of women and children is one of the most serious human rights
issues of South Asia as it has widespread consequences on
societies. The recently held South Asia Court of Women on
the Violence of Trafficking, sought to raise the awareness
about the rights violated by this social menace and to generate
greater public support for the victims
court, held recently at China-Bangladesh Friendship Conference
Centre in Agargaon from August 11 to 13th in Dhaka, broke
new ground, by bringing the often-marginalized voices of
the victims to the fore. The court employed innovative mediums
such as “poetic visuals” video images accompanied by poetry
expressing the pain of the victims and most powerfully,
the on-stage testimonies of nearly 30 victims that enabled
the audience to empathise with the victims on the deepest
these testimonies, the Jury - comprising 6 globally renowned
activists and academics - in their conclusive statement,
demanded the recognition of poverty, war, human rights abuse
and other forms of social insecurity, as the principal causes
for a growing number of women and children to set out to
find alternative ways of securing their livelihood.
at the court Rukhmini Rao, an activist from India, alluded
to the double burden of poverty on women, citing the example
that on average women in India work 17 hours a day, while
men only work 7, a phenomenon similar to Bangladesh. The
Jury added that globalisation is exacerbating these burdens
by dismantling their community structures.
Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates trafficking
to be the fastest growing illegal trade that is valued at
over US $7 billion per year.
testifiers were largely poor and disenfranchised women mostly
young girls including a child and a transsexual. They described
how they were deceived by traffickers into promised marriages,
safe and well-paid jobs such as housemaids only to find
themselves trapped into prostitution. Furthermore, they
linked their work in foreign lands, often in unhealthy conditions
to the increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS contraction among
the day, the victims one by one testified to the agonising
tales of sexual, physical and psychological abuse that they
had to endure for the sake of their own subsistence. They
described their ordeals as they worked with the different
faces of trafficking, either working as sex-workers, camel-jockeys,
or housemaids to being forced into marriages or adoption.
a woman from India's Andhra Pradesh, narrates tales of horror
she had undergone at the hands of goons, at the South Asian
Women's Court on Women and Children's Trafficking and HIV/AIDS
at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre.
girl trafficked from Bangladesh to India, requesting anonymity,
spoke of her despondence as she was dehumanised into a 500
rupee item sold to a brothel in India. “I don't want this
to happen to any girl, ever”,she cried, speaking from an
enclosed booth that concealed her identity.
fears of social isolation were also a prominent issue noted
in relation to the media, at a round table discussion preceding
the court. The participants observed that the South Asian
media, in general, emphasised the identity of the victim
of trafficking rather than the perpetrator, in effect, stigmatising
the victim and adding to their already tormented experience.
Rai, an HIV positive woman from South India, recounted her
tales of despair after she was socially stigmatised because
of her disease. Calling for awareness, UBINIG Executive
Director Farida Akhtar, told The Daily Star, that “women
of South Asia already possess self-agency, it is only a
matter of the victims becoming aware of the issues and finding
support groups that will enable them to collectivise their
Winnie Mandela, a juror at the court and a prominent activist,
who called for the “realisation of the collective power
of women”. The court symbolised of such a collective spirit,
as around 5000 women from all around South Asia participated
in the court, and shared their solidarity in similar circumstances
and issues that they face.
Jury also demanded the removal of migration barriers, to
enable effective monitoring of female labour migrations,
which will not allow the traffickers to take advantage of
the women through unaccountable practices.
the limits imposed on impoverished countries, the Jury asked
for a proper legal framework and its implementation, however,
unequivocally opposing the death penalty as it distracts
attention from the issue.
a qualitative shift in grassroots education for the eradication
of long-term patriarchal values, women's agency cannot be
effectively exercised”, said renowned academic and activist
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who was a juror at the court.