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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 181
August 7, 2010

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Need for an all-inclusive preventive law against Trafficking in Persons

WE need to develop and adopt a comprehensive law against Trafficking in Persons, which not only protect and assist the victims of trafficking but also provide strategy to prevent and address the problems of tackling the main culprits who organise and operate the heinous crime of trafficking in persons. Trafficking being an organised crime is more difficult to solve than most other criminal offences and without an all-inclusive law which address all the natures of trafficking, e.g. sex trafficking, labour trafficking, organ trafficking, it becomes very tricky to accuse someone under the offence. Most times the crime is categorised under illegal migration, smuggling etc. in order to retrieve the victim and provide protection. Remarks from guests of honours, which included the High ranking govt. officials and human rights activist. Md. Shah Alam, AIG (Crime 3), from Police Headquarters, highlighted the grave need for a more proactive approach in addressing the crimes of trafficking.

Association for Community Development (ACD), with support of Winrock International and funded by USAID organised a National Level Sharing for Adoption of Comprehensive law against Trafficking in Persons on August 2, 2010 in a city hotel. This event was based on the cumulative findings from a number of workshops in Chapai Nowabgonj, Thakurgaon, Dinazpur, Panchagar, Jaypurhat and Naogaon districts under Rajshahi and Rangpur districts carried out by ACD. They identified several social problems along with problems in legal aspects and loopholes. For example, an adult male victim of trafficking cannot get proper justice under the existing law. ACD at the event presented a case study of such an individual and the stakeholders at the event got to hear firsthand the difficulties this individual and his wife faced and how they have been fighting to get free from the clutches of the criminals. They explained how ADC and the Bangladesh Police came to their assistance. Their case is still ongoing.

On assessment of this case study several other issues came into focus such as the lack of a clear definition of the crime of Trafficking in Persons and the lack of protection of victims and witnesses involved in such a crime. There are existing time lags in submission of the investigation reports by the law enforcements and also a lengthy process once the cases are at the courts. Another issue highlighted was that internal trafficking is not dealt with in the several laws which are used in addressing cases of trafficking.

There are few laws which are used to address the crime of trafficking. These include the Constitution of Bangladesh, the Penal Code 1860, the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000, the Children's Act 1974, the Bangladesh Passport Order 1973, the Passport (Offence) Act 1952, The Emigration Ordinance 1982, the Extradition Act 1974 and the Bangladesh Labour Code 2006. Yet, even with all these laws being used, a lot of times the crime cannot be caught under the monstrous crime it actually is.

Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed, Joint Secretary (Political), Ministry of Home Affairs was the chief Guest at the event who urged that along with a more precise definition of trafficking, measures should be taken which would ensure incorporation of the laws. He pointed out the importance of ratification of international conventions and mutual legal assistances (MLAs), since trafficking is a crime not confined to a single state. He also informed that such a MLA has been ratified for criminal matters with India on January 11. Further bilateral agreements need to be made with other neighbouring countries in order to combat Trafficking in Persons more effectively. In order to encourage greater participation of the survivors of trafficking he suggested establishment and recognition of compensation for victims, shelter facilities, security and rights based repatriation. Privacy of the victims must be maintained as a norm and non-criminalisation of the victims must also be ensured.

Joint Secretary (Cell), Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Dennis Sharma, Acting Mission Director, USAID, Nishat A Chowdhury, National Programme Officer, IOM, Salima Sarwar, ED ACD, Salma Ali from BNWLA and some other experts also shared their findings on the matter at the event.

- Compiled by Law Desk.


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