Trafficking of minor girls out of the country has increased "alarmingly", school dropouts being the most vulnerable group.
Experts have expressed grave concern at the increase, particularly in border districts.
Although there are varying data, some of the organisations dealing with the issue put the rate well above 300 a month.
According to reports prepared by ministries of home, social welfare and women and children affairs, at least 13,220 minor girls were trafficked between 1990 and 1995. Of them 4,700 were rescued. The figure included only those reported to police.
Most of the trafficked girls are forced to land at brothels. According to a survey by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), about 300,000 Bangladeshi girls are in brothels in India and 200,000 in Pakistan.
A study by INCIDIN, Bangladesh, said such trafficking has increased 'as a consequence of a set of socio-economic factors that reduce life options for a girl child'.
The just completed six-month study in Rajshahi, Laxmipur, Jessore, Satkhira, Chittagong and Dhaka city concluded that school dropouts are the most vulnerable group. The study sponsored by Save the Children (UK) was led by A K M Masud Ali.
In those areas, it was found that education is not considered as a step towards building career of a girl. Rather, parents consider girl children as a "commodity for a source of income".
There are other reasons also. One of those is early exposure to sex. Girl children become sexually active not only because of abuse by adult men but also because of their own curiosity, confusion and desire, the report said.
ILO's Masud Hasan Siddieque, National Project Coordinator for South Asia Sub-Region to Combat Trafficking of Children, when contacted said, "Being concerned, we are conducting two separate surveys in bordering districts to know the reasons why so many girl children are being trafficked."
Unrestricted access of children in the job market, extreme poverty, rapid growth in population especially among the poor and lack of education, enforcement of laws against trafficking and social safety are some of the major reasons for alarming increase in such trafficking, he said quoting from what he called "premature study".
Referring to another ongoing survey in Panchagarh, Dinajpur and Thakurgaon districts, Hasan noted with great concern that despite enactment of the Women and Child Repression Act 2000, most of the traffickers are accused under the 'Passport Act'. So, traffickers escape punishment.
Salma Ali, Executive Director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), said, "It is very difficult to guess the number of young girls being trafficked out of the country. But we have so far rescued and rehabilitated hardly five per cent of the girls trafficked."
Referring to a 1999 survey in 250 bordering villages, Salma said, " About 7000 adolescent girls were trafficked out in a month, mostly to India and Pakistan by land routes. In the same year, we rescued only 116. Since 1995, we have rescued and rehabilitated over 2,500, most of them young girls."
Ruben Korevaar, Programme Officer of International Organisation for Migration in Bangladesh, when contacted said, "We scanned leading Bangla and English dailies and found that trafficking of women and children is rising alarmingly, mostly from South-Western bordering districts of the country."
He suggested that the rate could be reduced if local community leaders and police were well informed about job offers for girls.
The INCIDIN study concluded that social process based on "negative attitude of the society towards girl children" alienates then from community safety net and pushes them into traps of traffickers.
|Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, September 2, 2001|