A collective effort is needed to tackle human trafficking as well as to eliminate the possibility of this crime being committed in the country, speakers have said.
Besides, awareness of the parents over what social media platforms their children are using is vital to contain the crime, they told a webinar titled "Women trafficking using social media", which was organised by Manusher Jonne Foundation (MJF) on Saturday.
The discussants agreed unanimously that this phenomenon has long existed before the coronavirus pandemic and the use of social media apps like TikTok. However, it is a matter of concern how perpetrators are exploiting new mediums and channels to traffic women from Bangladesh into India and other places, they said.
"Women and girls are targeted for trafficking in Bangladesh and this stems from gender inequalities. Around 90% of trafficked women belong to low income households outside Dhaka," said Umme Wara, associate professor, Department of Criminology, Dhaka University.
Referring to the recent news of human trafficking using social media platform TikTok, she said, "So, we have to reach these households and families who are not aware of the risks and threats of using such social media apps."
She said women face double victimisation, because not only they experience sexual assault and torture, but they have to confront social stigma also if they survive the torture.
"It is extremely regrettable that the victim and witness protection act has not been implemented during the last 11 years since its inception," Wara said, adding, "Without protecting the victim, we cannot truly make positive change."
"Two important things that need to be taken under consideration are social awareness and informing women on how to keep themselves safe from falling victim," said Shaheen Anam, executive director of MJF.
"Trafficking cannot be stopped alone by the law enforcement," said Md Shahidullah, deputy commissioner of DMP's Tejgaon division. "It requires a collective effort," he said.
"It is regrettable that TikTok is being used in the country. Guardians should monitor social media activities of their loved ones. We need to take preemptive action against this crime," he added.
"We have the data over the number of women who returned home as survivors, but we cannot say how many have been trafficked from Bangladesh," said Salma Ali, president of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association.
Stressing that implementation of law is vital to counter human trafficking, she said, "This is a deep-rooted problem. We know that local community leaders and lawmakers are involved in this crime. Collective effort of all stakeholders is needed to fight trafficking."
At the webinar, BTRC Vice Chairman Subrata Roy Maitra said, "We are working on the issue of using 'parental lock' on internet access for children. Awareness of parents is the key to preventing children from abusing social media platforms."