There are an estimated 592,000 people living in modern slavery in Bangladesh (GSI 2018). Men, women and children are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Bangladesh is host to more than 1 million undocumented Rohingya, including hundreds of thousands who fled Burma in previous decades. The Rohingya community’s stateless status and inability to work legally increases their vulnerability to human trafficking. Rohingya women and girls are reportedly recruited from refugee camps for domestic work and are instead subjected to sex trafficking. Within the country, Bangladeshi children and adults are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced and bonded labour, in which traffickers exploit an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the employment terms.
Bakul was 15 years-old when she married Rony, a man 4 years older than her. His family and friends pressured her into marrying him. At 16 years-old she gave birth to her daughter Jui.
They said he’d commit suicide if I didn’t run away with him. I was so young and I didn’t know my husband, so I was afraid of him. I didn’t know what it meant to have a husband.
I have some friends who are going to college now and I feel bad that I can’t go with them. I used to really enjoy my school life. My teacher used to call me a ‘singing bird’ because I would always sing and dance.
Rony tries to make ends meet by ferrying people around Dhaka as a rickshaw driver, making up to 400 taka a day, but he rarely works a full day. He spends more than he earns, and usually doesn’t give me money. Most of our money goes on food. I really regret getting married so young. I had so much freedom before and didn’t have to care about my family and responsibilities. My parents often remind me that this is what I have done to myself.
I get up at 5 am for morning prayer. I start cooking and go to fetch water from the tube well nearby. I look after the baby and make food and then think about what food to make for lunch. By 7 pm I try to finish all of my cooking and household chores and then watch TV and watch soap operas. One show I watch is Tapur Tupur. It’s the story of two sisters. I aspire to be like Tupur, she’s the good one, the responsible wife and daughter-in-law who helps everyone when they are in a bad situation.
I have to look after him [Rony] as well, give him his food. He often nags, especially when he’s angry.
If I met another girl who was thinking of getting married like I did, I’d try and discourage her. It’s like if you want to buy a nice dress, maybe your husband won’t be able to buy it for you, but if you study and get a good job, then you can buy it for yourself.
If I could start my life again, there’s no way I’d get married so young. I’d stand on my own two feet, become independent, have good health, be with my family and friends.
Narrative and image provided by Girls Not Brides. Originally provided by Plan Asia.