PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU- PAULA BANNERJEE
Women from Bangladesh are largely trafficked to India. From India they might then be taken to Pakistan or the Middle East.
In a research by Sanlaap, in two red light areas of West Bengal it was revealed that most of these women migrate from one place to another. Ninety per cent of the red light areas that they have identified as places that they have worked in are situated in the states that border Bangladesh…
Most of the women in sex work were illiterate. Many have entered prostitution when they were minors. Most of them came from families of wage earners and cultivators or their mothers were sex workers as well. Sex workers find no alternative except letting their daughters take up the same profession because as children of sex workers they are stigmatized and discriminated against from the beginning. They are deprived of education or even a social environment with any promise or hope.
Even while in the profession their lives are never secure. Basically there are three to four modes of operation. They can work independently, on contract basis or even under a ‘madam’. Women in the third category have to give up all their earnings to the madam, and they are given room, food and some other necessities in lieu of their payments. Even on contract basis they give half the payments to madams. The best of them earn about Rs 5,000 per month. This takes care of their necessities and their children.
There are cases where women who are brought from Bangladesh to the metropolitan towns in India face tremendous brutality. One such is Hamida, a young Bangladeshi girl, who was brought to India at the age of 10. She suffered a series of brutal rapes at the hands of the man who brought her to New Delhi, along with some of his friends who were Delhi policemen …. Only one of the accused men has served jail time.
On January 10, 2003 five Bangladeshi nationals, of whom two were minors, crossed the Indo-Bangladesh border and entered India. The Border Security Force (BSF) arrested them from a Baro Bridge across the Ichhamati River. The area in which the incident took place is under the jurisdiction of the Basirhat police station in the north 24 Parganas. The Bangladeshi nationals including Jayanti Bala Das were all taken to the Soladana BSF camp at around 5 p.m. on the same night a BSF personnel allegedly raped Jayanti Bala. Thereafter, these ‘infiltrators’ were put in a small leaking boat and efforts were made to push them back. Allegedly, when the boatman refused to go he was threatened at the point of a gun. The boat capsized in the middle of the river and only Jayanti Bala and her one-year-old son could save themselves. On January 13, the villagers of Bagundi, who had given her shelter, handed her over to the police of Basirhat. She was charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act.
On January 21 a dead body was found in the Brickkiln Canal in South Basirhat. The man was identified as Jayanti’s husband Basudev. When a case was lodged against five BSF personnel, the BSF men were unwilling to hand over their personnel to the Basirhat police. Although the Bengal–Bangladesh Borderland BSF disagreed that Jayanti was raped, the officer-in-charge of this case stated that initial examinations proved that she was molested.
On January 27, the SDJM of Basirhat issued warrants against five BSF men. In July Jayanti was handed over to the Sromojibi Mahila Samity for safe custody and on September 15, 2003 a writ petition was filed on her behalf. The cases are still pending.
Jayanti’s case reflects the situation of women who are trying to cross the border. Their status of being a foreign-born woman increases their vulnerability. No one is willing to shoulder any responsibility for them. The state that they leave is glad to get rid of them and the state that they enter finds them unwanted. (By arrangement with WFS)
(Edited excerpts from ‘Women In Indian Borderlands’, Edited by Paula Banerjee, Associate Professor, University of Calcutta and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Research Associate, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata; Published by SAGE ; Pages: 268; Price: Rs 595.)