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Homesick, but nowhere to go

The fight against trafficking of women has suffered a setback with parent countries, writes Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 04:11 IST

The fight against trafficking of women has suffered a setback with parent countries — from where they are smuggled to India — refusing to take the “human cargo” back.

Bangladesh — from where the bulk of the women is brought to India for flesh trade — is the stumbling block. The remand homes are crammed with Bangladeshi sex workers and the neighbouring country is not willing to take them back.

The surge is getting bigger by the day with brisk rescue operations by NGOs and the law enforcement agencies. At present, over 4,000 Bangladeshi women are languishing in remand homes across India.

Last week, the state governments apprised the “Central Advisory Committee on Combating of Women and Children for Commercial Sexual Exploitation” of the ground reality and sought its help to repatriate Bangladeshi women to their hometowns. “Efforts by the state government to repatriate these women have failed,” an official of Women and Child Development ministry admitted. The situation has also ruffled the women and child development ministry’s feathers. Minister Renuka Chowdhury stressed on a “protocol to repatriate women from SAARC countries.”

“There is a need to develop a road map for the repatriation of these women in a human manner,” she said.

An action plan is on the way. The Unicef has been tasked with an exploratory study to identify roadblocks and suggest remedial measures.

The government estimates that over 80 per cent of foreign women smuggled to India are from the SAARC countries — primarily Bangladesh and Nepal. Repatriation to Nepal is relatively easy. An estimated 1,500 Nepali women are lodged in remand homes.

But Bangladesh poses challenges. “Most Bangladeshi women do not have valid documents to prove they are Bangladeshi citizens. In cases, where citizenship proof is available, the families refuse to take them back,” Roma Debabrata, president of a non-profit group, STOP Trafficking and Oppression of children and women, said.

“It is a unique travesty related to Bangladeshi women,” she said — urging the government to take up the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs. Chowdhury promised that the government will raise the issue in the next SAARC meeting and the external affairs ministry will be asked to devise suitable schemes for the rehabilitation of victims, who are not accepted by the country of their origin.

India has raised the issue of taking back Bangladeshi migrants in the past with Dhaka as the government believes that they skew up the border demography — especially in the northeast.

First Published: Sep 11, 2006 02:51 IST