Child sex slaves from Bangladesh


by Rumbold
15th March, 2008 at 5:43 pm    

Johann Hari has just published a long (c.5000 words) piece on sex trafficking between Bangladesh and India. In it he speaks to a number of prostitutes, Bangladeshi children who don’t want to be prostitutes are at risk from pimps, and an organisation dedicated to helping the children stay one step ahead of the traffickers. It really is worth reading the whole way through, but if you don’t have the time, here are a few choice extracts:

“This is the story of the twenty-first century’s trade in slave-children. My journey into their underworld took place where its alleys and brothels are most dense – Asia, where the United Nations calculates one million children are being traded every day. It took me to places I did not think existed, today, now. To a dungeon in the lawless Bangladeshi borderlands where children are padlocked and prison-barred in transit to Indian brothels. To an iron whore-house where grown women have spent their entire lives being raped. To a clinic that treat syphilitic eleven year-olds.”

Talking to a prostitute:

“She saw what happened to the older women there. They are forced to “breed”. Their daughters are raised to be prostitute-slaves. After three months, two other girls imprisoned in the brothel approached her with an escape plan. They would save up the sleeping pills they were given at night – to stop them sobbing and howling and putting off the ‘clients’ – and slip them into the drink of the ‘Mashi’ who was imprisoning them. Then they would run as far and as a fast as they could.”

The dangers of trying to combat the traffickers:

“The border between India and Bangladesh is a long and rippling river. As I stand there, in front of me, there is the world’s largest democratic republic. Behind me, there is a dungeon with iron bars, where Bangladeshi women are held before being sold to India. All the people here refer to it as “the trafficker’s place”; it is not disguised.

As they gather around in their quiet, muddy village, the locals – a hardened band of farmers – explain that there is low-level warfare going on out here. Over sweet tea on his veranda, with a crowd watching on, their local elected representative Adul Khaleq– a rugged man in his fifties – says he is paying bitterly for taking on the traffickers.

“My brother, Abdu Saleq, was our elected council member here until three years ago,” he explains. His career ended abruptly when he caught red-handed a trafficker who was trying to take a 25 year old woman over to India: “He thought it was his duty to stop them. He thought selling women was wrong.” The freed woman called her father, who came tearfully to collect her.

Two nights later, the traffickers turned up at Abdu’s house. They dragged him from his bed by his hair, took him out into the street, and hacked his body to pieces with an axe as he howled. “The traffickers told his wife they would kill us too,” Adul says. But the villagers refused to be cowed. They set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, to track the traffickers: “We work as a watchdog at night. Who is trafficking? How many girls are being taken? As soon as something is spotted, we are alerted.”

But the story does not end with this black-and-white morality tale: it gets grey. Adul says they cannot go to the police, because they are thoroughly bribed and bought off by the traffickers and simply let them go. Instead, they have to “beat the traffickers mercilessly.” And as a result, the police have framed them, they say – on murder charges. Adul is awaiting trial for a murder in Khulna everybody in the town claims he could not have committed, because they all saw him that day in the village.”

With street children in Dhaka:

“But there is an ever greater fear: the traffickers. The only moment when Mohammed betrays emotion is when he remembers a little girl called Muni, who was his friend. One day in June last year, when she was nine-and-a-half, an old man approached and told her she could have a brilliant job if she came with him. She refused, remembering the rumours that spread among the children about what really happened if you went with these men. He snatched her anyway. The other kids tried to tell the police, but they were just chased away.

Her body was found, raped and strangled, three days later. Mohammed is convinced it was because she refused to be fooled by the traffickers’ tales, and refused to just be taken to a brothel: she fought back. “Yes, we are very frightened of the traffickers,” Mohammed says, yawning. He has to sleep: he needs to get up in four hours, to start collecting waste-paper. One of this little gang of urban Mowglis is supposed to stay awake, to keep watch – “but it’s difficult,” he says. I ask him what he would like to own when he’s older, thinking I will get a child’s reverie about having a big house and a car. “Own?” he says. “I’d like to own my mother.” And with that, he grins and closes his eyes.”

An organisation (which receives money from Comic Relief) trying to save the children:

“Ishtiaque Ahmed is an intellectual who – in long, statistic-packed monologues – tells me how he created Aparajeyo (Undefeated). It is one of the most compelling anti-trafficking forces in Bangladesh. They run schools on the streets and shelters for the abused children, and they pay for an army of kids who have been rescued from prostitution to fan out across the city teaching other kids about how to thwart the traffickers. They are the William Wilberforces of our time, ending slavery one child at a time.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Bangladesh,Current affairs,India






14 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. sonia — on 15th March, 2008 at 6:02 pm  

    Terrible.

