In South Asia, Nepal remains the top country that faces the brunt of global child and women trafficking.
The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for the purpose of prostitution is already well chronicled by Nepalese and Indian media where they form part of the busy 'sex slave traffic'. Trafficking of women and girls has, in fact become a highly profitable business for those engaged in it. After Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are the two other South Asian countries that have a high number of women being trafficked mainly to India, Eastern Europe and Saudi Arabia for commercial sex and maid service work.
Why is Nepal facing the brunt of global child and women trafficking? Every year nearly 10,000 Nepalese women are trafficked to India´s four main cities, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore for bondage based commercial sex.
The areas used by traffickers to procure women and girls are the isolated districts of Nepal include Sindhupalchowk, Makwanpur, Dhading and Kavre, where there is, coincidentally, a high proliferation of HIV/AIDS figures. The population there is also largely illiterate. According to Amnesty International, in an April 1998 report, this exchange takes the form of poverty induced quick cash for ´goods´ where there is also the direct acquiescence or cooperation of state officials. The young women and girls are usually between the age of nine and 16.
Besides, another 6,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to Hongkong, Thailand and the South East Asian countries as far as away as Taiwan. This new trend started only after 1995. The number of Nepalese girls being trafficked to the Middle East is also climbing sharply with nearly 7,000 having flown there in direct connivance of state police and other machinery, according to various source reports dealing with trafficking in women and prostitution in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to Tim McGirk "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods" (Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997) more than 200,000 Nepalese girls are involved in the Indian sex trade. The girls are bought for as little as $ 20 and later on sold or re-sold to Indian sex market agents for up to US$ 600. The price the girl commands is based on her beauty, physique and the demand for her type of service and willingness which the scrupulous cross border trafficking agents determine. The girls are usually funneled through a single route, Hetauda which is getting to be South Asia´s main corridor for commercial sex exploitation. According to CATW - Asia Pacific, all the trafficked Nepalese women and girls aged between 14-29 are put in debt bondage, and often have to service between 15-25 customers daily. They often have to work between 14-18 hours a day offering commercial sex for which they get paid nothing. Hong Kong is the second biggest sex market for trafficked Nepalese women according to CARW in its report ´Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific´.
It is only recently that the border authorities between India and Nepal have stepped up their vigilance to stop child and women trafficking. Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all have a similar trend where child marriage is accepted and the young girls are married to the same individual if not a trafficking agent who then gets to be the first conduit in the fuelling route. Not only do many impoverished Nepali parents sell their young wives and daughters for as little as US$ 150 to the trafficking agents, some highly impoverished families even get their daughters booked in advanced to the trafficking agents. It is also known that many rural unemployed men, during the past 11 year civil conflict in Nepal, resorted to marrying at least two or three wives and sold them to the Indian brothers directly.
The other alarming fact of course is that Nepal has a unique cultural system known as "Deukis," whereby by rich zamindars (feudalistic agricultural families) having no children through a legally married wife, procure these young girls from poor rural Nepalese families and after initiating them into the household through the temple rites are taken as mistresses cum slave bonded laborers to produce offspring. Later on, as the girl gets to be over 30 years and grows older, she is forced into prostitution. There is no respite to what the poor Nepalese girl has to suffer on in life once initiated into this system. In 2007 according to a UN report, there werel nearly 30,000 deukis in Nepal compared to 1992, when there were 17,000 deuki girls according to Radhika Coomaraswamy in the UN Special Report on Violence against Women.
In India, the brothels are known as red light districts and the majority of Indian owners prefer the Nepali girls and women because they are culturally more liberal. They also work harder than the Indian girls and they have no family trace to report to on the girls welfare. Therefore, should the girl die of HIV/AIDs or suffer from any STI, there is no obligation to take care of her. It has been stated by various Indian NGOs that the girls often were locked up, starved, beaten, and burnt with cigarettes for not complying with the brothel owner or the customers´ needs. Some of the girls also had gone through ´training´ in being initiated into prostitution, which included constant exposure to pornographic films, tutorials in how to 'please' customers, repeated rapes, according to Soma Wadhwa in her noted article "For sale childhood," published in Outlook India published in 1998.
Even today, the open porous border between India and Nepal affords easy commercial pliability for sex transactions which also includes primarily trafficking of Nepalese women and girls. The nearly 1,740 mile-long open border between India and Nepal virtually remains unchecked since both countries authorities take it that it being an open border, there should be minimal security encumbrance for the hundreds of thousands of daily migrants and businessmen who travel across it. Both Indian and Nepalese border and immigration officials also acknowledge that trafficking in women and young girls is less risky than smuggling gold or narcotics. If the paper work is approved, the cleverer of the smugglers take a batch of six to 10 women across the border for less than US$ 10 each and they are forwarded onward to their end destination by other traffickers who form a complicated chain of ´human smuggling" until they end up at the brothel doors. It would be wrong to suggest that all police and immigration officials are corrupt in the route, but for those who are morally weak, the brothel owners pay just about one-tenth of the girl´s value to bribe them through. In the poor South Asian region, this is a big incentive to get things done even if it is illegal.
According to Asia Foundation, an American non-profit, there need to be regional programs to target the issue more broadly. The Foundation has supported policymakers, counter-trafficking practitioners, and vulnerable communities to plan and execute local, national, bilateral, and regional initiatives to combat human trafficking in 11 source, transit, and destination countries throughout Asia including Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Japan, and Mongolia. The Foundation's counter-trafficking programs center on the achievement of four major strategic objectives: (1) Preventing human trafficking and exploitation; (2). Improving and institutionalizing systems for effective law enforcement and prosecution; (3) Enhancing services and protection for survivors of human trafficking; and (4) Developing and strengthening cross-border and regional coordination.
The sad fact is despite such well known institutions and others such as Human Rights Watch which has chronicled the legal and human rights violations in the act, Nepalese girls continue being trafficked and sold for prostitution in India. The victims are only abandoned when they become infected with HIV. For instance, of 218 Nepalese girls rescued in February 1996 from a Bombay police raid, 60-70% of them were HIV positive. This is only the tip of the iceberg, the figures are much larger of course.
Unless there is firmer cross-border action with involvement of international non-governmental organizations, it will be difficult for the governments of Nepal and India to solve the problem on their own. In fact, the exploitation of Nepalese women and girls may never end. According to Durga Ghimire, chairperson of a 98-NGO-strong pressure group National Network Groups Against Trafficking "For some there is too much easy money in it, for others there's nothing to be gained by lobbying for its abolition. But surely, for now, it can be monitored. Its magnitude can be lessened only if there is stronger national commitment from both ends." Mr. Gauri Pradhan of Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN), now a member of Nepal´s National Human Right Commission too has done some exploratory work in the field and believes that the closer collaboration between the two governments can only help solve the issue. Some Nepalese experts also believe that the low status afforded to the Nepalese girl-child is the main cause of all the worries.
Both in India and Nepal, there are hundreds of shelters that help in the rehabilitation of the girls who have been freed from the clutches of an imperiled existence. However, their work is not easy since most donor programs in Nepal do not have a built-in component to tackle child slavery and cross-border trafficking as part of Nepal´s post-transitional imitative after the past civil conflict that tore down most of the rural infrastructure. Similarly, relatives of the rescued girls generally don't want the girls back and the Nepal Government is left worrying on the further spread of HIV back in Nepal as many of the trafficked girls have contracted HIV while enslaved in India. There is definitely need for global action to halt the sad plight of Nepalese women and young girls trafficked abroad.
About the author:
speciali editorial contributor from Maryland
Courtesy: American Chronicle
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