Thursday, May 18, 2006

Trafficking of Women & Children in Nepal

Shreyashi Chaudhuri
Trafficking in women and children is considered as a contemporary form of slavery and a gross violation of women’s and children’s basic human rights by the international community. It is also a growing phenomenon internationally, regionally and nationally. While trafficking is a global problem and an integral part of the process of international migration, it does assume specific regional and national dimensions. The increasingly protectionist policies of countries of destination which also constitute the labour receiving countries and the subsequent restriction on legal forms of migration, as well as the growing economic crisis with increasing unemployment, play a major role in the growing incidence of trafficking of women and children within the Asia-Pacific and specifically within the South Asian region.Trafficking in persons is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons, by any form of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, and abuse of power. This involves the giving or receiving of payments, or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for exploitation. (UN article 3 of Trafficking Protocol) “Women, who make up 51 percent of the total population in Nepal, have a secondary status in the patriarchic (sic) Hindu structure. Throughout their lives, women face reduced opportunities and discrimination. Literacy rates and life expectancy are much lower for women than men. Some say that lack of investment on education and development of women, which is an outcome of patriarchal predominance, is a major cause of vulnerability. The 1991 Nepalese census shows that only 25.54 per cent women were literate. One of the reasons for such a low rate of female education is that “the traditional attitude of the family, which requires girls to work rather than attend school. The higher female work burden in rural areas demonstrates that girl children are an active labour force in agriculture.” Many laws are explicitly biased against women, especially those regarding property, citizenship and marriage. Women are frequently prosecuted for having abortions, which were illegal until very recently. Women often face domestic violence and harassment, with no legal recourse, as paternalism and gender discrimination is deeply entrenched in society. Also the social system teaches women “subordination to males from childhood.” Such value systems deny women any options. Hence many rural women fall prey to the traffickers and trafficking of Nepali women has assumed horrifying proportions.Due to lack of adequate studies it is difficult to identify all the different ways in which trafficking is carried out. There is more than one way of trafficking. The existence of the circumstances created by the anti-women nature of the sex market creates an atmosphere characterised by the deception, use of drugs, enticement, abduction, fake marriages, misuse of guardianship etc.
A few current trafficking activities can be summed up as follows:
The problem of trafficking is no longer confined to specific ethnic communities. In the past the problem was confined to a limited catchments area surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Over the last few years it has rapidly expanded to over 30 districts in Nepal.
The information gathered from the interviews and stories of rescued girls and women demonstrate that girls and women from socially oppressed and backward community are increasingly vulnerable.
The diversification of the destination is also a troubling new aspect of trafficking. Gulf countries are fast becoming a destination for the sexual exploitation of Nepalese women.
Trafficking of increasingly large number of teenage girls as opposed to women is another new and disturbing pattern.
Trafficking is increasingly an act of organised criminal rackets operating from both inside and outside of Nepal.
Based on recently reported trafficking trends it is apparent that the problem of trafficking in girls and women has increasingly crossed the barriers of ethnicity and mountain geography. The problem of trafficking for sexual exploitation is now happening in numerous communities. This is corroborated by the appearance of a large number of Dalit girls & women in the market. The incidents of trafficking in Brahmin, Chettri & Newar girls and women are also increasing. There are two major factors responsible for the increasing numbers of girls and women being trafficked in Nepal:
The village to city migration process has become common phenomenon in Nepal over the decades. The main intention of migration is to earn money to provide the basic necessities for the family. The process of migration has contributed to the multi billion dollar sex industry with the massive migration of women and girls for purposes of legitimate work in Nepalese cities and abroad, trafficking has been facilitated through such means as promised by agents of the sex trade of high paying jobs or marriages. Trafficking is now the packaging, the marketing, in short the commodification of the women, which has become systematised, organised and trans nationalised. Rapid urbanisation and job prospects entice teenage girls to migrate to cities in Nepal. They seek work in the carpet industry, garment industry, restaurants and domestic service. These unsuspecting girls arrive in cities and one coerced into the sex trade. Cities such as Kathmandu, Pokhra, Dharan are serving as transit centres for trafficking abroad. Such migration is an expected outcome of development activities including increased accessibility to transportation, communication and business activities between villages and cities.
The gradual erosion of the traditional norms of the social regulation has resulted in more heterogeneity in cultural and social relations. In the past the homogenous clusters of the villages maintained a system of regulation based on traditional hierarchy and co-operation. Every group kept track of and cared for its own members. With greater mobility over the decades the homogeneity of villages has been diminished. Individuals are thus less aware of what is happening to the people who live nearby. The failure by the police and governing bodies, in general, to address these changing conditions has created a breakthrough of the traditional regulatory norms. This societal structure breakdown has helped traffickers gain a foothold in various community groups.