    “Bangladeshi children who don’t want to be prostitute”

    interesting phrasing there – are there any children anywhere who actually wanted to be prostitutes?

    The deeply difficult question is – and the root of the problem of course is – the demand of course.

  2. Rumbold — on 15th March, 2008 at 6:11 pm  

    Sonia:

    “Interesting phrasing there – are there any children anywhere who actually wanted to be prostitutes?”

    Oops. Now corrected.

    “The deeply difficult question is – and the root of the problem of course is – the demand of course.”

    Especially in poorer countries, where if you have people willing to pay then there will be some who will kidnap children for money.

  3. Amer Salman — on 16th March, 2008 at 10:22 am  

    Just as many are taken to Pakistan. Pakistan developed a taste for Bangladeshi flesh (women, girls & boys) in 1971 when over 400,000 women were raped, (many kidnapped and held in Pakistani army brothels) and between 2-3 million murdered in 7 months – action financed by the US.

  4. Golam Murtaza — on 16th March, 2008 at 11:21 am  

    It’s a great piece of journalism by Johann. On a par with an excellent piece he did a few months ago about France’s dishonourable involvement in the war in the Central African Republic. I like the way he uses a decent chunk of the article to feature those people who are fighting back against this particular atrocity. It’s only a shame the Rapid Action Battalion, a Bangladeshi government security unit, isn’t used more to go after these vile people traffickers instead of the government’s political opponents.

    Of course, I’ve been ridiculously biased towards Johann Hari since he kicked Richard Littlejohn’s arse in a t.v. debate a while back. Just thought I’d declare my interest!

    Amer, I’m Bengali, and have relatives who were very much on the anti-Pakistan side in ’71. However, I have to admit I’m dubious about the 2-3 million figure of the number of Bengalis killed by the Pak army and their Bengali-Bihari-Islmist allies. I understand this statistic is an exaggeration (although many many innocents were undoubtedly killed). Anyway, that’s probably for another thread.

  5. sonia — on 16th March, 2008 at 5:21 pm  

    who cares about the no/s. – i.e. disputing figures is a waste of time. even if it happens to one person that’s bad.

    rumbold, the poorer country thing – yes sure, money becomes more significant. but human life is cheap – which is perhaps more significant, when there are lots of children who can easily go missing – there is a very big problem there.
    and human trafficking is also a globalized phenomenon – by that i mean that it crosses borders, and so demand anywhere, plus people hungry for money somewhere, means that it the problem doesn’t seem to be decreasing, but rather shifting in where it goes. the other question though – is why is the demand there, and what factors exacerbate that. if we think about this through history..

  6. Rumbold — on 16th March, 2008 at 9:56 pm  

    Sonia:

    But if you reduce poverty then supply will presumably drop, as less people will feel the need to sell children. Better law enforcement will reduce kidnapping. As for cutting demand, god only knows. Maybe legalisation of adult indoor brothels is the best option worldwide, with a regulatory body (Offwhore?).

  7. sonia — on 16th March, 2008 at 10:26 pm  

    yes rumbold of course. so for example, you can easily get hold of lots of kids in a place like bangladesh, compared to say the UK. though runaways here face similar problems.

    my wider point really is that you still have problems with trafficking from poor parts to not so poor parts where clients will pay more. (ok im not talking just child trafficking anymore) modern slavery in the uk – is the trafficking of girls from eastern europe -for brothels here. So that’s what i was going on about the global nature of the problem. I personally have no problem with prostitution per se – i.e. the principle of someone paying for sex – but its the slavery aspect and the trafficking that i do have big problems with. if 2 individuals freely agreed to engage in consensual sex with money being offered i don’t think that’s my problem or anyone else’s. the issue is when people from poor parts of the world, or people who have no choice, get into it and are abused, frankly, by pimps and traffickers. If i were going to visit a prostitute, i’d never go in for keeping up such rackets. If one must pay for sex, try to ensure the person you’re paying is doing it out of their own free will and is keeping all the money!

    But my wider question was about the demand for prostitutes in the first place – which goes to keeping up these kinds of rackets. Let’s look at how prosittution has changed for the average man – say here in the UK – from Victorian times to now. Back then, it was much more common – because if you were a bloke, and you wanted some experience, it would be quite common to visit a prostitute, because no ‘nice girl’ was going to have sex with you. Or not many anyway, and you wouldn’t know where to find them. Or if you were married, you might have a mistress, or visit a prostitute to have some ‘uncomplicated’ sex. I’d say nowadays, one can get uncomplicated sex much more easily without having to pay for it. Some people still like to pay for it of course, but it’s much less ‘needed’ if you see what i mean. the sexual revolution has changed the dynamics quite a bit.

