The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is assisting Interpol to identify and apprehend the foreigners who had bought child pornography from Bangladesh.
The move to nab the international clientele was initiated following the arrest of Tipu Kibria, an author of children's literature, and three of his associates on June 12 for using street children in pornographic shoots and selling those to foreign buyers.
"So far we have identified 13 customers and dealers from eight countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium and the Philippines," said Shah Alam, additional deputy inspector general (organised crime) of CID.
Referring to Tipu's gang as well as the foreign buyers, Alam said, "They not only violated international laws related to pornography, but what is more disturbing is that the buyers constantly demanded new pictures and video clips."
Tipu had to bring in a new child or two for shooting every week, he said, adding that more than 500 children, as Alam roughly calculates, might have fallen victim to child pornography since 2005 when Tipu began the trade.
During primary interrogation, Tipu admitted his involvement in the crime and revealed how his associates Nurul Amin and Nuru Islam lured boys, aged between nine and fifteen, into the trap with job offers and then shot films and snapped pictures, in which Tipu himself acted, said the official.
He used to pay the children about Tk 200 - 300, and they never complained to anyone since they came from very poor families, Alam added.
Tipu was caught red-handed with a child, but the child, after being rescued, initially denied he was being abused, although his medical report showed otherwise.
However, once he felt reassured, the child talked to police, said Alam.
"Money is all that mattes to these children as they are very poor," said Prof Ishrat Shamim, president of the Centre for Women and Children Studies. These street children also face many forms of exploitation, she added.
"Providing them with shelter might reduce the risk [of their getting exploited], but it is the demand side that needs to be controlled," she said.
Referring to a report published in the 1990s, Prof Nazrul Islam, chairman of psychology department at Dhaka University, said, "Street children, both boys and girls, get abused by seniors or strangers, and this is not a new experience for them."
Regarding the long-term psychological impact on these children, both Alam and Nazrul said these children would likely grow up with a negative attitude towards society, with no respect for law. Many of them might get involved in anti-social activities.
"Unless and until we can provide social and economic security, we cannot prevent such exploitation of children who are growing up on the streets," said Nazrul.