Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab
Viral Facebook photocards misleadingly claim 68,000 Bangladeshi women trafficked to India
This article is more than 1 month old

Viral Facebook photocards misleadingly claim 68,000 Bangladeshi women trafficked to India

Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab

Some photocards have been circulating on Facebook, claiming that 68,000 Bangladeshi women are being trafficked to brothels in India, while others claim the number is 14,000. However, verification reveals that the Facebook pages of the cited media did not put out any such photocards. Additionally, a December 2022 article by BBC Bangla has been misrepresented, with different numbers on fake photocards.

Dismislab’s verification shows that a total of 14,000 women from several countries, including India and Bangladesh, fell victim to sex trafficking in India. About 400 of them are from Bangladesh. The photocards misleadingly blow up this number of ‘400 women’ by 170 times, spreading the false claim that “68,000 Bangladeshi women” were trafficked to India and sold in brothels. 

In the viral photocards (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) some mainstream media names like Jamuna and Somoy TV, along with another international media outlet, BBC Bangla, are found. Besides the photocards, textual posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) containing the same misinformation can also be found. Seemingly, these posts began circulating on April 21.

While searching for the source of the photocard, Dismislab came across a BBC Bangla report published in December 2022, titled “How the sex trade was going on in India with 14,000 women victims of trafficking.” The report indicates that out of the 14,000, around 400 victims are from Bangladesh. It also points out that alongside Bangladesh, women were trafficked to India from various countries like Nepal, Thailand, Russia, and Uzbekistan, by a syndicate centered in Hyderabad and Cyberabad, India. 

Women from local states of India like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka were also among those 14,000.

Kavitha Dara, head of Cyberabad Police’s crime branch, told the BBC at the time the number of Bangladeshi women was around 400 out of more than 14,000 women. Besides, she also said that at least half of this total number are residents of India’s West Bengal and not all of them could be rescued.

Moreover, it was found that numbers were falsified not only in BBC Bangla but also in the photocards of Jamuna and Somoy TV. Multiple searches on these media’s Facebook pages turned up no such photocards. They have never reported news claiming that 68,000 Bangladeshi women were trafficked to India. Instead, they have put out several news reports on the trafficking of Bangladeshi women and children in India at different times.

The dissemination of this misinformation is not only based on the exaggeration of numbers but also on various conspiracy theories put forward by several Facebook users. Referring to the source of the photocard made in the name of Jamuna TV, one user wrote in his Facebook post: “It is believed that Chhatra League and Jubo League female leaders are being trafficked.” 

Another user added, “The country, the people of the country, the government or the journalists, the administration, nobody cares about this … All the women were Muslim, wearing burqas hijabs”.The person did not provide any information to support the truth of his statement.

Sharing a similar post,  another user  wrote: “68,000 Muslim women from Bangladesh have been sold to brothels in India. I saw this news on some channels. A few days ago I saw news, according to UNICEF data, 3 lakh Muslim women were trafficked to India.”

According to Dismislab’s verification, no recent news media reports or UNICEF statistics have been found regarding the mentioned information. However, an interview published in 2009 titled “Bangladesh: Interview with Prof. Zakir Hossain on Human Trafficking”  by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) can be found. In this interview, Prof. Zakir Hossain referred to a UNICEF report stating that approximately 400 women and children in Bangladesh become victims of trafficking each month. Additionally, he mentioned another study’s data, indicating that approximately 300,000 Bangladeshi children and women between the ages of 12 and 30 were trafficked to India alone in the last ten years. Dismislab found several subsequent articles containing this same information, including a report titled “Women Trafficking,” published ten years ago in 2010 by The Daily Star.