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1988 (Narrative date)

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 labor, in which traffickers exploit an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the employment terms.  


Anessa was 13 years old when she married her 50 year old employer Samad. Once married, Samad told Anessa that she would go work abroad. A job was found for Samad in Kuwait, where upon arrival, she was told she would engage in sex work. Samad sent what money she received back to her husband, however upon returning to Bangladesh found out that her husband had divorced her.  

In 1988, I migrated to Gazipur with my mother. We were very poor. My mother worked in people's home. I did the same. At the age of 13, I went to work in the house of one Samad. He was a leader type, not much educated but well off, about 50 years old. He had one wife and three children. Sometimes my mother worked there. She called him mama (maternal uncle), I called him nana (maternal grandfather). 

Samad used to tell me about going abroad. I just listened. He was much older than me. I feared and I respected him. One day he told me:  

- “I feel a lot for you. I want to marry you.”  

Hearing this, I felt flattered. I thought I will be a rich man's wife. That was a lot for me. I did not think, he has one wife and grown up children and my life could be difficult. One day, he took me to Joydapur and married me at the Kazi' s office. He forbade me to tell anyone. I continued to work in his house as a servant. I could not do anything special for him as a wife does for her husband, serve him his meal and attend to his needs. I wondered, what kind of situation is this. I married him but we do not behave like married people. We never even had sexual intercourse together. One day, Samad told me:  

- "I am sending you abroad. You are now my wife. To ensure your happiness and security is my responsibility. Since your co-wife's children are big, maybe I cannot give you much of my assets, so I thought you should go abroad for 2 to 3 years and earn something for yourself. I will pay for your migration. You can also help your poor mother in this way."

Hearing such nice words, how could I not trust him? Two months after my marriage, Hormotullah (a local dalal) and my husband sent me to Kuwait. I did not understand they had been preparing this. When I had a medical exam, they said it was for treating me, when my passport was made, they said it was to register some land in my name. Samad took the initiative for these. He took no one else along with him.  

All of a sudden, one evening, I was told that a good job had been found in Kuwait. My husband said:  

- "You don't need to tell anyone now because if it does not work out, you will feel embarrassed.”  

I was afraid but that was of no use. I was sent to Kuwait early in 1997. I opened a bank account in my husband's name. I don't know how much it cost him to send me there. I only told my mother that I was leaving. 

My husband told me to be hard working and obedient and to make my employer happy. 

- "Send money every month", he said, "I will do something for you. You could loose it or it could get stolen if you keep it. I will see that your mother gets what she needs. You will have wealth in your own name and if I go and live with you, my wife and children will not be able to object".  

I was met by my employer at the airport. He took my papers. I ate and I went to sleep. There were six other women in the house, 1 Sri Lankan, 2 Philippinas and 3 Bangladeshis. The following day, I sat with the employer, his wife and one Bangladeshi woman who had been in Kuwait for a long time and served as the interpreter. Their talk was very clear. 

Hearing them, I got astonished and afraid. I remembered my husband's words. I feared he knew very well what kind of work he was sending me to do. Then I thought, there will be money, I will have my own family (shongshar), I can help my mother, I will be respected. Beside, I thought here this is probably what holding a job meant since everybody did this work.  

At the time, when I said yes to sex work, I thought this would be an easy job but when I started I realized how oppressive the work could be. One week later, after getting some training about looking attractive and keeping clean, I started work.  

For five years I did this work regularly in the hope of getting some happiness. I dreamed about Samad living with me as my husband. Every month, he sent me cassettes or letters through people. He said beautiful things, words that could melt a stone. I felt loved. The man who brought the cassettes and the letters never left them with me.  

I worked 6 days a week and, on my day off, I had to work in the house of my employer. I never had a day to myself. That was the case for the other girls as well. Every month, I sent 10,000-12,000 taka to my husband. I thought here I am struggling but one day when I go home I will find happiness. Then, I will forget what I do now and start a new life.  

My husband always gave me news of my mother and that made me happy. After listening to his words, I felt even more eager to work and to earn for our future.  

I was usually left at hotels. My employer himself drove me. I used to go in the afternoon and return in the morning. Sometimes we were sent to homes when there were big parties. Men of different countries came to us. We had to wear tiny clothes that left us half-naked. I had to massage, serve them drinks, lit their cigarettes and have sex with them. The most shameful work was to suck them. Each man had his own demand. I used to get very tired. Sometimes 10 men came, sometimes only one. I also had to do group sex. 

Bangladeshi boys who worked at the hotel used to tell us that the men who came to us paid large amounts of money but it was never given to us. In the hotel, there was an office and, as we arrived, we were given clothes. Everyday, we were injected with a medicine. After this injection, we lost our shame. Condoms and cream were placed on a shelf in the room. Some men used them. Also, the employer's wife saw that we took a tablet everyday 

I was young. I never had sex with anyone before, not even my husband. I ate well, so I had a lot of strength. Sex work was something entirely new to me. I got a lot of money, so I was not unhappy but when I returned from work, I felt depressed and frightened. I was thinking what kind of work am I doing.  

I lived like this for 5 years, and then my employer one day sent me back. He did not cheat me, he paid me regularly. I am now more beautiful than before, people say. Life over there in many ways was comfortable.  

I gave news to my husband that I was coming back but he was not there at the airport to meet me. I rented a car and came home by myself. I had only a small bag with me. I carried no money. I had given everything to my husband but I was not allowed to enter his home.  

I stopped at a neighbour and there I heard that he had divorced me. His sons did not allow me in. They hit me. I told many people that he had married me and had taken my money for 5 years but no one took my side. There was no trial (bitsar). With my tears, I returned to my mother.  

I will never marry again. My mother has not abandoned me. I am now working in a garment factory. If I get a chance, I will go abroad again.  




Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub