Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 10:10 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bangladesh

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bangladesh, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ce45.html [accessed 17 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BANGLADESH (Tier 2)

Bangladesh is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Bangladeshi men and women migrate willingly to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, the Maldives, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Europe, and other countries for work, often legally via some of the more than 1,000 recruiting agencies belonging to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA). These agencies are permitted legally to charge workers recruitment fees that are the equivalent of a year's salary, but these recruiting agencies often charge additional amounts in contravention of government regulations. These exorbitant fees place migrant workers in a condition of debt bondage, in which they are compelled to work out of fear of otherwise incurring serious financial harm. Many Bangladeshi migrant laborers are victims of recruitment fraud, including additional and illegal exorbitant recruitment fees often accompanied by fraudulent representation of terms of employment. These victims may also experience restrictions on their movements, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. There are reports of an increased number of Bangladeshis transiting through Nepal to obtain Nepalese visas and work permits for employment in the Gulf; some are trafficking victims.

Bangladeshi children and adults are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced and bonded labor, including forced begging. In some instances, children are sold into bondage by their parents, while others are induced into labor or commercial sexual exploitation through fraud and physical coercion. Girls and boys as young as eight years old are subjected to forced prostitution within the country, living in slave-like conditions in secluded environments. Trafficking within the country often occurs from poorer, more rural regions, to cities. Internationally, women and children from Bangladesh are trafficked to India and Pakistan for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. Some Rohingya refugees from Burma have been subjected to human trafficking. Many brothel owners and pimps coerce Bangladeshi girls to take steroids to make them more attractive to clients, with devastating side effects; the drug is reported to be used by 90 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 35 in Bangladeshi brothels. In 2012, nine South African labor trafficking victims were found in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In December 2011, the government enacted a comprehensive anti-trafficking law which addressed legislative gaps such as the absence of a prohibition on the trafficking of men. The government also approved a new anti-trafficking action plan which incorporated necessary steps to implement the new law. Although the law does not include a specific prohibition on fraudulent recruitment, it cites the concept of fraud as a possible element of human trafficking. The number of prosecutions increased, but the number of convictions declined as compared to the previous year. The government did not take sufficient steps to protect trafficking victims. Official complicity in trafficking remained a problem.

Recommendations for Bangladesh: Draft and disseminate the implementing rules for the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act; increase efforts to prosecute trafficking cases and convict trafficking offenders; use the new trafficking law to prosecute fraudulent labor recruiters; become a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; take steps to address the allegations concerning the complicity of public officials in trafficking, particularly through criminal prosecution and punishment of those involved in or abetting human trafficking; improve oversight of Bangladesh's international recruiting agencies to ensure they are not promoting practices that contribute to labor trafficking; reduce exorbitant legal recruitment fees, per the Vigilance Task Force's mandate; expand the roles and responsibilities of existing labor attaches in destination countries to include anti-trafficking monitoring, reporting, and engagement with destination countries; provide support services for adult male trafficking victims and victims of forced labor; and work with civil society to improve anti-trafficking messaging in awareness campaigns.

Prosecution

The Government of Bangladesh made clear anti-trafficking law enforcement progress over the reporting period by passing a comprehensive counter-trafficking law and increasing the number of investigations and prosecutions, although the number of convictions declined compared to the previous year. In December 2011, the president put the law into effect as an ordinance, and in February 2012 the parliament passed the ordinance as law: the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act. This Act generally prohibits and punishes all forms of human trafficking, though it does not flatly prohibit the fraudulent recruitment of labor migrants; rather, the Act requires the recruiter to have known that the recruited workers would be subject to forced labor. Prescribed penalties for labor trafficking offenses are five to 12 years' imprisonment and a fine of not less than approximately the equivalent of $600, and prescribed penalties for sex trafficking offenses range from five years' imprisonment to the death sentence. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The new law supersedes sections of the Repression of Women and Children Act of 2000 (amended in 2003), which had prohibited the trafficking of women and children for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or involuntary servitude.

During the reporting period, the government reported the convictions of 14 trafficking offenders and the sentencing of eight of them to life imprisonment under Sections 5 (prohibiting "women trafficking") and Section 6(1) (prohibiting "girl trafficking") of the Repression of Women and Children Act; six were sentenced to lesser prison terms. This is a decrease from the 42 convictions obtained in 2010, with 24 offenders sentenced to life imprisonment. The government prosecuted 129 cases involving suspected trafficking offenders and conducted 143 investigations, compared with 80 prosecutions and 101 investigations during the previous year. Twenty-nine prosecutions resulted in acquittals.

The alleged human trafficking complicity of some Bangladeshi government officials remained a serious problem and the government made no discernible efforts to address it. Several NGOs reported a nexus among members of parliament, corrupt recruiting agencies, and village level brokers, and also reported that politicians and regional gangs were involved in human trafficking. NGOs and the media reported that registered recruitment agencies in Dhaka have links with employers – some of which have subjected migrant workers to trafficking – and brokers in destination countries and help facilitate fraudulent recruitment. The Government of Bangladesh did not investigate or prosecute government officials suspected of trafficking-related complicity. Government officials continued to receive training from civil society groups and foreign governments.

Protection

The Government of Bangladesh made limited efforts to protect victims of trafficking over the last year. The government did not have a systematic procedure to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, and to refer victims of trafficking to protective services. The government reported that immigration police, working with the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare's Vigilance Taskforce, identified trafficking victims at international airports by checking passports and questioning potential trafficking victims; it is not known how many victims were identified through this process. The government identified 181 victims in the reporting period. While the government did not provide or fund shelter or other services specifically dedicated to trafficking victims, it continued to run nine homes for women and children who were victims of violence, which could be accessed by trafficking victims; the government also ran a "one-stop crisis center" for women and children in the Dhaka general hospital – also accessible to trafficking victims. The government continued to run one shelter in the Bangladeshi Embassy in Riyadh for female Bangladeshi domestic workers fleeing abusive employers. The government did not compile statistics on the number of trafficking victims, if any, assisted through these establishments. An NGO noted that adult female victims could leave the shelters in Bangladesh at will. The government did not provide protective services to male victims of trafficking. Law enforcement personnel occasionally encouraged victims of trafficking, when identified, to participate in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers by providing transportation to courts, but there was no information on the number of victims who did so. Some trafficking victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Victims were often detained when they returned to Bangladesh after migrating irregularly to another country. Government officials detained women in prostitution without determining whether they were trafficking victims. Female trafficking victims were placed in divisional custody facilities at government-run prisons when no space was available in shelter homes. Unregistered Rohingya refugees who were trafficking victims were detained indefinitely for their lack of documentation. The government did not provide temporary or permanent residency status for Rohingya victims of trafficking – the only foreign victims of human trafficking identified in Bangladesh.

When Bangladeshi migrant workers lodged complaints of labor and recruitment violations, they most often resorted to arbitration by BAIRA, which did not provide sufficient financial compensation and rarely addressed the illegal activities of some BAIRA-affiliated recruitment agents. NGOs and news reports alleged instances of officials working at some Bangladeshi embassies abroad were mostly unresponsive to complaints; attempts to seek restitution abroad were rare.

Prevention

The Bangladeshi government made efforts to prevent trafficking over the reporting period. In January 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs promulgated a new National Plan of Action for Combating Human Trafficking for 2012-2014, which includes plans to implement the new law. The Ministries of Social Welfare, Women and Children Affairs, and Primary and Mass Education, continued to raise awareness on the trafficking of women and children. The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare's Vigilance Task Force continued its work to improve the oversight of Bangladesh's labor recruiting process ahead of a future merge with a Monitoring Wing. This wing lacks the funding or professional capacity to address fraudulent recruitment. The government continued to allow BAIRA to set fees, license individual agencies, certify workers for overseas labor, and handle most complaints of expatriate laborers, while exercising inadequate oversight over this consortium of labor recruiters to ensure their practices did not facilitate debt bondage of Bangladeshi workers abroad. The Home Secretary continued to chair the interministerial National Anti-Trafficking Committee meetings, which met regularly. The government did not implement any campaigns in the reporting period to establish the identity of undocumented and vulnerable local populations, such as street children or rural women. Training, including awareness about human trafficking, was provided to Bangladeshi soldiers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. During the year, the government did not demonstrate measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Bangladesh is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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