MASUM: Release Bangladeshi trafficking victims
Probir K Sarker

Last year, BSF sent back 74 women victims of trafficking to Bangladesh

A West Bengal-based human rights organisation has sought intervention of the National Human Rights Commission of India for the release of seven Bangladeshi women, who were trafficked to India.

In a complaint sent to the commission yesterday, MASUM also demanded an enquiry into the role of Swarupnagar police under North 24 Parganas for arresting them illegally and the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Basirhat for ordering to detain them at Dumdum Central Correctional Home violating a government order.

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) has asked the NHRC India to take an appropriate step to repatriate them to their own country as early as possible.

The victims hail from Khulna and Bagerhat districts. Arrested by the BSF and later handed over to the police, the women were implicated in a case filed under section 14 of the Foreigners Act on May 17.

The rights body terms the detention and the legal proceedings “illegal” citing an office memorandum issued by the Indian Home Ministry (foreigners division) on May 1, 2012. The order says that if a woman or child is found to be a victim of human trafficking, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act.

In such cases, the police should not file a charge sheet against the victim. But if a charge sheet is already filed, “steps may be taken to withdraw the case from prosecution so far as the victim is concerned.”

The authorities must ensure that the victim is repatriated to the country of her origin through diplomatic channels. “During the interim period, pending repatriation, the victim may be taken care of in an appropriate children’s home or appropriate shelter home,” the memorandum says.

Traffickers generally target poor women, living mainly in the border areas, who are looking for work, and lure them with promises of jobs in India. But once they cross the border, the women are sold to brothels or forced to work at households.

There is no exact figure of how many women and children are trafficked to India every year. The two governments last year signed an MoU on June 6, 2015 on bilateral cooperation for prevention of human trafficking, especially in women and children, and the rescue, recovery, repatriation and reintegration of the victims.

Meanwhile, another Indian rights group, Arm of Joy, has been working to send home four young Bangladeshi women who have been languishing in a shelter home in Kerala for nearly a decade as victims of human trafficking.

In July last year, the BSF sent back to Bangladesh 74 women victims of trafficking after the end of jail terms. They were caught by the Indian police and later the Indian courts sentenced them to 2-5 years in prison for illegal entry.

“It is a big racket of border guards, customs officials and local politicians engaged in human trafficking. In our experience, about 200-300 women or girls are crossing the border illegally to enter West Bengal daily,” MASUM Secretary Kirity Roy said.

“Of them, 20% to 30% are caught by BSF or the police. At the border outposts, most of the victims are sexually abused by the BGB and BSF members,” he told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday. 

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