Human trafficking in Bangladesh: dead men tell no tales

Economic Social and Cultural Rights

Now-a-days, when we start going through the newspapers in the morning, the news of human trafficking often comes to our sight. We see that people from the lower economic classes are leaving their own motherly country risking their lives with a view to earning more in the foreign countries. Thanks to the dearth of competent employment facilities, these people are most often compelled to resort to such a risky way. Most of these people are illiterate and hence they are easily ill-trapped by the human traffickers. The discovery of mass graves of victims of human trafficking in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have moved us to think that some of us are much more cruel even than the animals of the forest.

According to Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, “Trafficking in Persons is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

The Parliament of Bangladesh has recently passed the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012. It provided definition of Human Trafficking which is also parallel to the definition provided by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 recognizes three ways of Human Trafficking. They are threat or use of force, deception or abuse of his or her socio-economic or other types of vulnerability, giving or receiving money or benefit to procure the consent of a person having control over him. But in case of a child, there is no need to prove that any of the above mentioned ways is followed.

Why Bangladesh?

Bangladesh is a country of more than 150 million people. They are not aware of the fact of human trafficking or even if they are aware of that they do not care enough or they are bound by certain circumstances. The human traffickers entice them showing the dreams of better lives, better salary or upcoming happiness in the family. Sometimes, they are recruited for work overseas with fraudulent employment offers who are subsequently exploited under conditions of forced labor or debt bondage. It is also seen that the parents sell their children to the traffickers for earning money.

As we have a huge population, it is not possible for the government of our country to create employment opportunity for each and every one. Apart from that, as Bangladesh is the source and transit place for those who are subjected to trafficking in persons, it is easier for the traffickers to send the victims to the destined places.

People of this country are highly ambitious and they dream of better lives, better income even though they do not have enough qualifications. So, they try to go abroad and earn more.  Most of the time they have the misconception that “money is not a big matter in the foreign countries”. As they covet for more money, they are easily ill-trapped and persuaded by the human traffickers.  The human traffickers never lose these kinds of chances.

Legal Provisions

The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 says in its section 6(2), “Human trafficking is prohibited in Bangladesh and if anyone commits the crime of trafficking shall be punished with an imprisonment not exceeding imprisonment for life but not less than 5 years of rigorous imprisonment and with fine not less than taka fifty thousand.”

Again section 371 of the Penal Code,1860 says, “Whoever habitually imports, exports, removes, buys, sells, traffics or deals in slaves, shall be punished with [imprisonment] for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

If any person unlawfully forces another person to work against his will or compels to provide labor or holds in debt bondage, he shall be deemed to have committed an offence according to section 8(2) of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 and shall for the offence be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 years but not less than 5 years and with fine not less than taka fifty thousand.

The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 is so considerate that it also created arrangements for the witnesses of this heinous crime. If any person threatens or uses undue influence or forces against the witness, he shall be deemed to have committed an offence and shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years but not less than 3 years and with fine not less than taka twenty thousand.

According to the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, the heinous crime of human trafficking is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Present Scenario

Most of the time, the people who are subjected to trafficking are left without no food and water or inadequate food and water in the middle of the sea in a small trawler or boat. Majority of them die on the way for want of food and water. The government is taking steps to stop this. But they are not enough. The parliament is passing new and necessary acts with proper punishments in them, training the law enforcing agencies and making people aware about this issue through satellite, print media.

But even after this kind of legal arrangement the rate of human trafficking is not decreasing. According to a statistics provided by Bangladesh Police, the number of recorded case of human trafficking in Bangladesh from June’14 to May’15 is 779, where the number of arrested person is 932. But it is a matter of fact that only 10 persons have been convicted till now. Another saddening fact is the number of child trafficked is 225 which happened within a year. Even in the Month of May’15 the number of child trafficked is 25 i.e., almost a child per day is trafficked. Only for this reason, the Human Traffickers are rather influenced to continue doing this type of heinous crimes against humanity.[1]

Is law enforcement alone enough to reduce human trafficking?

Forced labor and sex trafficking is the second most profitable criminal enterprise, and the fastest growing not only in the country but in the world as well. Approximately $32 billion market all over the world per-year is driven by the basic market laws of demand and supply and this will not stop as long as the risk of being caught is low, and the profits remain high. For this reason, law enforcement alone can never be enough to prevent this crime, but certainly it can play a vital role. Social awareness with enforcement of law can prevent this crime.

Law enforcement historically has been the greatest impediment to combating human trafficking.  Any efforts to reduce human trafficking must be multi-faceted, looking at criminal justice, immigration, economics, and politics, while also focusing on eliminating demand.  Taking away the profits, making the risk vs. benefit equation unpalatable for traffickers, and it is then possible to end human trafficking.

Countering human trafficking also requires an international approach.  Harsh sentences, fines, and required standards and oversight of businesses around the world are a must.

Finally, law enforcement and immigration agencies must alter the way in which they view and treat victims.  Victims of modern day slavery require extensive treatment, resources, and rehabilitation.  They should not face criminal charges or the threat of deportation.  Social service providers and members of the community need to be involved every step of the way, as victims rarely trust anyone in the government.  We must protect victims and give them the help they require.[2]


Present human trafficking situation in Bangladesh clearly implies that the Formal Law is somewhere lacking to give a proper solution. As law alone is never enough to give a check on the increasing rate of social stigma such as human trafficking – the awareness and sincere mentality is a must along with proper activities to curb it. In this regard, it can also be stated that the development of inter -relation among the countries might play a vital role to decline the rate of human trafficking. Last of all, we can say that “Being human is given. But keeping our humanity is a choice.”


[1], last accessed on: 23 June, 2015

[2] Sara Elizabeth Dill , “Human Trafficking: A Decade’s Track Record, Plus Techniques for Prosecutors and Police Moving Forward”

Cite this article as: Md. Azhar Uddin Bhuiyan, 'Human trafficking in Bangladesh: dead men tell no tales' (Bangladesh Law Digest, June 23, 2015) <>


Copyright: Any unauthorized use or reproduction of Bangladesh Law Digest (BDLD) content for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited and constitutes copyright infringement liable to legal action.


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