Before starting to Chittagong, I met with so many women and children, who were trafficked from different parts of the country to India, later on rescued and now they have been sheltered by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyer's Association, the centre receives substantial support from UNICEF. I was told that in India, they were sold in brothels, so their husbands and family do not want them, because of what happened with them in India.
Coming over the remote rural areas of Chittagong, I gathered information on human trafficking and also came across number of cases related to sex-trade, which is in mushrooming growth here. Surprisingly, I came to know one of the main causes of trafficking young girls is the myth that intercourse with a virgin can cure a man of sexually transmitted diseases and rejuvenate him, as it was told by N.M. Sajjadul Hoque, a renowned anthropologist in University of Chittagong. He also said there’s a widespread myth that sex with a female child does not expose a person to sexually transmitted diseases or HIV. “The demand for children is undoubtedly more compared to adults,” Hoque said.
A recent survey by UNICEF Bangladesh found the average age at which children became involved in commercial sexual exploitation was 13. Although sexual abuse affects all strata of society, it remains a taboo that is not talked about in Bangladesh. As a result, many children who are being exploited as part of the commercial sex industry do not tell anyone.
The port cities like Chittagong remain popular hubs for child sex tourists. More than 500 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked from Bangladesh, every month. Majority of the victims are destined for India, Pakistan and the Middle East. The women generally end up as prostitutes in brothels. “Human beings are the supreme creature of Allah. But a few criminals vitiate the virtue by committing various crimes against vulnerable people”, Md. Sajjad Rehman, a social activist cocks. “We think such a large-scale crime cannot continue for years together without the connivance of some members of the law enforcement agencies”, he adds. So, “…the authorities concerned need to take necessary steps against human trafficking”, he concludes.
Sex trade is a very common trade in this city under the full knowledge of local police. The child prostitution is increasing in sky rocketing rate. According to the official reports, about one million people have become vulnerable internal migrants in Bangladesh due to environmental factors such as frequent natural disasters, drought, floods and riverbank erosion. “The unique geographic location and characteristics of Bangladesh, coupled with the myriad of developmental challenges including extreme poverty continue to contribute to its exposure to a wide range of destructive natural hazards such as cyclones, storms, flooding and erosion”, says Alhaj Yasin Chowdhury Asu, Ward Councilor of Bakalia locality. He further explains “…it is expected that increasingly larger numbers of people will continue to be displaced owing to the exacerbating effects of environmental degradation and climate change. In order to combat some of these detrimental effects on already vulnerable populations, initiatives are being undertaken to increase awareness on the effects of environmental and climate change factors on population movements, and to mainstream migration into all climate change adaptation policies".
Md. Babul Haque from Saraipara estimates, “Across the region, many child prostitutes have sex with two to 30 clients in a single week, meaning a child sex worker may have forced sex with as many as 1,500 men in a year, according to a local journalist Md. Naushad. “In some areas, police who are supposed to stop these crimes are involved in crimes by offering protection to criminals. Additionally, pimps and middlemen get protection from the police.”
Since Chittagong is a port city with an active sex trade it is mainly important to assess and educate the SBSWs concerning HIV/AIDS and STIs, as well as offer them with care, referral and support. It is approximated that there are at least 4000 SBSWs in Chittagong City. The local media estimates, every month more than 3000 tribal women from Murong community are pushed away in the sex trade through various ways. They are sent to India through roadways and other country through sea-ways and in both cases Chittagong is the best and most comfortable place. “Chittgong is the best place to use it as a hub. It is bounded by various ranges, inhabitant of a large number tribal communities, enveloped in poverty and unawareness”, says Nadira, a Dhaka based social activist. So, “…from the most wretched families, the pimps successfully lure them by false promises and carry them from their native place to Chittgong and finally smuggle out of the country and most of them end up as destitute”, she reports. “Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari are the major hinterland, where from the mediators bring the human being”, she reports. Human trafficking through the routes has been increasing alarmingly as those routes are apparently safer for the traffickers, explained me a high-ranking police official preferring not to be named.
