From Wed May 24 18:45:08 2000
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 18:46:03 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <>
Subject: RIGHTS-BANGLADESH: Missing Children Feared Victims of Flesh Trade
Article: 93531
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Missing Children Feared Victims of Flesh Trade

By Tabibul Islam, InterPress Service, 10 April 2000

DHAKA, Apr 10 (IPS)—The sudden disappearance of 150 children aged between 10 and 15 years from Kurigram distict, bordering India, last month, has led to fears that they have been kidnapped for induction into the international flesh trade.

Although two weeks have passed since the children went missing from in and around Kurigram town—330 kms west of here—law enforcement agencies have yet no clue as to their fate.

But many believe there is a good chance that these unfortunate children, for whom their parents grieve, have been smuggled en masse to India, Pakistan and the oil-rich Gulf sheikhdoms to be harnessed into the flesh trade and menial employment.

Never before in Bangladesh have so many children gone missing at the same time and from the same place. On the other hand trafficking in women and children has, of late, assumed alarming proportions in Bangladesh.

With more than 46 percent of the country's 127 million people living below the poverty line traffickers are taking advantage of the dehumanising poverty to lure away hundreds of women and children with false promises of jobs and a secure life abroad.

Traffickers based in India and Pakistan are known to have established strong networks in the poorer South Asian countries of Bangladesh and Nepal and use them to easily smuggle them out easily through the porous borders.

Bangladesh and India have a 4,222 km long common border stretching over 28 districts of Bangladesh's 64 districts.

The human contraband is assembled in Calcutta, capital of the Indian state of West Bengal from where they are sold to middlemen who supply the brothels of India and Pakistan.

Many of the girls are transferred to the Gulf countries by Pakistani agents. About 80 percent of the boys, girls and women trafficked to different countries remain untraced, says a report by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA).

It is estimated that on average 7,000 women and children are trafficked every year. More than 70,000 women have been smuggled out of Bangladesh since 1990, the report added.

The report, conducted with assistance from US Agency for International Development (USAID), focused on 250 frontier villages under six sub-districts between Oct. 1998 and Oct. 1999. It mentioned that victims were poor and illiterate.

Divorced women and children from broken families are particularly vulnerable according to the report.

Upto 27 percent of the female victims were in the 13-16 age group while another 55 percent were aged between 17 and 24. BNWLA managed to repatriate 116 women and children from different countries in 1999.

Addressing a regional seminar, Tahmina Hussain, secretary, ministry of women and children affairs, said tafficking in women and children was directly linked to many social factors including unemployment,improper functioning of social organisations, discrimination and poverty.

Since it was not possible for the government alone to combat the problem there should be closer collaboration among national and regional organisations in addressing the scourge, she said.

June Kukita, of the UNICEF said trafficking has become a global problem. The U N agency has been providing funds to a number of organisations to create awareness against human tafficking, she said.

Bangladesh, being surrounded on all sides by India, must have good governance in the border areas which is critical to controlling cross-border trafficking, says Giasuddin Pathan, chief of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) affairs bureau.

Flesh trade, organ harvesting, and domestic work are the main fields where the trafficked women and children are being put to expolitative use, he said.

It is alleged that instead of curbing smuggling of women and children some members of the law enforcing agencies themselves extend a helping hand to the traffickers in exchange for a share of the booty.

BNWLA chief Salma Ali emphasises awareness programmes but minces no word in expressing her dismay over the role of the law enforcing agencies and has openly accsed them of doing nothing to curb human tafficking.

BNWLA has put forward a set of 16 recommendations to the government to end the racket chief among them being the provision

of food for education for vulnerable children and food for work for vulnerable women.

The constitution of vigilant teams at the grassroot levels comprising local government representatives, community leaders, teachers and parents is another important recommendation.

Two months ago Bangladesh enacted tough laws against human trafficking making the offence punishable by death or a maximum of 20 years imprisonment—but implementation would depend on good governance and community participation.