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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 63
April 12 , 2008

This week's issue:
Reviewing The Views
Human Rights Monitor
Human Rights Advocacy
Law Campaign
Law Analysis
Fact File
Rights Corner
Law Lexicon
Law Week

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Human Rights monitor

Local level awareness to solve global crisis
BITA team has played a drama on different social issues. All the performers were from the community

There is no clear agreement on the definition of human trafficking, even though it has affected many countries for many years. One of the reasons for the ambiguity is the non-compliance to international instruments and. Human trafficking, mostly women, poses a serious threat to human rights in Bangladesh and the Government of Bangladesh has taken various steps to prevent it. Despite the fact that Bangladesh has not yet signed the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children, there is a significant law in place to combat trafficking in Bangladesh. The timely investigations and special tribunals have resulted in the successful prosecution of a number of traffickers and several have been given death sentences or life imprisonment.

In the current complex context of changes in the means and dimensions of trafficking all over the world including Bangladesh, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Bangladesh, in collaboration with the Government and NGOs, is effectively addressing counter-trafficking both at the policy as well as at the community level. In line with is mandate, IOM approaches the counter trafficking issue to ensure safe, and voluntary and orderly migration of women and men to another country. That implies that if migration is forced, it violates the right of a person to decide on his or her mobility and therefore, can be considered as trafficking. To combat human trafficking multiple combination of approaches are needed both at the local community level as well as the policy level. Regional Representative for South Asia, IOM, Ms. Rabab Fatima, in a recent discussion stressed on the need for raising awareness issues at different levels. She said we should not amalgamate trafficking issues with migration or “smuggling of migrants”, otherwise we will miss the migration opportunity and country will lose remittances.

Community mobilisation is one of the strategies used to combat trafficking. In Bangladesh communities and NGOs are involved in using innovative approaches like folk media as a tool for awareness campaign, strengthening the local governments, mobilising the support of the local elites like social and religious leaders, teachers, forming and mobilising women groups, courtyard meetings and open discussions with the villagers etc. The level of increasing awareness and commitment to the issue is impressive. The community take active part in discussions, learning more about the ways to address trafficking and their own roles in the process. The local government also has an important role to play, as these community mobilisation efforts seem to suggest.

Courtyard meeting with women group at Borolia Union, Potiya, 2 April 2008

In one such community discussion recently among local leaders, as part of IOM supported project, the enthusiasm and awareness of the village elites was re-enforced. One of the participants, the Chairman of Borolia Union Parishad, Patia Upzilla said a young lady came to him for a nationality certificate when he was going out that morning. He asked her to come back later. But after attending discussions on trafficking, he knows more on the issue. He knows how often our workers, mostly women, are being exploited with false promises of employment abroad, especially to the Middle-East. So he would now request for all the papers before issuing a certificate to her and will convey to her on how often women are being exploited in this business. Other participants asked for more information and communication materials that they can use to educate and aware others. They also recommended that the issue of human trafficking should be included in secondary school textbook.

In these awareness raising sessions, local NGOs use different traditional cultural methods or tools like, reciting puthis, kabigan, drama to sensitise the community people. One such NGO, Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA), is a pioneer of this innovative approach. They work with local communities through local indigenous cultural tools and techniques to aware them on their rights. These local groups are working as informal watchdogs and peer educators for others in the community. Local performers play a significant role in this kind of awareness program and that make these cultural events more than an event. They also have bazaar meetings and capacity building programmes for the Government officials on victim care.

In a recent visit to Chittagong and Patia Ms. Rabab Fatima, IOM Regional Representative for South Asia, Dr. Igor Kazanets, Chief Migration Health Physician, Zakia K. Hassan, NPO and others attended some community meetings and met some local NGOs. They discussed many issues relating to human trafficking and safe migration and found that the level of awareness on trafficking issues are pretty high in this region. They also congratulated the local administrative bodies for their commitments and hard work in this regard.

Bangladesh is a country of source and transit where means of trafficking is changing frequently. According to Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2007, “The globalisation of markets and labour forces, and the concomitant relaxation of travel barriers have spawned new trafficking scenarios and routes, including some that appear to defy easy explanation. A greater variety of nationalities have been documented recently among trafficking victims in destination countries. While at first glance these linkages may appear difficult to understand, it seems that traffickers are seizing upon any targets of opportunity for exploitation and relying on vast distances and cultural and linguistic differences to increase the vulnerability of victims. This random factor of transnational trafficking will increasingly appear as the economic and logistical obstacles involved in transporting new victims to distant lands.”

To fight against trafficking of human beings we all should come forward and work together. Project based activities have constraints and will not sustain. Trafficked survivors are the citizens of Bangladesh and we cannot shift our responsibility to protect the vulnerable groups to others' shoulders.

Sultana Razia from Law Desk.


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