Date: Tue, 12 Aug 97 12:13:51 CDT
From: rich%pencil@VMA.CC.ND.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Bangladeshi Girls Lured To India Are Abused
/** headlines: 140.0 **/
** Topic: Bangladeshi Girls Lured To India Are Abused **
** Written 4:18 PM Aug 11, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 12:47 AM Aug 3, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.women */
/* ---------- "BGD: Bangladesh women flee from pov" ---------- */
Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
## author : email@example.com
## date : 22.07.9
[This article has been excerpted.]
On a recent morning in the Bangladeshi village of Tappu, a crowd of women listened intently as a visitor whispered of a brighter future for their daughters in India.
"I am happy and can make you happy, too, if you follow my lead and place your confidence in me,'' the visitor, Lalmohan Begum, told them. "It's much better there (in India) than your life in a virtual hell in Bangladesh, added Begum, who had returned to visit her parents in this village in the Shibganj district along the northwestern border with India.
The women appeared hesitant. ...here in one of the world's poorest nations the idea of sending daughters across the border for marriage or jobs in economically vibrant India caught their interest.
It shouldn't, says women's rights activist Salima Sarwar, who charges...young girls are being tricked, trapped, and sold into prostitution or "virtual slavery in the form of bonded labor.'' Salima heads the Association for Community Development, a small non-governmental organization that seeks to stop Bangladeshi girls being lured into what she calls a booming cross-border flesh trade.
"The situation is so bad in some areas...it wouldn't be an exaggeration if I say...women and cows are smuggled together,'' she told Reuters. "...the price of an Indian bull is often higher than a Bangladeshi girl.''
Salima said the association had worked primarily to make potential victims and their families aware of the dangers lurking across the border and planned to launch a rehabilitation program for abused girls returned from India. She said Indian men often lured Bangladeshi girls into unregistered marriages with promises of good, easy lives.
"...those who returned said they were sexually abused, physically tortured and made to work for the survival of the entire family of their so-called husbands,'' Salima said.
She said an influx of women into India was triggered by deplorable social conditions in Bangladesh marked by "extreme poverty, child marriage, polygamy, divorce, the use of torture to obtain dowries, abuse at home, lack of social justice and the virtual absence of implementation of laws in Bangladesh.''
Zarina Khatun, 20, of Tappu was married to an Indian man six years ago but fled back to Bangladesh two years later. She was married again to a local boy but was divorced only a few months after living together.
"The second groom beat up my child and kicked her out because I could not pay 10,000 taka ($230) he was asking as dowry,'' her father, Zohar Ali, said. "I am unable to find another husband for her. She is still very young and maybe will go to India again,'' said Ali, who is landless and poor.
Begum denies profiting in any way from the trade in young brides and insists a better life awaits across the frontier. "I am here to visit my parents and friends with my (Indian) husband and I come frequently,'' she told girls from Tappu and neighboring villages. "If life is hell in India, (then) how would that be possible?''
Begum's husband, Mohammad Naoshad, said his wife had a good job in a factory that made bangles, earning enough money for the couple and their child. ...Begum admitted many Bangladeshi girls had been lost in the Indian sex trade.
"Don't ask me about them, they have gone into the darkness,'' she said, carefully avoiding the words prostitution and brothel.
"She (Begum) is a dangerous element. She comes here only to lay baits and take out more girls,'' said Jamaluddin Tiya, the village headman in Tappu. He said most of the smuggled girls ended up in India's Uttar Pradesh state where they worked in factories and brothels and few ever returned home.
Agents of Indian sex traders often procure Bangladeshi girls for $185 or less, Tappu villagers said. They pay part of the money to the girls' parents and part to local "dalals'' (agents). Taking these wives across the border from Shibganj into India's West Bengal state was usually little trouble, the villagers added.
"The agents have regular arrangements with border guards on either side...and they just walk over the no-man's land,'' one local official said.
"Village headmen, dishonest local officials, police and even the imams (Muslim preachers) are often involved in the trafficking,'' a Bangladeshi border police officer said.
In Shibganj, there is no rehabilitation program for sexually abused women. "Big NGOs (non-governmental organizations) do not pay any attention to us and give us no help. The government is a silent spectator,'' said Selina Banu, 55, mother of six daughters.
"I would rather kill my daughters by giving them poison to drink than send them to India to become prostitutes,'' she added. "What they call marriage is nothing but rape by so-called husbands, who usually act as a pimp, and forced sex by his clients.''
Bangladeshi police do not have reliable statistics on smuggled women and children.
"We have borders (with India) on three sides our country. It is not possible to keep regular track on who's going out and who's coming in,'' one police officer said. "Unless we can remove social and economic curses (facing Bangladesh's poor), the cross-broder flesh trade cannot be checked.''