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City in Focus: Kathmandu, Nepal

Walls of Trade

Human trafficking can be understood in terms of barriers. If barriers between nations are not strong and people move too freely, traffickers have an easier time moving victims; if protective barriers are not present in the form of laws and ordinances that protect the poor and women, entire populations are left vulnerable to the greed of organized crime. And for a sex buyer, only the flimsiest privacy — a parked vehicle, even a curtain — is needed to shield the seedy act of purchasing sex from another human being.

Nepal is a place where some walls need to be built, and others need to be torn down. It is a place where trafficked victims are easily transported to other countries, or sold for sex in barely-private venues.

One of the poorest nations of the world, a quarter of the population of Nepal is below the poverty line, and three quarters of the population make a living through farming.

Nepal and India have had open trade relations, as well as a unique border where residents from either country may cross a line that has been almost entirely deregulated. An open border means that many Nepalese routinely travel in and out of India to either find work or sell goods. As a result, Nepal has one of the highest migration rates of any country in the world. 

Experts estimate that nearly ten thousand women each year are trafficked into India’s burgeoning sex industry. The open border, intended to stimulate trade, happens to be a perfect arrangement for sex trafficking. And as with all trafficking, victims are shuttled to sex markets to meet the demand for sex.

Nepal has a trafficking statute, but it doesn’t work. There are too many holes, from the definition of victims to police that are wont to turn a blind eye. Sometimes corrupt police even tip off brothels to raids whereupon the women are shuffled into secret underground rooms. After all, brothel victims who are interviewed will often say that politicians and policemen frequent the brothels as customers.

Currently, India and Nepal have no extradition agreement for human traffickers which means it is very difficult to prosecute the traffickers themselves.

Prostitution Front

The average income in Nepal is just $490 per year, according to the World Bank, low even by comparison to other countries in the South Asia region. Half of the population is unemployed. Prostitution, economically speaking, is profitable. A woman selling her body can make more in a month than a farmer can in a year.

But women are not typically trafficked by strangers: often they are sold by their own family members. Similar to the human trafficking crisis in Thailand or Moldova, poor women and girls are the most vulnerable. Recruiters often troll impoverished villages for victims, promising job opportunities, then selling them into prostitution. The traffickers exploit the poverty, even the hunger, of families when they offer to take their daughters elsewhere for better work.

Cabin Fever

In city centers like Kathmandu, the usual fronts for prostitution are everywhere: dance clubs, massage parlors, and hotels. But one sort of establishment has been the center of debate and controversy in recent years: the cabin restaurant.

Some young girls end up working in what are known as “cabin restaurants.” These dingy haunts serve food to patrons in booths that can conveniently be converted into private rooms simply by drawing a curtain across the front. Behind the curtain lurks a nightmare for many girls: they are bombarded by continual sexual advances. Ultimately they acquiesce and begin to prostitute themselves.

Though statutes have been passed that force cabin restaurants to take down their curtains, as in any industry, it’s all about who you know. Restaurants in good standing with local law enforcement are sometimes permitted to leave the curtains up, which means the abuse continues.

 Prayer Points:

  • Pray that God would raise up righteous legislation that would increase the conviction of traffickers in Nepal.
  • Pray for a moral revolution among sex buyers in Kathmandu that would dry up the demand for prostitution.
  • Ask God to raise up recovery homes in Kathmandu that would help restore victims and allow them to re-enter society.

15 Comments on “City in Focus: Kathmandu, Nepal”

  1. bumissmichele Says:
    June 6th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Monday afternoon I received a newsletter from a friend who is working toward prevention of trafficking in Kathmandu.  She included a clip from the Kathmandu Post:

    Below are parts of a recent article found in the Kathmandu Post:KATHMANDU, JUN 03 –
    Abject poverty and lack of jobs in the Capital have left many under-age girls with no choice but to sell their bodies to willing customers. The number of arrests made by the police shows an alarming presence of girls below the age of 16 in the flesh trade.

    Records at the Metropolitan Police Range show that it arrested 72 girls in the last nine months from various places in the Capital, half of them minors between the ages of 14 and 17. The age group of 20-40 makes up the other half.

    Police officials, however, say the above mentioned number is just the tip of the iceberg and that it represents a “bigger scenario.”

    Police released most of these girls soon after their arrest as they were found to be involved in the trade for the first time. Various police stations released around 50 women without punishment after they were asked to make a written commitment not to get back to the profession. Police have, however, kept their records, photos and family history for future reference.

    Police have also rescued 13 girls from three different places of the Capital. Most of these young girls, natives of neighboring Nuwakot district, were meant to be taken to India. The girls were later handed over to various NGOs working for women.

    “The track record of the arrested girls shows that their job is directly related to poverty and unemployment. Nobody wants to get into such a profession. Their history and statements show it is nothing but mere obligation,” said Indra KC of the legal section of the Metropolitan Range.

  2. Karl Larson Says:
    June 7th, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I found this informative video on the situation of women being trafficked from Nepal to India:

  3. Devin Tarr Says:
    June 9th, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Why won’t the police arrest the buyers instead of the girls!!!

  4. Bret Mavrich Says:
    June 17th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Hard to say; but the same question could be asked in our country. I actually addressed this on my blog:

  5. Bret Mavrich Says:
    June 17th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Oddly enough, YouTube preempted the link you shared with a Sealy commercial that was more about sex than sleeping. 

    I found TONS of video material on YouTube while researching this month’s CiF.

  6. Bret Mavrich Says:
    June 17th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    @Bumissmichele, I’d love to interview your friend. Could you put her touch with me?

  7. bumissmichele Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I emailed you her info.  Let me know if you didn’t get it for some reason.

  8. bumissmichele Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Can someone give me the source for the testimony last nite about the two girls who went to the police? 

  9. Bret Mavrich Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I got it. Thanks so much!

  10. pam caymol badger Says:
    June 20th, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Often  the police  are a part  of the  trafficking 

  11. pam caymol badger Says:
    June 20th, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Hi Bret ,Pam here  city chapter leader  good to see you 

  12. sheritalucky Says:
    July 13th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Nepal jails sex trafficker Bajir Singh Tamang for 170 years!!!!! Kathmandu, Nepal was our June City in Focus, and this article just came out July 12th! In the article it says that “the sentence is the longest handed down in Nepal’s history”

  13. sheritalucky Says:
    July 13th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Nepal jails sex trafficker Bajir Singh Tamang for 170 years!!!!! Kathmandu, Nepal was our June City in Focus, and this article just came out today! In the article it says that “the sentence is the longest handed down in Nepal’s history”

  14. Luciana Pirk Says:
    August 16th, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Hi, should we keep praying for Kathmandu since there’s nothing posted for July and August???

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