Today is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. As such, we feel it is an important time to highlight the extent of this practice in Nepal. After all, it is easy to think that you will never be personally impacted by human trafficking, or know anyone who has been effected. But when be artsy volunteers are working in villages, we need to be aware that this problem may be present there and have touched the lives of the people we work with.
Indeed, human trafficking is a growing criminal industry in Nepal, with men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims are often taken from rural and remote areas in Nepal to urban centers not just across borders, but within Nepal.
Young girls and women are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is when someone recruits, harbors, transports or provides a person for sex, and uses coercion, force, or fraud to instigate a commercial sex act. Those who have been trafficked for sex work are more likely to be illiterate, impoverished, and have fewer family members with earning power.
The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for forced prostitution is perhaps one of the busiest slave trafficking routes anywhere in the world. The 1850 km of open border between Nepal and India make trafficking simple and difficult to catch. Additionally, there are no immigration controls for Nepalese migrants to India or Indians coming into Nepal under the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty. An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked to India each year.
Nepali girls are especially desirable as prostitutes in India, because they are considered more attractive due to their lighter skin color, with virgins believed to be able to cure AIDS.
Trafficking for the purposes of forced labor is also common in Nepal. Forced labor refers to coercing people to work through violence, intimidation, or more subtle means such as accumulated debt. Victims often end up in carpet and garment factories, embroidery sweat shops, or brick kilns. One type of forced labor in Nepal is bonded labor, where individuals give themselves into slavery to repay a loan. Although outlawed in 2000, it remains an issue throughout the country. Child labor is also rampant in Nepal, with an estimated 1.6 million child workers between the ages of 5 and 17.
The Nepali Government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it is making significant efforts to do so. It has demonstrated increasing efforts through a rise in both the number of trafficking investigations and identified victims, and by doubling its budget to provide victim care services to female victims of violence, including trafficking victims. However, many government officials continue to lack adequate understanding of trafficking crimes.
It is imperative that the Nepali Government do more to address the heinous crime of human trafficking, and protect those most vulnerable.
Written by Phumzile Mpofu edited by Kristy Davies