Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Bleeding Wound of Nepal: sex trafficking

This is a story I am researching and hope to be able to cover on location:

Draped along the spine of the Himalayas, Nepal is a land of sublime scenery and deep, rich culture. It is also a country from where some 10,000 girls disappear each year. Most never come back.

The majority of them, aged 14 to 16, are trafficked to India, where they are sold into slavery or debt bondage to brothels in Mumbai and Kolkata .These tsukris, as these young slave prostitutes are called, are totally confined within the brothel for an average of two years, after which they are allowed out only with guardians. They end their period of bondage at 18 to 22 years old when they have “repaid their debt.” During that time, the brothel owner has made a profit four to 20 times the price paid for the trafficked girl.

When they are finally freed, the tsukris are no longer girls, but older, shop-worn women with “less market value” - often mentally and physically scarred, ill or HIV positive. Unable to return home to Nepal because of the stigma of prostitution, most remain in India. There, illegal, isolated and with no other means of surviving, nearly all return to sex work, this time as independents. The most entrepreneurial of them become brothel owners, buying their own tsukris - and so the system perpetuates itself. A few, however, have managed to go back to Nepal, where they patrol the border, trying to prevent other girls from being trafficked.

Although slavery was long ago legally abolished in the State of Nepal, and despite national and international efforts to prevent trafficking, the number of girls trafficked from Nepal has significantly increased over the last decade. A Nepali newspaper called it: “The Bleeding Wound of Nepal.” UNICEF estimates that 300,000 Nepalese women and girls have been sold into forced prostitution mostly to India, but also within Nepal and to Gulf countries, and their numbers are swollen every year by new arrivals.

Girls are trafficked from all over the country, but mostly from poor rural villages. Rural communities live in extreme poverty and life for women is harsh. (Nepal is one of the rare countries in the world where men outlive women). Women are expected to work harder than men, but are considered an economic hindrance and have no voice. They are also poorer and have limited access to education and health care. Their precarious situation makes them more vulnerable to being lured away with promises of employment, marriage or a better life across the border. Others are simply sold by their families, who may not know the full horror of what awaits them in India. The border between Nepal and India in vast (1,100-miles long) and porous and towns across the border create a natural market for trafficking. Trafficking, of course, is immensely profitable...

A few women are fighting back: Maiti Nepal, a local charity in Danghadi, Kaili, is trying to intercept trafficked girls at the border before they can reach their final destination in Indian brothels. They rely on young women - some are former trafficked persons - patrolling the border at checkpoints, working in conjunction with the police to interrogate suspicious parties. Former trafficked women say they can always spot a trafficked girl, having been there themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment