DHAKA, Bangladesh — Thousands of Bangladeshi women and girls are sold as prostitutes or otherwise trafficked every year in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, a U.N. official said Saturday ahead of three-day regional conference on child exploitation.
Shahida Azfar, of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said that over the last 15 years, up to 500,000 Bangladeshi females had been lured out of the country with promises of work or marriage — but many were simply sold into brothels.
Citing a recent agency study on child exploitation, Azfar also said Bangladeshi children are increasingly sexually abused at home by family members.
Delegates will draw up plans for fighting such trends at the UNICEF-sponsored conference, which begins today in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
Organized in tandem with the Bangladesh government, it brings together 175 government officials, human rights activists and volunteer workers from seven South Asian nations.
Acknowledging the growing problem of child exploitation in Bangladesh, the country’s top official at the Women and Children’s Affairs Ministry, Ehsanul Huq, noted that Bangladesh enacted the death penalty for child smugglers last year.
At today’s conference, representatives from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives will prepare a common South Asian strategy to present at the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children scheduled for Dec. 17-20 in Yokohama, Japan.
The first such conference was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1996.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.