Article 3 paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines ‘Trafficking in Persons’ as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”. This year, the theme of the Day is “Human Trafficking: call your government to action”
Bangladesh has ranked in the Tier 2 Watch List as per the reports of the US Department of States for the third consecutive year. The country does not fully meet the minimum standards required to combat trafficking in persons, but has been making considerable efforts to do so by initiating National Plan of Action and initiating investigations. However, one of the more pressing concerns in the country is the case of trafficking within the Rohingya refugees. No governmental efforts have been undertaken to address the trafficking of Rohingya despite persistent claims. The absence of a proper legal framework on the matter also greatly hinders the Rohingyas’ access to justice. The report further states that the Government of Bangladesh has been cooperating with counter-trafficking efforts of NGOs.
With a view to preventing and penalising human trafficking, the government enacted the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act of 2012. The 2012 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA) criminalises sex and labour trafficking and prescribed penalties of five years to life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 50,000 Bangladeshi Taka. However, the effectiveness of this Act has been minimal. The conviction rate under the Act is extremely low. According to police reports, the conviction rate between 2013 and 2019 is 0.4%. Only 25 out of the total cases filed resulted in convictions. Moreover, no tribunal as required by the Act has yet been formed, significantly reducing the access to justice for trafficking in persons.