Forced labour migration puts ethnic women in insecurity

Shilpi Minse (not real name), a young

ethnic lady, faced sexual harassment several time in her life when she worked

in agriculture fields or her male household members went to urban or nearby

localities seeking jobs during their lean periods.

But she never disclosed those in fear of losing social dignity or facing

further harassment.

Shilpi, who lives in Porsha upazila in Naogaon, said any man can enter

the houses of ethnic community any time without facing any restriction.

“That is why when male members of our families migrate to other places

seeking work, we feel more insecure,” she added.

Ethnic women frequently face insecurity due to forced labour migration

of their household heads. The incidents of violence against women are on the

rise here as they live in their home alone when males migrate to. But, as

there is a taboo among ethnic women, they do not disclose these incidents.

The plain-land ethnic people in Naogaon mostly depend on agriculture.

They work as agriculture labourers or sharecroppers. But, in recent years,

the growing mango cultivation is replacing conventional farming, creating a

crisis of work among them.

“Mango cultivation requires a small number of labourers, so my elder son

went to a nearby district looking for work,” said Kalamoti Kujur, an ethnic

woman of Oraon minority.

She went on “We have 50 Oraon households in our locality and nearly 10

people from these households migrated to Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna or other

towns, on a temporary basis, in search of works.”

“Generally, they migrate to other localities for works for six months

and then return home,” said Kujur, a mother of three children.

Rohin Pahan, a youth of Pahan ethic minority living in Sharuppur village

of Mohadebpur, said he went to Chattogram and just returned home after

working there two months.

“As there was no work here, I went to Chattogram. I was involved in

installation of electricity and fiber cables. But, the work was vulnerable to

me,” he said.

Executive Director of Palli Shahajogi Bishawyk Sangstha (ARCO) Sajal

Kumar Chowdhury said ethnic women work in agricultural land and they often

get victims of violence.

“But, they do not want to reveal the harassment they suffer. Even they

do not want to report it with the law enforcement agencies,” he added.

Official data shows about 1.8 lakh ethnic population of over 36,000

households from Pahan, Oraon, Santal and other minorities live in Naogaon

district. But, unofficial data reveals the figure is more than 2.2 lakh.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)