Exploitation is built into the social structure, and traffickers will keep up their activities as long as the system allow it

The crime of human trafficking is one of the most appalling affronts to human rights and dignity. Heartbreakingly, this terrible business is alive and well in Bangladesh in 2020. 

Under a 2012 law that criminalized human trafficking, at least 4,000 cases are pending investigation. The conviction rate currently stands at a mere 1.7%. Despite the government’s assurances, it is clear that not enough is being done.

Nevertheless, it is good to see some action being taken at long last. Back in March, seven tribunals were set up to deal with the thousands of trafficking cases at hand, and just last week, in its first verdict, a woman was found guilty of kidnapping her neighbour’s child and then selling the child to traffickers.

Let us hope this is the first conviction of many. The law minister has said Bangladesh was speeding up its efforts to bring human traffickers to justice. Certainly, the anti-trafficking tribunals signal to the people that the government is taking the human trafficking problem seriously, but the fact is, a few arrests here and there are akin to a drop in the ocean.

The problem must be approached systemically, and tackled from all angles. Exploitation is built into the social structure, and traffickers will keep up their activities as long as the system allows it. There remain too many within our society who wish to exploit poor and helpless people, and factors such as poverty, a lack of education, and a lack of support from the authorities mean too many are ready to fall prey.

The government has a duty to protect its citizens from exploitation and harm, and this will involve not only throwing the book at those who violate the rights of others, but going back to the root causes that make people vulnerable to traffickers in the first place.

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