In the past Bangladeshi’s who have been rescued from prostitution were treated as illegal immigrants and were deported to Bangladesh by the “push back” method, which meant the girls were taken to the border and pushed across, so they then became the problem of the Bangladeshi government. The girls were often left without help or support and sometimes again became victims of abuse by the border patrol guards.
This month, STOP THE TRAFFIK member SACMEP* took part in a historical event – the first ever repatriation to Bangladesh! *South Asia Centre for Missing and Exploited People
22 girls and 2 infants were safely returned to Bangladesh on 21st April 2008.
Excitement was building up in the government homes where the girls were held, some of the girls had wanted to go home for a long time. The girls were in high spirits and to prepare themselves for the adventure they were putting henna in their hair and on their hands in elaborate patterns. Travel packs were given to each of the girls which included a new outfit, toiletries and a travel bag. When asked about the repatriation the girls answered that they were very happy – especially as they were going on an airplane for the first time!
Many of the girls will face stigma from their communities and time needs to be taken to prepare them for this and also to help sensitize the communities. Many of the girls will not tell their families where they have been and what happened to them in order to protect themselves from rejection and/or ridicule.
Anita studied at school until she was 12 years, she then left school as her parents couldn’t afford to fund both her and her brother. Anita decided that she would get a job to help support her family. She was approached by her cousins husband who told her that he could get her work as a domestic servant for 4000rs (£50/$100us) a month in Mumbai. She came happily with the consent of her family. Once she arrived in Mumbai she was not given a job as a domestic servant, she was forced to work in a dance bar and take customers. When she refused she was beaten and starved. A boy who she met in the area proposed to her and she was happy to say yes, however about a week after the wedding he went back to his home village and never returned.
Anita was then sold to a brothel in Kamathipura – Mumbai’s red light district. The police had been watching this brothel and they asked the SACMEP team to assist with the raid. Anita, then aged 16 was rescued. Anita, is one of the girls repatriated to Bangladesh. She was very happy and excited to be returning home and is looking forward to seeing her family, she does not blame them for what happened to her, but she is very angry with the man who trafficked her.