A section of poor Bangladeshi girls allured of promising livelihoods opportunities and showing heritage sites are being trafficked to India for engaging as sex workers, reports The Times of India.
Nazia had a desire to see the Taj Mahal in India. But the journey she undertook from Bangladesh led her to the dark pit of despair in a Madurai brothel, the report adds.
Rescued after a police raid, and now in the safe environs of Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS), the 20-year-old is determined to be financially independent before she returns home. And, with all the red tape involved and funds that need to be raised, it seems to be a long wait.
"Chennai is a source, transit and destination point for traffickers. At present, we have three Bangladeshi women who have been rescued from flesh trade. They have spent three to five years in government vigilance homes, and have been with us for five months," reports TOI quoting Isabel Richardson, as saying. Richardson is the executive secretary of MCCSS, which works to prevent human trafficking.
"But we need to get clearances from Bangladeshi and Indian authorities, which take a long time."
Hailing from Barishal in Bangladesh, Nazia’s ordeal began years ago.
"I had fought with my parents and run away to Dhaka, where I was working in a garment factory. There I met a woman who promised to bring me to India. It was my dream to see Mumbai, Kolkata and the Taj," TOI quoted Nazia as saying.
With 10,000 rupees and a few clothes, Nazia and her friend made their way across the border. "At the border we waited until it was dark and then crossed over on a boat. We were taken to Kolkata, and later boarded a train to Bengaluru," says Nazia.
A few days later, her friend disappeared and Nazia realised that she had been sold to a pimp.
"I begged him to send me back but he beat me up and held me captive for three months," she says.
Later, she was taken by a bus to a brothel in Madurai. She was rescued when the police raided it.
Nazia’s story is a familiar one. According to a recent BSF study, ‘Human Trafficking: Modus Operandi Of Touts on IndoBangladesh Border’, about 50,000 Bangladeshi girls are trafficked to or through India every year.
In the past decade, around 500,000 Bangladeshi women and children aged 12 to 30 have been illegally sent to India. The Indian syndicate demands young women for brothels, dance bars, massage parlours and as domestic workers.
Touts in Bangladesh lure people by promising them a better life in India with jobs in households and parts in films or with false promises of marriage, according to the report.
"We have been working with Bangladeshi women since 2014 under the Ujjawala scheme funded by the Union ministry of women and child development. So far, we have repatriated 20 Bangladeshi women," Richardson was quoted to have said.
The women are reportedly smuggled from different parts of Bangladesh, such as Jessore, Khulna and Dhaka.
"Some of them also elope and are then trafficked and pushed into sex trade," TOI said quoting Alexander Athisayanathan, project director, Ujjawala.
"They are also extremely poor and come from large families. Some have been deserted by their parents."
The 30-year-old was brought on a boat to Kolkata, then by train to Bengaluru and by bus to Madurai.
"They beat me up and told me it was Kolkata," TOI quoted as saying. Fortunately, Mamta managed to escape from the brothel.
"Policemen, who had raided the brothel, spotted me at the bus stand and took me to the police station. They asked me to speak in Tamil but I didn’t know the language and was beaten up," says Mamta, who spent five years in the Madurai vigilance home before being brought to Chennai three months ago.
Usually, the women are rescued after a police raid. A case is filed against the owner of the brothel and the women are sent to a vigilance home.
"They are given shelter, counselled and provided vocational training as well as regular medical check-ups," TOI quoted social defence commissioner R Lalvena as saying.
MCCSS staffers visit vigilance homes and offer counselling.
"If they express an interest to go back to their country, we apply and get legal custody for repatriation," says Richardson, who also finds them jobs.
Nazia earns 3,000 rupees doing housekeeping at the MCCSS home and another 5,000 rupees from a tailoring shop, while Mamta makes 8,000 rupees a month by working at a nearby restaurant.
But repatriation is a lengthy process since many stakeholders are involved. "It can take up to a year," says Richardson.
MCCSS partners with Light House, an NGO in Dhaka. "We provide details of the women, and the NGO traces their families, gets them citizenship and birth certificates and submits it to the ministry of foreign affairs and ministry of home affairs for clearances," says Richardson. Once they get the documents, MCCSS applies to the Bangladesh high commission for travel permits. "Once we get it, we need a no objection certificate from the police station where the woman was rescued to leave Chennai," she says.
Another challenge is raising funds. "The government allots only 10,000 rupees per year for repatriation but it’s not sufficient," says Richardson. So it’s often left to the NGOs to raise the funds.
"We are partnering with Impulse NGO Network in Meghalaya and planning to take the women by train to Siliguri and then across the border by road to cut costs," according to Richardson.
Mamta is waiting to be reunited with her sister. "I am sure she will forgive me for running away."
But Nazia is keen to stay back for a few years. "I want to save some money," she was quoted to have said. "Once I go back, my parents will get me married.”