New Delhi: Some activist groups in Nepal say trafficking in women has increased because of increased overseas migration to India and West Asia, rubbishing the government’s claims that the practice is declining.
“More people are raising their voice against this malpractice,” said Punya P. Neupane, secretary in Nepal’s ministry of women, children and social welfare. “Even women are getting organized to fight the people who are involved in trafficking in girls, which is coming down.”
“Leave alone the (claims that) things are improving...it has been on a rise, with trafficking to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries rising,” said Bishwo Ram Khadka, director of Maiti Nepal, a non-governmental organization set up in 1993 to work among victims of woman trafficking.
“Internal trafficking has increased, too,” Khadka added. Maiti Nepal says some 7,000 girls are taken across the border to India every year to work in brothels and as domestic helps. It also says there are around 200,000 Nepali girls working in brothels in India, but did not provide details of the increase in such trafficking from previous years. Khadka said this practice was earlier prevalent only in districts such as Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre and Dhading, but has now spread to the rest of the Himalayan nation.
Bandana Rana, president of non-profit organization Saathi, agreed: “Due to the conflict (in Nepal), girls have become more vulnerable. Earlier, there were (a) few districts from where they were trafficked, but now, it has spread across Nepal.”
“Around two weeks ago, I was on my way back to Nepal from Frankfurt, via Delhi. I met a group of around 30 Nepali girls at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in the age group of 13-30 years. All of them were going to Kuwait without having any work contract,” he said. Saathi was formed in 1993 and works on the issues of violence against women and children.
According to an international human rights activist, who asked not to be named, the incidents of trafficking are on the rise, combined with “large-scale foreign labour migration.”
Maiti Nepal monitors the India-Nepal border at 10 points with the help of its volunteers. Since its inception, it has rescued and rehabilitated 742 women. It has also helped the police arrest 300 traffickers. “Maiti” in Nepalese translates to “parents’ home”. “We have 90% successful prosecution rate in our cases because we follow it up...,” said Khadka.
Last year, the Nepalese government introduced a new law against trafficking in girls, mainly aimed at discouraging the sale of girls to brothels in India, making it punishable by up to 20 years in jail and a fine of Rs1 lakh. But not much has changed, Khadka said.
Poor economic conditions, combined with the 1,700km porous border with India, make it almost impossible for law enforcers to check the trade. According to Maiti Nepal, women are being bought by Indians and others for as little as 1,000 Nepali rupees.
The government concedes there are a lot of challenges. “The law came just last year. We cannot evaluate its impact right now, as it will be too early...,” Neupane argues. “The mentality itself is a big challenge. Until and unless we treat men and women equally, drastic change is not possible.”
“Training is also a major issue. Capabilities of police, public prosecutors and (the) judicial system are immensely important,” he said.