Underage girls’ marriage termed trafficking – 30 Jun 2022

Ex-MPA says many transgender persons have also fallen victim to trafficking

Former member of provincial assembly (MPA) Uzma Kardar has termed the case of a teenage girl Dua Zehra’s purported marriage an incident of human trafficking.

She was speaking at an advocacy session with potential victims of trafficking in person. The district advocacy session organised by the Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) was attended by parliamentarians, brick kiln and domestic labourers, media persons, social service officers, police officials and others.

Kardar said there was a means of human trafficking in which underage girls were brought from different provinces and forced into marriage.

She pointed towards different laws regarding underage marriages in the provinces.

She said women were promised marriage and forced into sexual exploitation.

Many transgender persons had also fallen victim to trafficking, she added.

Provincial Senior Minister Hassan Murtaza said the governments had not done enough to put an end to human trafficking.

He stressed the need for taking the stakeholders on board and launching an awareness campaign about the issue.

The epicentre of the campaign should be public places and not the government premises. We as a nation should participate and take it forward,” Murtaza added.

“Being from a rural area, I have been witness to many incidents in which labourers of brick kilns had to face courts and police stations and FIRs of theft had been registered against them to coerce them into bonded labour,” Murtaza said.

He added that in many instances the victims had been trapped for bonded labour due to their adverse circumstances like taking heavy loans to meet their needs.

He also quoted an incident of a village near his home where a victim was smuggled to Ethiopia after being lured by agents through the promise of a bright future. The victim had to go through an arduous struggle to return home safely.

“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that needs to be addressed on priority,” Murtaza concluded.

SSDO Executive Director Syed Kausar Abbass said the labourers had been invited for interaction with legislators and enforcement officers to share their concerns, challenges and approach.

He said the session was aimed at creating awareness on trafficking in persons and its impact on communities and countries, laws, referral mechanism and role of citizens in supporting government departments to identify and curb it.

The issue pertained to sex and bonded labour at brick kilns and farms, he added.

Punjab Assembly member Bushra Anjum Butt said she had raised the issue during the budget debate recently.

She said she had requested the government to resume issuing cards for financially helping the domestic workers, bonded labourers and workers.

Kiln workers, domestic labourers, victims of trafficking and bonder labour shared their stories of sufferance.

A worker shared that she worked at a house as a maid, where she was harassed by the owner.

A participant said everyone pledged something to get loans but the brick kiln workers had no assets and were forced to pledge themselves.

The SSDO executive director said the organisation had formed a stakeholders’ working group to work on the issue.

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