Vol. 5 Num 193 Wed. December 08, 2004  

Internet adds new dimension to trafficking of women, children

Internet appears to have added a new dimension to trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh.

Traffickers now abuse Internet at times to commit the crime. It is however going on a very limited scale, sources said.

"Internet is now also used as a medium and an easy way of trafficking in Bangladesh. The traffickers use the women and girls as sex workers in brothels, theatres and cinemas or private houses," said Prof Ishrat Shamim, president of the Centre for Women and Children Studies (CWCS).

Traffickers and their accomplices use Internet to exchange information on where to go and how to collect women and girls for prostitution, contact clients, and exchange pornographic images and videos, said the CWCS, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Till now women of upper and upper middle class mainly have access to Internet, and traffickers using it target them. It is surprising that sometimes educated women also fall in their trap, it pointed out.

Police estimate that more than 15 thousand women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh every year. It is however not known how many are trafficked with the help of Internet, they said.

Over the last decade, around two lakh Bangladeshi women and girls were lured with false promises and sold to sex industry in Pakistan, India and Middle East countries.

Women's rights leader Sigma Huda said poverty is not the main reason behind trafficking of women and children. Rather, drug, arms and sex trades lead to trafficking across the world, she added.

"In Bangladesh, about 50 percent of trafficking takes place through 28 districts adjacent to Bangladesh-India border. But all trafficked women and children are not sent abroad. Trafficking also takes place within the country," said the Action Against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children, another NGO.

Experts however say it is difficult to collect data on how many are trafficked what way. Even a large number of the victims are trafficked using family visas, and the use of Internet for trafficking is quite new in Bangladesh.

The government is aware of the problem of trafficking and has taken various steps to combat it. Moreover, NGOs are working to contain this crime, sources mentioned.

Use of Internet for trafficking in Bangladesh is however very limited. So, the government or NGOs are yet to take up the issue seriously, Ishrat Shamim said.

Ferdous Ara Begum, additional secretary of Women and Children Affairs Ministry, said they have not yet received any allegation of trafficking with the help of Internet. It is known that Internet is sometimes used for pornography. But trafficking and pornography are not the same, she pointed out.

" Access to Internet is very limited in our country, and I think only the educated and privileged can use it. So, chances of their being wronged are quite slim," Ferdous said.

NGOs sometimes give information not based on facts, she thought.