Monday, 2 September 2013

No End in Sight: Human Trafficking in Nepal

According to UNICEF, as many as 7,000 women and girls are trafficked out of Nepal to India every year and around 200,000 are now working in Indian brothels. New York Times journalist Kate Orlinsky recently opined on the subject, observing that the world tends to think of Nepal as the country with the earth’s tallest mountain and breathtaking natural beauty, not one where the business of buying and selling women is profitable.

In discussing her trip to Nepal last year, Orlinsky focused on an interview with a woman who shared herstoryof being kidnapped and sold into prostitution:

{One of the women I talked with was Charimaya Tamang, who 19 years ago went out to the fields to cut grass in her village in Nepal. Typically she would have gone with other women from her village, but that day she was alone. A group of men grabbed her from behind, tied her hands and made her swallow “a powder.” When she woke up she was in a city in northern India. “I had never seen tall buildings before,” she recalled. It was a lot hotter than her village and the men offered her a soda. “I didn’t want to drink it but I was so thirsty,” she said. The heat and soda were her last memories before finding herself in a Mumbai brothel under the care of a woman she called “Auntie,” where she remained in forced prostitution for 22 months.}

According to the latest figures, human trafficking in Nepal is a growing issue– as in, not an occurrence we can conveniently blame on the shady morals of an ancient civilization. While Nepalese authorities have allegedly attempted to staunch this flow of unwilling migration across the Nepal-India border, the underpaid border officials are believed to be susceptible to bribes that persuade them to look the other way.Realizing that support from their government can’t exactly be counted on, women in this country are beginning to call this injustice to attention and do what they can to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Tamang eventually filed charges against her attackers, becoming the first woman in Nepal to do so and win.  She has since moved on to raise a family of her own and serve as an advocate for those who have gone through similar horrors of forced prostitution. However,many Nepalese women who become ensnared in this web of human trafficking (and are lucky enough to be rescued)have a difficult time getting back on their feet. Similar to the rape culture* prevalent in south Asian countries, many women are shunned after attempting to resume their old lives – even told,after reporting their kidnap and sexual assault,that they somehow deserved it.

Before a group of15 Nepalese trafficking survivors started a coalition to empower trafficking victims,they each experienced this ostracizing from their families, communities and government.It would seem that the police raid that eventually rescued them from their captors essentially released them into a world that no longer knew what to do with them or how they fit into society.
As if to show determination to carry on with their lives, these 15 women named their advocacy organization“Shakti Samuha”,which is symbolic of the fortitude they possess in being able to overcome their own physical and psychological turmoil to reach back a helping hand for future trafficking survivors. In English, “Shakti Samuha” means “Power Group”.

*CNN recently ran an opinion article written by Ruchira Gupta, president of ApneAap Women Worldwide, an Indian organization dedicated to ending sex trafficking, with a strong account of what the rape culture is like in India.

By Sabrina Willard

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