“Hope Shines” Issue Spotlight: How Girls In Nepal Fall Victim to Trafficking

Kema was only 8 years old when she was rented to the family’s landlord as a domestic servant. He beat, overworked, and sexual assaulted her until her “lease” was up and she was returned to her family. As they learned about the horrors their daughter faced, the family heard from our partners about an opportunity for their daughter to become a pig farmer. Through our prevention work, Kema has made enough money to help her family survive, to pay school fees and no longer lives at risk of being sold.

Kema was only 8 years old when she was rented to the family’s landlord as a domestic
servant. He beat, overworked, and sexually assaulted her until she was returned to her family. Her family heard from our partners about an opportunity for their daughter to become a pig farmer. Now, Kema has made enough money to help her family survive, to pay school fees and no longer lives at risk of being sold.

Human trafficking is defined by the State Department’s 2013 Trafficking In Persons Report as the “act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” Trafficking can occur not just internationally, but also within a person’s own community.

Human trafficking affects an estimated 27 million people worldwide. Women are particularly vulnerable. 80% are those trafficked domestically and internationally for labor and sexual exploitation are women and girls, and 98% of sex slaves are female.

Nepal is a high-risk country for trafficking. According to the TIP report, “Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”

Nepali girls face dangers of being sold and transported across borders to neighboring countries like India, where there is high demand for cheap girls for sexual slavery. Traffickers will arrive in a Nepali village posing as businessmen and promise a family that they know of job opportunities for their daughter. Sometimes, a girl’s own extended family will take part in the deception and coerce her into being trafficked. Once a girl is in a trafficker’s clutches and smuggled across the border, there is little hope she will ever be free from the brothel where she will be transported. She can even be charged for the travelling expenses of her own kidnapping, which puts her in further debt to her captors.

The problem is endemic; in one remote village, there are no girls over the age of 12. They have all been trafficked.  

Girls also face dangers in their own communities. Within Nepal, there exists a culture of bonded (or indentured) servitude for lower-class families. Since access to currency is low, families will exchange labor for room and board, creating an bonded servitude arrangement. A family who is indebted to their landlord will often bond their daughter to him for labor. Bonded girls, some of whom are very young, often work in harsh conditions and are commonly abused physically and sexually.

The lack of a Nepali parliamentary body (they disbanded in May of 2012) and limited government resources have made coordinated efforts against trafficking on a national scale difficult. However, organizations like She Is Safe work to rescue girls from traffickers and prevent the conditions that would make a girl susceptible to trafficking.

She Is Safe frees girls from traffickers at border crossings, restoring them through spiritual nurture and job training in a safe location. If it is determined that they can be safely returned, girls are taken home bearing the good news of God’s love, equipped to strengthen their villages against traffickers in the future.

SIS also works with the indigenous church to provide income-generating resources for girls, such as livestock and agricultural training. This demonstrates that girls can contribute to the well-being of their families and places them out of the grip of traffickers. “Providing a young Nepali girl and her family with two pigs or goats can open the doors for a life of freedom, faith and a strong future.” says Diane Fender, Anti-Trafficking Program Development Officer for SIS.

Through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement and local anti-trafficking workers, Nepali girls can be freed and empowered to develop, away from the dangers of trafficking.

This special feature on trafficking is part of the “Hope Shines” initiative, an opportunity for people all over the world to shine a light on behalf of girls into the evening sky on International Day of the Girl (October 11) and raise funds to free and equip them for a brighter future. Learn more about “Hope Shines” and register to participate today!