News has emerged of a trafficking network in Oman that is enticing Bangladeshi women with promises of regular jobs but ultimately pushing them into sexual slavery. What we have learnt from talking to those few who have managed to gain their freedom and return home to lodge complaints with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) is that the situation is quite dire in Muscat, the capital city of Oman.
Apparently, there are some 20–25 Bangladeshi women who are being held at an office of a recruiting agency and from there these victims are “sold” to other parties for varying periods of time before the cycle begins again. They have no rights and are made to do things against their wishes and are often victims of rape. Women who want their freedom from this hellhole are made to call their families back home with pleas to pay ransom money.
The above scenario speaks volumes of the abject lack of protection facing women expatriate workers. These so-called recruiting agencies and brokers promise the sun and the moon to unsuspecting women and lure them to overseas labour markets with promises of good jobs, only to have them end up in a land where they have no physical protection, let alone decent pay and nominal working conditions.
We find the lack of action by law enforcement agencies utterly perplexing, particularly when there is firsthand information available from returnees. Last week, we had written an editorial about a certain minister advocating that the police not take cognisance of complaints by our expatriate workers under the Anti-Trafficking Act, and we reiterate that this is entirely the wrong message being given out. People are being trafficked and abused physically and we must stop acting like nothing is happening. The testimonies of returnees clearly point out the sufferings they are going through and the refusal of authorities to act against these traffickers is tantamount to acquiescing to their activities.