Trafficking & Sex Slavery

Trafficking and sex slavery

Trafficking into the brothels of India and domestic and sexual slavery in the Middle East is a historic trade, with between 5,000 and 12,000 girls aged from as young as 7 years old disappearing from Nepal every year. An estimated 200,000 girls from Nepal are working in brothels in India. The average lifespan of a girl working in prostitution in India is just 34 years.

The United Nations cites human trafficking as the third largest international criminal industry, with traffickers making an estimate US$32 billion annually.

Neither the governments of Nepal nor the recipient countries have acted with determination to stop this evil trade. Despite having anti-trafficking and corruption laws in place in both Nepal and India, the crime continues to flourish. There are, however, gaps in the law, but neither India nor Nepal have ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000 (UNTOC) with its comprehensive protocols that could close those gaps.

Corruption and injustice

The depressing truth is that the police, border agencies and judiciary are often involved, colluding with or taking bribes from the traffickers (as this case study demonstrates). Those traffickers who are arrested are usually not the main perpetrators; the powerful men at the top rarely, if ever, face justice. There is also a culture of blaming the victim along with the threat of her being ostracised from society, which contribute to the paucity of convictions.

Torture and slavery

Often drugged, tortured and gang-raped into submission, trafficked girls live in continual fear. Beatings, burning and other forms of physical, sexual and psychological abuse are regular forms of control. Rubbing chilli into their genitals is one common torture. Some women give birth to babies conceived in the brothels, and torture of these children is another form of control over their mothers.

We do not use the term sex slavery lightly. Most Nepali girls sold into brothels in India are instantly enslaved in debt bondage. They work many years for no money, paying off the imaginary debt placed on them by the brothel owners.

A bleak future

The small percentage of girls who are rescued or escape face a bleak future. Dissociated and often shunned by family and village communities, they find it difficult to reintegrate into society or find work. Many return sick or dying. Some are cast out when they are too ill to work, and find their own way home. 

Many girls suffer long-term health problems. Beating them around the ears is a common punishment that leads some girls to return with hearing problems or burst eardrums. Many suffer from severe gynaecological problems caused by abusive and invasive sexual practices. More devastating are the cases of HIV/Aids and the increasing cases of immunity-resistant TB.

Trafficked girls lose their childhood, their innocence, their virginity, their families, their homes, their community, their chance of marriage, and in many cases their health, their future and their hope. We are doing our best to combat that legacy and assist these young women and girls to fully reintegrate into society.

Please donate to help trafficked girls.

Further resources

Trafficked girls' stories

Asha Nepal/Shakti Samuha/Terre des Hommes's study on the lives of rescued and returned trafficking victims, Looking Towards Tomorrow, 2012

National Human Rights Commission of Nepal's report, Trafficking in Persons Especially on Women and Children in Nepal, 2011

For more information about the legal framework in Nepal and India and gaps in prevention, protection and prosecution, UNDOC's Responses to Human Trafficking in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, 2011

Asha Nepal's report on Trafficking of Women and Children from Nepal, A Sense of Direction, 2006

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