As Bandarban Hill District is the remotest and least populated district in Bangladesh and the lure of the tallest peaks of this country, treks through virgin forests and chance to meet more than 15 aboriginal groups, who reside in the hamlets. Since the insurgency ceased in the Chittgong Hill Tracts (a cluster that includes all three hill districts of Bangladesh) it has opened up for tourists more than a decade back only, though almost the guides may still describe this area as “a major security risk”. In Bandarban, there are eight mountain ranges in the area. They are Muranja, Wayla, Chimbook, Batimain, range, Politai, Saichal-Mowdok,wdok Mual 1,003m), Saichal, Rang Tlang, Mowdok Tlang, Wailatong and Tambang ranges. Chimbook area was our destination.
We have been suggested for train ride from Kamalapur Mahanagar Godhuli to Chittgong as it was said to be so joyful. From sources attached I came to know, the bogies have been donated by the government of Japan, 15-20 years back. The rail journey was really very unprecedented. When people begin to crowd at the platform you understand the arrival of the train – 40-50 minutes late - is imminent.
I am happy that the trains do not move any faster than they do, because the tracks are old and not very even. But apparently there are not many accidents, so “…it's a much safer mode of travel than by the highways of Bangladesh”, a co-passenger expresses with relief.
Surprisingly, people reside as very close to the tracks so they get their air conditioning from passing trains. Slum habitation press up against the embankments and railway sleepers and people seemingly spill back on the tracks after the train has passed. The locomotive's horn is used constantly on the way out of Dhaka to warn people off the tracks. I came across the same way of warning in Patna, Bihar near Meethapur railway crossing 7-8 years back. It takes a good hour to clear Dhaka.
On good stretches the train picked up good speed, and with a great-sounding, classic clickety-clack the express thundered through the green fields on elevated embankments.
The train restaurant waiter came to take orders and was annoyed that we had brought our lunch ourselves. The train reached Chittgong by 9 pm and we were told to check-in at the earliest due to security reasons. I preferred to stay in Asian SR Hotel as next day morning; I had to visit some villages to see the adaptive technologies for sustainable year-round organic vegetable production. Truly speaking, being a strict vegetarian, I am very hesitant to have meals in the hotels in abroad, specially in Muslim countries. So, I always carry Chuda (stuffed rice), bhoonja (fried horse gram) and sattoo (grounded powders of pulses and cereals like horse gram).
The Grand Port City of Chittagong, once called the Porte Grande by the Portuguese sailor-merchants, is virtually a commercial city. Next day, I visited and came across the activities of the project. In course of interaction, it was found that the local people and farmers were very enthusiastic about the summer variety. The cultivation was enough to only meet local needs but could be easily fulfill countrywide demand if cultivated on commercial scales project, the sources said. The project is funded by the project is being implemented through a local NGO named Society for Social Service (SSS) in 49 thanas of 34, districts of the country.
I met Suleman Nazar, who cultivated two different varieties of summer tomato on his 15 decimal land in Kulgaon village is very pleased with the production. "So far I have sold 100 kg of tomato at the price Tk 25 to 30 for each kilo," the farmer said adding that he has spent Tk 1,500 per decimal of land. He explains "A cultivator can earn Tk 4,000 net income by growing summer tomato on only one decimal of land." He further adds, "The maximum production of tomato per decimal land is about 125 kg." The concerned agency is conducting research works on different types of crops and transferring technologies to the farmers. It is also supplying seeds among the farmers free of cost and helping them to prepare their land for cropping the new varieties of vegetables, such as tomato, yard-long bean and okra. I suggested the local village level scientist to cultivate okra following a prominent crop like sunflower cultivation. Since, the climate of this area is suitable for this crop and the oil cake of this yield is best food for chickens. So, they may start integrated activities like sunflower cum okra cultivation with poultry farming. I mentioned them in India the farmers in some parts of Vidarbha have woken up to the potential of alternative crops to cotton and have taken to cultivating sunflower in a big way.
The local agency and the locals are willing to continue this activities but other sources said that the, project is likely to be closed very soon as the major donor USAID is likely to withdraw its support. It is the matter of sustainability. However it has a very good impact as the marginal farmers are most benefited from the year-round gardening and it also has helped improve their family nutrition through increased consumption of vegetables at rural households, as well as from additional income earned from sale of these vegetables. What is more, it also released two summer tomato varieties, three mungbean varieties with the technical assistance and, germplasm provided by the project.
The project is really fantastic as it fulfills all the criteria to be said EXCELLENT as it satisfy human food and fiber needs, makes the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls and sustain the economic viability of farm operations including enhancement of the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.