Political instability in Nepal has compounded the problem. The conflict between the Maoists and the State has contributed to increasing instability. Recent newspaper reports also reveal how women are particularly vulnerable to such harassments. In a news item published in the month of May this year in Kathmandu Post it was stated that one woman of “Tehrathum fled to Kathmandu after Maoists coerced her to join their militia. Her pursuit for secure life in the valley was wrecked after her colleagues sold her to a brothel in Mumbai.” Although she was rescued with five other Nepali girls no one knows whether she can be rehabilitated in her own society.
When women are trafficked across borders such as from Nepal to India it makes them even more insecure. After crossing a border these women can become stateless if they are without any papers or proof of citizenship. Often they are coerced to do so to repay their family loan. It has been stated “about 153,000 Nepali girls were in Indian brothels in 1990 and the number has been steadily increasing at a rate of 5,000 every year.” Nepal is considered as the most significant source of girl-child commercial sex workers to India. The average age of Nepali girls entering into Indian brothels ranges from 10 to 14. “In this era of globalisation, tourism has become another occasion for child trafficking from Nepal. Although Nepal has passed the Human Trafficking (Control) Act of 1986 these Acts are hardly ever implemented. Trafficking of Nepali women to India continue unabated. A very disturbing phenomena within this process is that young Nepali “virgins” are trafficked because people not only prefer their fairer complexion but also there is a ridiculous but common belief among some communities that having intercourse with a young girl can cure many sexually transmitted diseases as well as AIDS. So price for these girl children go up. But the moment they contract the illness they are thrown out of the brothel and come back to their homes where their family is often loathe in taking them back. These children are often oblivious of the risk they are in. According to one social worker in J.J. Hospital in Bombay “one 15 bedded women ward was occupied with 13 patients with HIV infection, out of this 11 were Nepali.” What people in sex trade do not realize is that trafficking is not merely violence against women but against humanity. These young girls living in brothels are so powerless that they can hardly insist that their clients use safety measures. Once they contract the disease they inadvertently infect many more and contribute to destabilization and insecurity of the whole region. Once there illness is discovered they are treated like pariahs. They are punished for something over which they had hardly any control and yet the process continues. Trafficking finds little space in traditional security discourse yet it is one mode of migration that actually leads to physical insecurity of a region.
The increased success on the part of traffickers has resulted from these recent societal changes. Mobility and the resulting social breakdown have tended to marginalize the weaker sectors of the community. Migration and mobility detach girls and women from their traditional framework of protection, and exposes them to an unfamiliar world. This makes them extremely vulnerable. In summation
Poverty and lack of resources results in an increase in migration and mobility.
In Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka child marriage is accepted, and considered. the best method to procure girls for prostitution. (Indrani Sinha, SANLAAP, “Paper on Globalisation & Human Rights”.) Parents sell their daughters and husbands get rid of their young unwanted wives forUS$200 to $600. Depending on her beauty, a girl can fetch anywhere from less than a water buffalo, to slightly more than a video recorder. Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands sometimes sell their wives to brothels. (Tim McGirk, “Nepal’s Lost Daughters, ‘India’s soiled goods,” Nepal/India: News, 27 January 1997)
In Nepal, there is a system, called “deukis,” where by rich childless families buy girls from poor rural families and offer them to the temples as though they were their own. These girls are forced into prostitution. In 1992, 17,000 girls were given as deukis. (Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Report on Violence Against Women, Gustavo Capdevila, IPS, 2 April 1997)
Intensified migration and mobility causes a breakdown of the traditional norms and social regulations.
The process of migration and mobility is especially unfavourable for marginalised girls and women in the sense that they, being ignorant of the circumstances around them and not having the security of communal protection become easily accessible to sex traders.
Economic needs and hopes of a better life render marginalized women and girls easy targets.
As for the response of the Government of Nepal to the issue of trafficking it may be said that certainly, greater political has been demonstrated particularly over the last couple of years to address this problem. This response has in part been spawned by pressure put on the government by the public discourse on the issue created by NGOs, community and women’s organisations, the media, INGOs, the UN system as well as by members of the civil society. However, mostly of these very recently initiated responses are either still in the planning stage or are awaiting financial commitments from various donors to actually get off the ground. As such, limited concrete and demonstrable activity is actually visible on part of the Government of Nepal thus far to combat the problem of trafficking even though several plans are in the pipeline.
The key strategies-cum-objectives are being recommended for future anti-trafficking work on basis of the assessment in this study:

1.Initiate and intensify work to reach agreement and deeper understanding on rights protective strategies for designing and implementing anti-trafficking work.
2.Statistical data on those affected by trafficking in all sites
3.Traffickers and their modus operandi
4.Changing trends, patterns, forms of trafficking and those trafficked
5.Development and assessment of strategies and programmes
6.Development of rights based models of intervention in prevention, recovery, repatriation and reintegration of those affected by trafficking
7.Develop legal countermeasures, which vindicate the rights of abused and trafficked persons, and do not recriminalize them further.
8.Develop guidelines to separate legislation for trafficking from prostitution laws.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The information here is great. I will invite my friends here.