Welcoming Back Guest Writer Mohammad Khairul Alam
Please welcome back guest writer Mohammad Khairul Alam, a past participant of the International Carnival of Pozitivities, as he contributes yet another post on the situation of HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh. Some minor edits were applied prior to posting here to improve readability.
Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation and HIV/AIDS
Trafficking of young girls, children and women is a matter of great concern all over the world. In South Asia, cross-border trafficking, sourcing, and transit to destination is a big problem. Even more prevalent is the movement of persons within the countries for exploitation in various forms. There are no definite figures about the number of victims. Trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is the most virulent form in South Asia. Internal displacement due to conflict in some of these countries, poverty and lack of employment opportunities, increase the vulnerabilities to being trafficked.
Bangladesh is a source and transit country for young girls, children and women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. It is also a source country for children - both girls and boys - trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labor, and other forms of involuntary servitude. Women and children from Bangladesh are trafficked to India and Pakistan for sexual exploitation. Internally, Bangladeshis are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and bonded labor. Some Burmese women who are trafficked to India transit through Bangladesh.
The movement of young girls from Nepal and Bangladesh into Indian brothels is common. However, most of the trafficking takes place within India itself. There is further movement of these women and girls to the Middle East as well as other destinations. Similar movement from Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been observed. At times of hardship, this starts out as illegal migration and ends up as trafficking.
AIDS researcher Mr. Anirudha Alam said, “Trafficking & HIV/AIDS is interrelated, especially women and girls are trafficking for use of sexual industry. Most of the trafficked girls face multiple physical and sexual abuses. When a girl or woman newly enters the sex industry, she tries to safe herself heart and soul, but most of the time they couldn’t free her.”
The response to combating the crime of human trafficking by the countries of South Asia has been inadequate. There is limited awareness and although knowledge of and the willingness to speak out against trafficking has increased significantly in the past half decade, it is still only at minimal levels. In addition to the lack of awareness, existing anti-trafficking legislation in most countries is inadequate. The law enforcement response – which is meant to provide an effective deterrent to traffickers – is also weak, irresponsive and not victim-friendly.
Lack of job opportunities makes people vulnerable and more inclined to migrate in the hope of creating a better life for themselves and their families. Also, poverty makes people sell their children to traffickers and makes women become victims of trafficking. There is a trend for more and more women to be left alone to fend for themselves and their children; this is referred to as the feminization of poverty. Their powerlessness is taken advantage of by traffickers who assure them jobs or necessary facilities, although instead they may end up in prostitution.
Though this data is not enough to certify the fact, South Asia is home to one of the largest concentrations of people living with HIV. Female sex workers (FSWs) – as a group – are an important driver of the epidemic. As has been shown in a very recent research involving repatriated FSWs in Nepal, many of the FSWs who have been trafficked are at a significantly higher risk than “average” women of contracting HIV. The Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation and ‘Society for Humanitarian Assistance & Rights Protection’ (SHARP) jointly conducted a survey that focuses on the attitude, behavior and practice of FSWs in Goalondo Brothel. This study points out that almost 53% of sex workers enter the profession before the age of 20 years, and 30% enter between 20 to 25 years of age, and some of them have been entangled through instigation of the traffickers.
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