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Globally, 27.6 million people are estimated to be victims of human trafficking at any given time. Many of them fall prey to human trafficking after being coerced by the very people they trust the most. Survivors of human trafficking are left shattered by the trauma they had faced. For them, it is crucial to have a comprehensive support system which includes components of community engagement, comprehensive training, and reintegration support.
I still remember Liza (pseudonym). She lived in Jashore in southwestern Bangladesh, with the demon who tore her life apart.
No. Let me correct myself.
Liza was forced to live with that demon, by a complex web of exploitative norms and cruel twists and turns of reality.
Growing up, Liza had a childhood which was marked by the same concerns harboured by her friends. ‘Which game should we play today? Do we play hide and seek or cricket?’
Still a shy, young child, Liza blushed red at the mention of marriage. Marriage was something beautiful but yet it was weirdly embarrassing. But little did Liza know, marriage would open up an alleyway to hell for her.
Right after the marriage, Liza started noticing that her husband was acting suspicious. Her suspicion was well-founded and soon she found herself to be a victim of human trafficking. Guess, who was the trafficker? No wonder- it was her husband.
Her husband didn’t stop there. He coerced her into prostitution. Breaking all vows of marriage, stripping her of a life of dignity, he broke her. Her toils didn’t end there, she even had to serve prison time for crimes which she didn’t even commit.
After her release, she returned back to the prison that was awaiting her. She found herself entangled in a life she had never chosen and worst of all – she is having to continue living with the person who abused her and tore her life apart.
Living thousands of miles apart but united by circumstances
Now, let’s open our hearts to the story of Taylor, living in Baltimore City in the United States of America. Her life was also underscored by exploitation and betrayal by someone close to her. For Taylor, it was her uncle.
Taylor’s uncle subjected her to the horrors of pornography, robbing her of the joys of childhood and the bliss of innocence. But fortunately for Taylor, she was able to break free from the clutches of exploitation as she sought help from law enforcement and found her way to a Safe Center.
With the help of the compassionate environment of the Safe Center, Taylor began her journey to heal. Her life is testament to the importance of comprehensive support systems that play a crucial role in helping survivors of human trafficking reclaim their lives.
Existence of a comprehensive support system and Safe Centers can play a crucial role in reintegrating victims of human trafficking in Bangladesh as well. Now is the time to invest in people broken by the trauma of human trafficking in Bangladesh.
Role of comprehensive support systems for victims of human trafficking
Human trafficking leaves victims scarred, vulnerable, and needing a helping hand. The US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report underscores the magnitude of human trafficking as a global concern. The scale at which the crisis is unfolding is alarming, to put it mildly, with nearly 27.6 million people estimated to be victims at any given time globally.
For Bangladesh, the challenges posed by human trafficking are even more intense. Bangladesh stands at sixth globally in terms of sending migrant workers to find employment abroad. Many more are victims of human trafficking. They become the prey of organised human trafficking and crime syndicates. Victims are shoved into forced labour, sexual slavery or commercial sexual exploitation. According to Bangladesh Police, five thousand cases of human trafficking are lodged in Bangladesh.
For Bangladesh the challenge is two-fold. First is the urgent need to combat trafficking but it is equally important to improve victim identification and establish an extensive network of comprehensive support services for survivors of human trafficking. It is vital to have that support service network include components of community engagement, comprehensive training, and reintegration support for survivors seeking justice.
Civil society organisations like BRAC are playing an important role in this space. But a lot is yet to be done to help the survivors of human trafficking break free from the trauma. We must ‘reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind’.
BRAC Migration programme promotes safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration at every step, and works to ensure that migrant workers know their rights and how to exercise them. To date, BRAC Migration programme has touched the lives of 2.5 million people, raising awareness and facilitating sustainable reintegration addressing and abating human trafficking and migration vulnerability of people. BRAC Migration programme provides emergency financial aid and in-kind support, skills development training to avail decent work for aspiring migrant workers and support their reintegration upon return.
Shaila Sharmin is a Deputy Manager at BRAC Migration programme.