Friday, February 16, 2007

Census, Citizenship and Statelessness in Bhutan

Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB)

After the Nation wide census enumeration, which supposed to be the first of its kind in Bhutan funded by International agencies in May 2005 to determine the exact population, which hitherto remained guarded figure of the country, now another census in the southern districts is going on. The census this time is for issuing new citizenship card with more security measures making difficult for any duplication and invalidating the oldone. However, there are other ostensible motives behind the new citizenshipcard especially for the southern Bhutanese. There are reports that the new citizenship cards are not issued to the people of Category F5-F7 (F5-Bhutanese woman with non-Bhutanese husband, F6- Adoption and F 7-Non-Bhutanese). Moreover, the centre of census work is located at convenience of the department officials at the district head quarters and not in a place convenient to the public. Therefore, besides depriving ofcitizenship cards, people are being harassed, as many families in hordes have to walk two to three days with all necessary provisions to the headquarters. The whole family members have to stay and wait for turns several days and at the end some get it and others do not. There is strict scrutiny and if it is found that someone's relatives are livingin the refugee camps in Nepal or any adverse record of some family members orrelatives taking part in peaceful demonstration in 1990, they are not issued thecard. In addition, any mistakes in name and spellings that even would have been the mistakes of the government is denied correction and kept pending thus depriving citizenship card. Of course, unlike in the past census in 1989, no one is asked to leave the country immediately but definitely creating many stateless people and detection of them while on physical verification later will be evicted. According to our estimation suchpeople will constitue about 50000 that concurs with figure of non-Bhutanesedeclared by the government after the nation wide census and perhaps also is a pre-empted figure of southern Bhutanese to be evicted as the Bhutan government has plan just to keep about 28% of the total population. Other implication of the citizenship cards is that many of the southern Bhutanese will not get a chance to exercise their franchise in the coming first ever-democratic election in 2008. Not only that they will be further deprived of government opportunities as they already are, as they cannot produce No Objection Certificate (NOC), which is mandatory, and without citizenship card and adverse record they will not get it. The citizenship card is required even for admission of children in school. After the completion of census exercise and issuing of the cards, it is most thatevery one has to show the card while leaving the country and coming in addition to produce in the police and immigration check post within the country. This rule no doubt is to check the infiltration of outsiders but at the same time making freedom of movement difficult to Bhutanese who have no citizenship card. One should think what happens to their future generations. Bhutan is always on the prowl of reducing the southern hutanese though living in Bhutan for generations and contributing equally with other northern Bhutanese in nation building besides taking the responsibility of protecting the southern border as entrusted by the national assembly of 1958. The population of Bhutanwhile joining the UN in 1971 was projected as 1.4 million and that figure remained officially till the southern Bhutanese problem started in 1990. In early 1990's the figure suddenly came down to 600000. Now after the 2005 nation wide census the population is about 553000. Where the rest of the people in 35 years of time had vanished? Still there is an effort to reduce the figures. UNHCR and other agencies should be ready to receive these refugees in the future.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reintegration of IDPs, Transitional Justice and Gender Issues in the Post-Conflict Situation

Shiva Dhungana

A talk programme was hosted by Friends for Peace (FFP), a research and resource centre working towards facilitating research and dialogue in the filed of conflict transformation and peace building in Nepal, on 23 January 2007 in Kathmandu. The talk programme was entitled Reintegration of IDPs, Transitional Justice and Gender Issues in the Post-Conflict Situation. The main speakers of the programme were Prof Ranabir Samaddar, Director of Calcutta Research Group (CRG), Dr Paula Banarjee and Dr Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, members of Calcutta Research Group. The programme was chaired by Mr Laxman Prasad Aryal, FFP Chairperson and Coordinator of Interim Constitution Drafting Committee and Former Justice of Supreme Court and moderated by Mr D B Gurung, Executive Director of FFP. The programme was attended by around 40 people representing various sections of civil society, academics, NGO and INGO representatives, human rights activists and researchers.
Prof Samaddar introduced the Calcutta Research Group and its activities. He spoke on the issue of reintegration of IDPs with special reference to the recently concluded research project “Voices of IDPs in South Asia”. He mentioned that the IDPs form the invisible populations of South Asia as they are not visible in the eyes of policy makers. He also highlighted the issues and challenges of IDP reintegration in a society where the society itself is not integrated. He also emphasized that the rights of IDPs in the transitional phase should be ensured otherwise the conflict can resurface again as happened in Sri Lanka. He suggested that a durable peace could be attained through intensive discussion among many layers of society not just by top leaders.
Similarly, Dr Basu Ray Chaudhury spoke on the various aspects of transitional justice and its relevance in a conflict-ridden society like Nepal. He also highlighted the importance of reintegration and reconciliation in post conflict situation, where bitterness between the victims and their perpetrators in the conflict days could increase in the transition period. He suggested that the return of peace with justice to the people is a necessity for durable peace. He also said that the narrowing of differences through dialogue could make transitional justice effective
Dr Paula Banerjee spoke of the plight of women, children and other marginalized population of the society. She said that women were specially targeted by the warring parties and they were always at the front to face the consequences of the conflict. She claimed that most of the burdens were heaped on women's shoulders during the conflict. She emphasized that women's voices should be heard while transforming conflict into durable peace in most conflict situations.
FFP chairperson Mr Laxman P Aryal said that the reintegration of IDPs is important in Nepal at this juncture of political development and the proposed Truth Commission will address these problems soon.
The presentations were followed by an intensive discussion focusing on IDPs, Bhutanese refugees and various issues related to transitional justice and gender issues with special reference to the conflict in Nepal.

