10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Bangladesh  
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that faces many hardships due to poverty. Many residents are struggling to survive, and in turn, crime follows. A crime like human trafficking is detrimental to Bangladesh and the millions of victims it affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh to broaden the scope of what effects poverty has on human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is a hub for trafficking. The geography of Bangladesh plays a major role in its human trafficking issues. It is located near the Gulf region that links to South Asia. Traffickers transport people on boats to one of the 20 specific drop-off zones in any of the 16 districts in the area. Traffickers could also transport victims to many other South-East Asian countries. There were around 25,000 trafficking victims from January to April 2015 and the drop-off zones were in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf and Ukhia. Bangladesh’s Coast Guard also reported the rescue of 116 people between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Bay of Bengal in June 2015. Using boats as the main vessels of transportation started in 2003 and caused an increase in human trafficking.
  2. Limited available jobs can lead to vulnerability. Bangladesh is not only a hub because of its geography, but also its limited jobs and resources. Someone can easily become deceived into becoming a human trafficking victim because they would like to obtain a job. The unemployment rate is 4.30 percent with an average salary of $60 a month. There are 27 million in Bangladesh facing extreme poverty and 31 percent living in chronic poverty in less developed areas. Within these circumstances, people in poverty to this degree are willing to take any job opportunities they can find. Human traffickers use this to their advantage and lure unknowing people into job scams; the traffickers promise a good career in another country, but in reality, they will use desperate people for any number of torture, prostitution and labor schemes. Giving way to more economic growth would reduce the number of people who fall victim to human trafficking substantially.
  3. Women are especially prone to human trafficking. Among the 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh is that women make up the most trafficking victims and they have little protection. Reports determined that Pakistan was a transit location for two million women and that Cox’s Bazar had trafficked 3,500 young girls in a matter of 10 years. Women are susceptible to forced prostitution and face abuse, rape and possibly murder. Traffickers traffick 400 women a month in Bangladesh. This trafficking has become a larger-scale operation and around 200,000 women, some as young as 9, have gone to different countries unwillingly.
  4. Sex trafficking is a rising form of human trafficking. There are different forms of trafficking and sex trafficking is one of the most profitable. This kind of trafficking makes up for half of all trafficking profit and only accounts for 5 percent of victims. The victims often suffer in this industry for years and it becomes a lifestyle. Since prostitution became legal in 2000, workers receive little protection. An estimated total of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes, but less than 10 percent are working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh, but the country rarely criminalizes it. Out of 6,000 people that authorities arrest for sex trafficking-related crimes, only 25 people received a conviction.
  5. The BNWLA advocates for progress in women’s safety. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) is an organization that emerged to protect women. The BNWLA formed in 1979 focusing specifically on the legality of human trafficking. It advocates for new laws, fights for prevention and protection, and supports local woman lawyers to make a change. The BNWLA successfully advocated for a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act) that eventually passed in 2010. This act was a huge feat and protected women and children against four kinds of abuse.
  6. Organized crime and gang violence tactics are ever-changing. When there is a large population of people living in a country where there is extreme poverty, organized crime is highly likely to occur. Gang leaders (better known as mastaans) are always looking for new ways to get some fast money. Manipulation of children to aid gangs in human trafficking is a tactic that is especially heartless but has shown to be successful. Organized crime involving children is becoming alarmingly popular; estimates determine that there are 1.7 million children with crime exposure crime and that number is rising. Mastaans take advantage of how vulnerable children are in poverty and use them merely as another means of profit. Legislation has made some progress to reduce the risk of children’s exposure to the life of organized crime or human trafficking with the New Children’s Act, but there is little consistency with enforcement.
  7. Lack of education is another factor in human trafficking. Education in Bangladesh lacks a proper structure for children 14-18. The dropout rate for that age group was 65 percent and over half of household heads do not have any education. Seventeen percent of these household heads were on the low end of literacy. Since it is not a requirement for children to attend school, they have to find ways to keep occupied. They do not have anyone closely watching them like children in school and it makes them vulnerable to human trafficking.
  8. Consequences and laws against trafficking are at a minimum. Bangladesh has made progress in its strides towards ending global poverty with the emergence of The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. While any progress is good, there are many gaps in the enforcement of legislation. In 2017, there were 778 reports of human trafficking with a single conviction. Numbers like these are astounding and show a huge lack of governmental support in ending human trafficking. Protection services in Bangladesh receive limited support as well; services for victims of human trafficking have proven to not thoroughly address the needs of the victim, nor do they include adult men at all. Major governmental reform is necessary to stop human trafficking.
  9. Local organizations are pushing for better treatment. The Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a woman-focused, local nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that aids survivors of human trafficking to start new lives. The goal for TMSS is to create businesses and jobs and give any extra support to those struggling to live in Bangladesh. TMSS has many departments within the organization including finance, events/training, market research and development.  Little access to health care is a huge issue that TMSS addresses with a growing number of immunizations, pre and post-natal care and overall education. From 2004-2009, tetanus immunizations in women aged 15-49 grew from just 335 to 1,231 women. The health education from 2004-2009 grew from 13,248 to 55,440. TMSS has been a huge benefit to Bangladesh by providing these potentially life-saving immunizations and education.
  10. The United Nations Global Initiative. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reaching out to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to fight trafficking on a legal and financial level. Mr. Syed Muazzem Ali, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, works with the UNODC regional office for South Asia. Mr. Ali notes that there have been tremendous amounts of progress in Bangladesh including improvements in life expectancy, total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Human trafficking became a topic of interest for the UNODC in March 2007 with The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Within this initiative, the UNODC listed Bangladesh as a country especially in need of change against human trafficking. Through this initiate, countries like Bangladesh had to hold more accountability for human trafficking and acquire education on factors that aid trafficking.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh determine that it and the many forms it takes is a serious issue that puts the lives of men, women and children in grave danger. The life of extreme poverty in Bangladesh increases both the risk becoming a victim of human trafficking and becoming involved in organized crime. Weak consequences for trafficking clearly leads to little change, and governmental actions must happen to make these changes. Optimistically, organizations locally and internationally (like TMSS and UNODC) are putting their best effort forward to give the people of Bangladesh access to health care, education and funding to end human trafficking.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr