Bangladesh wants its rescued women back, but without children

After mid-day’s report on rescued Bangladeshi sex workers awaiting repatriation to their country, the High Commission has agreed to take 49 of the women back. But with a bizarre condition they cannot bring their children along, as they are fathered by Indian clients

Imagine getting the news that your home country — from where you were lured to a foreign land and exploited — has finally accepted you back, but with a condition that makes your return near impossible. Such is the situation of about 14 Bangladeshi women of the 172 who were rescued from brothels and sheltered in various homes across the state and were waiting to go home.

Also read: Rescued from brothels, 172 Bangladeshi girls are waiting to go home

One of the women said she plans to approach the embassy officials to convince them. She added that even the thought of leaving her baby in some other country and going home was worse than a nightmare. Pics/Nimesh Dave
One of the women said she plans to approach the embassy officials to convince them. She added that even the thought of leaving her baby in some other country and going home was worse than a nightmare. Pics/Nimesh Dave

The Bangladesh High Commission has approved repatriation of 49 of the 172 women, of whom two gave birth to children in India. However, the Bangladeshi authorities have imposed a cruel condition upon the mothers — they have to leave their children behind, as they were born to Indian fathers.

mid-day had reported in June how the 172 women were languishing in various shelter homes, most of them belonging to the NGO Rescue Foundation across the city and Pune, due to a delay on part of the Bangladesh High Commission. Now that the travel permits have been approved, they come with the inhuman rider.

mid-day’s June 21 report on the bureaucratic delays plaguing the repatriation process
mid-day’s June 21 report on the bureaucratic delays plaguing the repatriation process

Conditions apply
“I do not wish to go back to my country if they cannot accept my son,” fumes Naina (name changed), mother of a seven-month-old who is stuck in India as the Bangladesh High Commission has refused to accept her son as their national. The 18-year-old was rescued from a prostitution den in Budhwarpeth, Pune, almost a year ago.

She was lured to Mumbai with the promise of opportunities to earn good money, and was sold to a brothel. After being rescued, Naina delivered a child at the Pune shelter home of Rescue Foundation when she was a minor. She cannot believe her own country wants to separate her from her baby.

“I do not want to go back to my country. In fact, it is not my country any more. I will bring up my baby here. My parents died when I was just three. I know the pain of growing up without parents. I cannot do that to my child,” she states.

Another such woman stays in a Rescue Foundation home in Boisar. “I want to meet the Embassy officials and convince them. I have been in touch with my family since I was rescued from the brothel. They have agreed to take me back. I cannot do without my baby even for a second. Even the thought of leaving her in some other country and going home to family is worse than a nightmare,” she says.

The babies were fathered by the clients of the girls, after they were pushed into prostitution. The fathers want to have nothing to do with the babies, but the mothers got attached to the children after they were born. The Bangladesh High Commission took a year and a half to clear repatriation for the 49 women.

After mid-day’s report highlighting bureaucratic delays, the Commission approved travel permits for them. Dilip Hirwale, the deputy commissioner of women and child development, confirmed this, stating, “We have received the clearance for around 50 girls. Most of them are sheltered in Rescue Foundation homes. The process of issuing travel permits will begin.

There is, however, no joy for the two women; they are now, virtually, in limbo. Neither can they stay here legally, nor can they go back home. The Foundation is home to six girls who delivered babies in India. In all, more than a dozen women from the 172 rehabilitated have children born to Indian fathers. Additionally, there are hundreds of Bangladeshis in Byculla jail and no count of how many women there who may be in such a condition.

Fatherless, homeless
The rescue home, too, is aghast at the situation, as they simply cannot take back these children. “It is shocking that the embassy has even thought of this. How can a mother leave her child behind?” asked a disconcerted Triveni Acharya, the president of Rescue Foundation. The NGO works for the welfare of women rescued from brothels.

Acharya added, “First of all, they (Bangladesh High Commission) took so long to clear their travel permits. Now when the permits have been cleared, they have come up with this fresh hurdle. If this condition is brought into force, more such women across Maharashtra will be stuck in India for no fault of theirs.”

Last year, with the number of women forced into flesh trade skyrocketing, NGOs demanded a separate embassy for Mumbai since most were rescued from the city. The High Commission took note of the grievances and a Deputy High Commission’s office was set up at Bandra-Kurla Complex in 2013. The office has consular jurisdiction over the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, TN, Kerala and Goa, and the UTs of Puducherry, and Daman and Diu. But, work is still moving at snail’s pace.

According to data available with the state’s Women and Child Development department, there are thousands of such girls in Maharashtra waiting to go home — only 55 were sent back in 2013-14. In 2012-13, the number was 85. Increasing cases of human trafficking have forced the state government to form a nodal office on the issue. The office keeps track of girls rescued, and reports it to the women and child development department.

No of Bangladeshi women who have been rescued from brothels and repatriated to their home country in the past two years

Official speak
Despite repeated attempts made by this newspaper, officials at the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission remained unavailable for comment. They did not answer phone calls or respond to any of the messages left for them at the reception.

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