    The difficulty in a place like bangladesh – my living in Dhaka as a teenager opened my eyes quite a bit – is the similar divide of nice girls and bad girls – and the fact that a lot of young guys simply won’t be getting it from their girlfriends, and visiting prostitutes is actually very common.

    i think those kinds of dynamics are important to keep in mind. But at the end of the day, what i would push for is the taking out of the power dynamic of pimps and prostitution rackets – and ‘brothels’ – if you see what i mean. if a person wants to get into the business of sex – that’s their business – but its the exploitation of such people – by their ‘bosses’ and enslavers – that’s the problem. And keeping it illegal only helps these criminals. (just like keeping weed illegal only helps the criminals – no one else)

    offwhore – heh. i’d take the ‘whore’ element out of it, though, keeping the old ‘shock horror, a whore’ kind of thing actually fuels all this, if you ask me. What is very significant and usually not explored – is how society brands the person selling their body for sex with degrading type labels, but not the person who buys. and usually the person who is buying is also insulting the seller..’bitch!whore! which is ridiculous. a transaction goes both ways. you dont find weed buyers shouting at the seller and cursing them do you? both are complicit. Explore the psychology of who is paying for sex if you really want to get to the bottom of prostitution, is what i think. there are several categories, and some of them contain some pretty dodgy people. not all of course – some see it as a straightforward transaction, but there are some very dodgy people in the other categories..we will find i think.. and they’re the ones who don’t give a damn if the person they are paying has been forced into it, or is being exploited, and that’s the problem, they are keeping up modern forms of slavery.

  8. Sunny — on 17th March, 2008 at 3:28 am  

    Jeez, that is truly horrible. Well done on Johann for exposing this.

  9. Sid — on 17th March, 2008 at 8:08 am  

    I could kiss Johann for bringing this to the attention of the British public.

  10. SalmanRush — on 17th March, 2008 at 10:28 am  

    Sickening and sad!

    I feel like crying in agony after reading this.

  11. Ashik — on 17th March, 2008 at 4:24 pm  

    When discussing prostitution, of either children or adults it is best to avoid using general terminology such as ‘Bangladesh’, ‘India or ‘Pakistan’. The practice of prostitution varies across these artificial political entities. For example, in Bangladesh prostitution is much more prevalent in Dhaka than Sylhet due to various socio-economic, cultural and religious factors. The previous Bangladeshi government legalised prostitution (the only Muslim majority country to do so) because of the problems in the capital region ie. Thanbazaar.

  12. DR1001 — on 17th March, 2008 at 6:06 pm  

    CNN also recently did a peice on the brothels of calcutta who obtain these sex slave girls from Bangladesh. I alos read a book called ‘dancing girls of Lahore’ ( author is Brit Louise Brown) that talks about some girls being taken to Pakistan from Bnagladesh, though it’s predominately about the Pakistani girls.

    But i agree the problem with child trafficking for prostitiion obviously is worldwide but hotspots such as this, Thailand, etc should get attention. I read a

  13. Rumbold — on 17th March, 2008 at 7:16 pm  

    Sonia:

    “But at the end of the day, what i would push for is the taking out of the power dynamic of pimps and prostitution rackets – and ‘brothels’ – if you see what i mean. if a person wants to get into the business of sex – that’s their business – but its the exploitation of such people – by their ‘bosses’ and enslavers – that’s the problem. And keeping it illegal only helps these criminals. (just like keeping weed illegal only helps the criminals – no one else).”

    Exactly.

    “I’d take the ‘whore’ element out of it, though, keeping the old ’shock horror, a whore’ kind of thing actually fuels all this, if you ask me.”

    True enough- but I was using whore in the proper sense of the term, rather than as an insult.

    “And they’re the ones who don’t give a damn if the person they are paying has been forced into it, or is being exploited, and that’s the problem, they are keeping up modern forms of slavery.”

    That is the problem which I have with it too.These men should look at some of the poor wretches selling their bodies and wonder why they are doing it. They (the men) are morally bankrupt. I have no problem with the principle of selling your body for sex, but the reality is that many of the women who do so have no choice, either because they are forced into it, or because they need the money to feed their drug habit.

  14. Muhamad Lodhi — on 19th March, 2008 at 9:22 pm  

    I wonder how many in Bangladesh are living with HIV and AIDS. Also, how many are unknowing catching and passing it on.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.