A young Bangladeshi mother and her child survive a trafficking nightmare
DHAKA, Bangladesh, 8 January 2009 – Maleka’s intention was to provide a better life in India for her two-year-old daughter, Rasheda. At the time, she was just 16, and her job in a garment factory in Chittagong was difficult and paid very little. So she put her trust in a male friend who said that he could smuggle them across the border to Mumbai, India, and find better work for her.
“I was lured by the promise of a better position in a garment factory and more money,” Maleka recalls.
The man smuggled Maleka and her daughter to Mumbai as promised, but instead of finding her a job in a factory, he sold her to a brothel. Maleka was subsequently forced to work as a prostitute while Rasheda slept and played in the same room. They lived there for over a year before they could flee.
“We tried to leave several times before we were able to escape,” Maleka explains. She finds it difficult to recall the exact events of the two years that followed. The truth may simply be too painful for her to articulate.
Victims face stigma upon return
Many trafficked women and children never return to Bangladesh, fearful of the stigma attached to those who do return to their families and communities.
“I would like to go back to my old job in the garment factory in Chittagong,” Maleka says. “But my husband and family do not want us, because of what happened in India.”
Like many trafficked women, Maleka also suffers from severe psychological problems.
Maleka and Rasheda now live in a centre for trafficked women and children in Dhaka. Run by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyer's Association, the centre receives substantial support from UNICEF.
The road to recovery
UNICEF is actively supporting the Governments of India and Bangladesh to develop strategies for the rescue, recovery, repatriation and integration of children trafficked across national borders. Following a series of bilateral meetings, the two countries have developed a joint draft plan of action, which includes the development of minimum standards for care and reintegration.
By collaborating closely with the governments, as well as with the police and the immigration departments of both countries, UNICEF hopes to help prevent child trafficking and assist the victims of sexual exploitation.
On a local level, UNICEF is supporting various NGOs to establish community-based mechanisms that will prevent child trafficking and protect those who are most at risk. More than 100 Community Care Committees are currently involved in creating awareness on trafficking issues.
With this kind of support, women like Maleka can have hope for a better future, and governments can better protect women and children from the horrors of trafficking and sexual exploitation.