Trafficking of girls in Nepal

Nepal and Bangladesh are the main source countries in south Asia for trafficked children. (Masako Iijima, "S. Asia urged to unite against child prostitution," Reuters, 19 June 1998)
The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for the purpose of prostitution is probably the busiest 'slave traffic' of its kind anywhere in the world. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods," Nepal/India: News, 27 January 1997)
In Nepal, trafficking has become a highly profitable business, with high profile political connections. Nepali, Bangaldeshi and Pakistani women are trafficked to India, and through India they are trafficked to Eastern Europe and Saudi Arabia. (Interview with Meena Oudel, Programme Coordinator of Oxfam Nepal, 18 March 1998)
More than 9,000 girls are trafficked each year from Nepal and Bangladesh into bondage in India and Pakistan, often with the acquiescence or cooperation of state officials. (, 22 April 1998)
Every year around 10,000 Nepalese girls, most between the age of nine and 16, are sold to brothels in India. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, India's soiled goods," Nepal/India:News, 27 January 1997)
7,000 Nepalese women and girls are trafficked for prostitution to the Asia Pacific area. (Statement of the CATW - Asia Pacific and Philippine Women's Groups, 4th International Congress on AIDS in the Asia Pacific, 29 October 1997)
5,000 Nepalese women are trafficked into India yearly. There are now 100,000 Nepalese women in India in prostitution. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
More than 200,000 Nepalese girls are involved in the Indian sex trade. (Tim McGirk "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods," Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)
Nepalese women who are trafficked and prostituted in debt bondage in India's sex industry are forced to work longer hours and have more clients than local women. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
Hong Kong is the second biggest market for trafficked Nepalese women. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
Methods and Techniques of Traffickers
In Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka child marriage is accepted, and considered the best method to procure girls for prostitution. (Indrani Sinha, SANLAAP India, "Paper on Globalization & Human Rights")
Parents sell their daughters and husbands get rid of their young unwanted wives for US$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)
Every year between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities. Many of the girls are barely 9 or 10 years old. 200,000 to over 250,000 Nepalese women and girls are already in Indian brothels. The girls are sold by poor parents, tricked into fraudulent marriages, or promised employment in towns only to find themselves in Hindustan's brothels. They're locked up for days, starved, beaten, and burned with cigarettes until they learn how to service up to 25 clients a day. Some girls go through 'training' before being initiated into prostitution, which can include constant exposure to pornographic films, tutorials in how to 'please' customers, repeated rapes. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Trafficking in women and girls is easy along the 1,740 mile-long open border between India and Nepal. Trafficking in Nepalese women and girls is less risky than smuggling narcotics and electronic equipment into India. Traffickers ferry large groups of girls at a time without the hassle of paperwork or threats of police checks. The procurer-pimp-police network makes the process even smoother. Bought for as little as Rs (Nepalese) 1,000, girls have been known to fetch up to Rs 30,000 in later transactions. Police are paid by brothel owners to ignore the situation. Girls may not leave the brothels until they have repaid their debt, at which time they are sick, with HIV and/or tuberculosis, and often have children of their own. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
The areas used by traffickers to procure women and girls are the isolated districts of Sindhupalchow, Makwanpur, Dhading and Khavre, Nepal where the population is largely illiterate. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Health and Well-Being
Nepalese girls, trafficked and sold into prostitution in India, are abandoned when they become infected with HIV. (Robert Hardman, "Prince brings hope to Nepal’s rescued sex slaves," London Telegraph, 9 February 1998)
Of the 218 Nepalese girls rescued in February 1996 from a Bombay police raid, 60-70% of them were HIV positive. (Tim McGirk "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods,"Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)
NGO Action
The exploitation of Nepalese women and girls may never end. "[F]or some there is too much easy money in it, for others there's nothing to be gained by lobbying for its abolition. But surely, for now, it can be monitored. Its magnitude can be lessened," says Durga Ghimire, chairperson of a 98-NGO-strong pressure group National Network Groups Against Trafficking. She feels that the alarmingly low rates of female literacy, coupled with the traditionally low status of the girl-child in Nepal have to be addressed to tackle the problem. Gauri Pradhan of Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) emphasizes the need for collaboration by the two governments on this issue. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
There are several shelters run by various Katmandu-based NGOs working against trafficking and towards rehabilitation of girls who manage to escape or are rescued from Indian brothels. This is not easy work. Relatives of the rescued girls generally don't want them back and Nepal's government is worried about the spread of HIV, as many of the trafficked girls have contracted HIV while enslaved in India. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
"The Selling of Innocents" is an Emmy-award winning documentary that tells the stories of trafficked Nepalese children and the filmmaker, Ruchira Gupta, says elimination of sexual exploitation is perhaps the only way to end this human rights violation. "It's a long haul, we've to change and challenge society. The trafficking and the trade are getting institutionalised, it's a modern form of sexual slavery," she warns. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Official Response and Action
139 prostituted Nepalese girls were rescued through a police raid in Kamatipura, India and were then repatriated to Katmandu. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)