Police have reportedly arrested three men in connection with the trafficking of young women to Dubai and forcing them into prostitution. The news was disclosed by the Criminal Investigation Department of police on Monday, when it released details of the operation of an organised sex trafficking gang and those arrested, including one suspected to be the group's "kingpin". Some of the details that have emerged are disturbing. The traffickers would target girls aged mostly between 18 and 20 and exploit their vulnerability by promising them well-paid jobs in hotels. The victims were paid a month's salary up front, as "advance salary", and no fee was charged for their travel. Once they reached Dubai, they were first given jobs as receptionists or waitresses at one of the hotels owned by the group leader and later forced to work at dance clubs and subsequently as sex workers. They were beaten and tortured with electric shocks if they refused.
These details give us an insight into how transnational sex trafficking gangs work. They usually target poor young women from impoverished backgrounds who are desperate to make a living and use loopholes in the systems of both host countries and destination countries to continue their operations. The gang in question has allegedly been active for eight years and sent hundreds of women from Bangladesh. How could they elude detection for so long? Police often claim, as they also did after the recent bust, that the cross-border nature of these crimes makes them difficult to contain. But the truth is, a transnational criminal operation cannot thrive without a strong local base. Dismantling this base is vital. According to the latest United States Trafficking in Persons report, more than 4,000 trafficking cases were still awaiting investigation or prosecution at the end of last year in Bangladesh, and the conviction rate stood at just 1.7 percent in 2019. So no amount of rhetoric can absolve the failure and bureaucratic inadequacy of the criminal justice system and the local administration to bring the criminals to justice. The authorities, if they really mean to curb this crime, should also ramp up their efforts with the collaboration of destination countries and international organisations working on sex trafficking.
The most urgent task right now is to rescue the victims. We have had little progress in this regard and it is disconcerting that they continue to suffer thanks to lack of initiatives to bring them home safely. An important way to ensure this doesn't happen is to raise awareness among these impressionable young women, so that they don't fall prey to the promises of local "brokers" and agencies employed to lure them. Without raising awareness and strengthening local crime detection and prevention systems, as well as making our foreign missions and embassies sufficiently responsive, we cannot fight this crime with any success.