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Approach:

  1. Introduction on human trafficking menace.
  2. State the vulnerability of such trafficking.
  3. Discuss how the transparent border is aiding in trafficking.
  4. Mention the legal mechanisms in place.
  5. Suggest some measures in way forward.

Human trafficking is a complex and rampant phenomenon that has scarred nearly 40 million people within the South and South East Asian region. Predictably, females including children account for 71% of the populace who are entangled in the vicious circle of forced labour, sexual brutality, and forced matrimony.

Recently, the Indian investigation team busted a trafficking racket that exposed the displaced Rohingyas along with Bangladeshi girls/women being trafficked to different parts of India. In another incidence, 26 displaced Rohingyas have been captured at the end of May 2022, including 12 minors and eight women who were seeking to travel ultimately to Bangladesh from the refugee camps in Jammu. They are currently placed in a detention centre in Silchar, Assam. These incidences bring to the fore the vulnerability and dilemma of such stateless people.

Porous borders : Trafficking between India and Bangladesh border areas is quite pronounced and simple. Around 60% of the border is fenced and a large section of the border runs through rivers, fishponds, farming lands, villages, and even houses where a portion of it lies in India while another portion of the same house or property is situated in Bangladesh. Thus, guarding the border zones is not simple due to improper roads and difficult terrains. Consequently, it becomes easier for illegal groups to misappropriate these porous stretches.

According to a study, almost half of the trafficking from Bangladesh to India takes place through Benapole in the Jessore district of Bangladesh. In 2020, the number of women caught on the International Border between India and Bangladesh was 915; in 2019, the number was 936, 1,107 in 2018, and 572 in 2017. As per reports, there is a growing network of traffickers who are either women or are using different women to trap their victims. However, statelessness adds to the dilemma since they do not receive any protection.

Legal mechanisms : To curb this crime, there are several Anti-Trafficking laws in both nations. In India, Article 23(1) of the Constitution, IPC 366 – 373, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, and provisions under other laws relating to the protection of women and children. The Draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) bill is still underway to provide holistic preventive measures on trafficking. Similarly in Bangladesh, the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, the Repression of Women and Children Act of 2000 (amended in 2003), and Articles 372 and 373 of its penal code prohibit & punish child traffickers.

Way forward:

  • A need for capacity building whereby training of border security agencies and law enforcement agencies from both sides for raising awareness on victim identification and repatriation procedures are needed.
  • the regularity of meetings of the Joint Task Force on India and Bangladesh needs to be improved and increased.
  • Funding is necessary for the smooth functioning of the programs and digitization of the process.
  • Victim care is of supreme importance. There is a need to treat the victims with respect and provide proper medical facilities, and protection.
  • An integrated SOP between both nations addressing the above issues will be of effectiveness to bring about the desired result. Currently, an SOP is underway but it needs to be presented and ratified soon.
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