- 4 min read.
According to the United Nations, the most common form of human trafficking is trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Sex-trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, worth nearly $100 billion each year, and 96% of its victims are women and girls. It is an increasing worldwide problem and Nepal has one of the highest rates of trafficking in the world. Sex-trafficking victims can be individuals of both genders but the majority of the victims are women and girls.
Gender inequality and social stigmas
The nepalese culture is complex with its caste system combined with their gender inequality. Alongside all the beautifully rich traditions there are also horrendous traditions that can sound like fiction but sadly is a reality for many.
In some rural parts of Nepal, women are locked up in a hut or cave while they menstruate to keep “impurity” out of the home. The practice is called Chauphadi and despite that it is both life threatening and inhumane it is still being enforced, although criminalised. This tradition does not tell us anything about the situation of rape nor sex-trafficking, however it does give us a glimpse of the Nepalese view of women and their rights to their own bodies.
The statistics on the severity of rape and sex-trafficking in Nepal is not reliable as there is a probability that a vast majority of cases never gets reported. There is a social stigma of rape and sex-trafficking in Nepal and many survivors therefore feel shame and guilt, thus do not dare to report their perpetuator. It’s also common that the police refuse to register complaints of rape if the perpetrator is from a rich family or high cast and/or the survivor is from a low caste. Due to this social stigma a rape/sex-trafficking survivor is oftentimes not welcomed back by her family and/or society. Many survivors therefore end up being kicked out of their home. With nowhere to go they end up on the streets where they again become easy targets for traffickers. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to trafficking due to limited economic opportunities, illiteracy or low education. In addition, the Nepalese society consider girls and women as inferior both socially and legally. Apart from the social stigmas, there are also folk beliefs that affects women and girls, one of them being that having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS and STDs. This is one of many reasons for why one in every five rape victims is a child below 10 years old.
It is estimated that more than 20.000 girls that work in Kathmandu are victims of sex-trafficking.
The border between Nepal and India might be one of the busiest slave trafficking routes in the world where an estimated 12000 girls are being trafficked each year from Nepal to/through India, some of them are as young as 6-7 years of age.
When the girls have crossed the border they are sold to brothels in India for up to 50.000 rupees (~ 688 USD). The younger the girl, the higher the price she will be sold for. Once they are sold, the girls are property of the brothel owner until they can pay back the amount that was paid for them. However, the possibility for a girl to pay back their debt can take years if even ever as the owner takes up to 95% of the girls’ earnings and only provide them with a small portion of food, which seldom is enough. According to a report made by ILO/IPEC and UNICEF girls are forced to serve an average of 14 clients per day, with a minimum of three and a maximum of 40 men.
Education - a way to freedom
Traffickers often target poor, uneducated girls by bringing tales of riches and opportunity to vulnerable rural communities. Records by Nepal Police found that the majority of survivors of sex trafficking had little to no schooling, with low literacy levels. By supporting girls at risk with scholarships they can shape their own future and are less likely to end up in the hands of traffickers. With education, their social status will also increase so that it will be more equal to that of boys. This will not only empower girls with confidence but also send signals to rest of the society that girls are equally important as boys.
Learn more about what Bahini does to help empower girls with growth.