Friday, September 6, 2002

Associated Press

Child trafficking creates panic

BANGLADESH — Incidents of kidnapping and trafficking of women and children are rising at an alarming rate in the border areas of the country. People are living in utter panic as the security of life and property is virtually non-existent there.

A study conducted by the Center for Women and Children Studies (CWCS) revealed that only one per cent of trafficked children and 55 per cent of kidnapped children were rescued from January 2000 to June 2002.

"Out of 1,556 missing children only 21 and out of 668 kidnapped children 370 were rescued within Bangladesh during the period," according to statistics released by the CWCS.

It also revealed that about 1,556 children were missing, of whom 759 were boys and 797 girls. A total of 668 were kidnapped, of whom 479 were girls. Among 327 trafficked children, 193 were girls and 134 boys.

Of the missing children, 393 were from the rural areas and 1030 from urban areas. Thus the number of missing children from urban areas was substantially higher than that of children from rural areas. While there was no information about 133 children in respect of the place of occurrence.

Out of 668 kidnapped children, 406 were from rural areas while 169 children from urban areas. The information of 93 kidnapped children regarding their places of occurrence was not found.

Of 327 trafficked children, 115 were from rural areas and 58 from urban areas. No information of 154 trafficked cases was found.

However, in the case of trafficked children, majority of the boys were below 10 years of age. They were trafficked mainly for use as camel jockeys and bonded laborers while most of the girls were in the age group of 11-16.

A NGO network named Traffic Watch Bangladesh Northern Region (TWB-NR) was launched last year comprising 25 grassroots level organizations.

Women and Children Affairs Minister Khurshid Zahan Haque told The Independent, government departments, professional groups, media and NGOs should be committed to combat trafficking in women and children in their respective areas.

The Ministry has undertaken a pilot project named "Child Development: Coordinated Program to Combat Child Trafficking". This project will be implemented in 25 Upazila of 14 bordering districts of Bangladesh, she said adding that the aim of the project is to reduce trafficking in children.

A special anti-child trafficking cell has also been established in the Women and Children Affairs Ministry. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have two separate cells to identify, arrest and rescue the trafficked women and children, sources said.

The Minister said, "Women and children could be saved if awareness among the vulnerable women and children about the problem was created."

Shahidul Haque, Regional Representative of International Organization for Migration (IOM) said despite recent slow down in global economy, trafficking in women and children continued to grow worldwide as a most lucrative business treating them as commodities in a multi-billion dollar global industry dominated by highly organized criminal groups.

According to IOM estimate, between 700,000 and 2 million women and children are trafficked globally every year for exploitative purposes. It makes an annual business of about 10 to 12 billion USD.

But the most alarming is that criminal syndicates are now turning from smuggling drugs and weapons to smuggling people as the latter is less risky, he added.

He further said the problem could not be effectively tackled unless the community leaders and the local level institutions engage themselves in a comprehensive and integrated approach.

It was informed that during the last eleven months, nine trafficking incidents took place in the northern region of the country. The victims are Hamida Begum, Sakhina, Jharna Begum, Nasima Begum, Golapi, Bashanti Rani, Rameeja Khatun, Mithun Kundu and Shahara Khatun.

Local sources said with the lure of gainful employment these poor women were trafficked to India, from where they were sold to various brothels in the sub-continent. Dr Khaleda Salahuddin, Adviser of CWCS hoped that the representatives from the grassroots level would face the menace of trafficking in women and children through their sincere efforts.

Harun Ar Rashid Lal, Executive Director of Solidarity said that a strong syndicate of traffickers throughout the country employs local agents of either sex who generally work in the guise of relatives of the poor women and children only to mislead them by promising better job and better future outside the country, marriage with well-to-do persons and so on. He said exploiting the ignorance of the rural people local agents carry on their hated business of trafficking and other crimes.

Afroza Parvin, Executive Director of Nari Unnayan Shakti which has rescued 120 girls from the clutches of internal traffick racket, and conducted extensive survey in border areas of Kushtia, put forward a number of recommendations to curb menace of human trafficking in the border areas. Recommendations include generation of job opportunities for poor people living in border belt and creation of mass awareness about human trafficking and other crimes.

Copyright 2002 THE INDEPENDENT all rights reserved as distributed by WorldSources, Inc.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the Associated Press.

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