special Bulletin, 1998, a BNWLA publication.)

Trafficking Routes:

Though it is observed that traffickers are using all the routes available along the border, the rate is comparatively high near the Southwest border. Most of the organized and large group trafficking is done through the borders of Sathkhira and Jessore. Borders with Chuadanga, Meherpur, Kushtia, and Jhinaidah are also being used for this purpose. According to the BNWLA investigations team in Nawabgonj and Rajshahi the most frequently used police station to cross the border illegally are: Nawabgonj Sadar, Shibgonj, Bholarhat, Godagari and Rajshahi Sadar. Rail link connecting a number of other districts throughout the North-West of Bangladesh (Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Nilphamary, Thakurgaon, Panchgor) converge at Parbotipur rail station in Dinajpur bringing trafficked people from the North. It is likely that children brought to Hili checkpoint and from there, they are trafficked to Calcutta, the largest flesh market in India. It is also observed that sometimes women, who are intended to be trafficked, are paired with men who go to the Middle East with job permits. If children are to be trafficked to the Middle East, at least two boys are included in the woman’s passport and the said man, woman and the two boys travel as a family.

Main Reasons Behind Trafficking:

After talking to the children at the shelter home and BNWLA, it was found that traffickers’ targets are families, which are poor, illiterate and have a number of children. In most of the cases, traffickers exploit people by promising overseas jobs with a handsome salary and consequently poor parents sell their children. ‘Besides sexual exploitation, various parts of their bodies are being used for medical purpose. According to a report published by the news agency AFP, suitcases filled with various parts of human bodies were found in Uttar Pradesh, India. These suitcases belonged to a doctor.’ (Source: Movement Against Flesh Trade: Beware of the Traffickers, Protect Women and Children, a BNWLA publication).

Eliminating Trafficking:

Few preventive measures:

Due to the absence of witnesses, traffickers are often set free. And also in some cases accused are fined with Tk.100 only (according to the Passport Act). The maximum punishment under this section is Tk.100 or seven days imprisonment, which is very nominal compared to the crime. In most of the cases, the affected people are poor, they cannot afford to go to the court and appoint a lawyer. Above all, 68% of our population are illiterate and hardly aware of their basic rights, while the literate portion of the population is also quite conscious. Because of the prevailing situation, children, parents, police, BDR and field workers should be made aware of trafficking. Some of the experts of the field have suggested the following recommendation on how to make citizens aware and conscious of the situation. ------

  • Make children aware of the dark side of trafficking,
  • Organize more discussions, seminars and symposiums on trafficking,
  • Proper coordination between the activists of different social groups,
  • Implement UN Convention on Rights of a Child (1989), Convention against Trafficking and Prostitution (1949),
  • To implement rural based income generating program, since, poverty is one of the main reasons behind trafficking,
  • Child marriage and polygamy must be stopped,
  • In order to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked children, international network system must be established,
  • Punishment for trafficking has to be severe,
  • And above all, the law enforcing agencies must be made more effective and accountable.


Trafficking of children has now become a global phenomenon. It is a modern form of slavery. To combat this crime a concrete plan of action has to be taken at the global level. Bangladesh government has recently taken few bold steps to eliminate trafficking of children. In 1995 an Act titled “Oppression to Women and Children (Special Provision) Act 1995” was enacted. But in spite of these measures in order to prevent this crime international help is necessary. The local as well as the international has to work in concert in this context.

The author is a student of MSS (Final Year), Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.