Nepal is a small, beautiful country in Asia. It is nestled in the Himalayas between China and India. Its population 30 million people. Of those, approximately 40% live below the poverty line and 47% of the population is unemployed. This ranks Nepal among the ten poorest socioeconomic nations in the world. The Nepalese are a beautiful, resilient people. They are kind and hospitable, but ingrained in their society is a caste system that justifies the mistreatment and marginalization of those in lower castes. This propagates the poverty and injustice observed in their society, and prevents help from reaching those who need it most.
Nepali women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Nepal, India, the Middle East, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa with trafficking from Nepal to destinations outside South Asia on the rise. The Kathmandu-based sex industry was described as a ‘training ground’ to prepare girls and women for Gulf countries and other destinations (Sex Trafficking in Kathmandu’s Entertainment Sector, Free the Slaves, December 2015).
The United Nations estimates that approximately 7,000 Nepalese women and girls are trafficked into India every year (UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, 2014). Trafficking of Nepalese women to South Korea and China for marriage has resulted in as many as 1,000 women being exploited by marriage bureaus with promises of citizenship, job opportunities and good family life.
Sex trafficking of Nepali women and girls increasingly takes place in private apartments, rented rooms, guest houses, and restaurants. In the Nepalese entertainment industry, the entertainment sector includes significant crossover with commercial sexual activity. Many of the girls and women are expected, and in some cases are forced, to provide sexual favors to customers as part of a job that also may involve massage, dance or serving food. As in the sex industry elsewhere, there are varying degrees of exploitation within the sector. There are reports of the use of force and deception both in recruiting to the sector and during employment.
Many Nepalese are trapped into exploitative situations by borrowing money from lenders, who then force borrowers to work to repay their debt. Those in debt bondage do not have the freedom to work for another employer without the landlord’s permission and must work long hours for wages below the minimum wage. Individuals who eventually pay off their debt are at risk of falling back into modern slavery, due to limited alternative job opportunities (Modern Slavery Nepal: Understanding the problem and existing responses, Walk Free Foundation, 2015).
Labor recruitment agencies and job brokers also exploit Nepalese workers with attractive offers of overseas travel and job opportunities. A large proportion of Nepalese workers work overseas, many of whom are deceived about their working and living conditions in labor-receiving countries. Nepalese men continue to suffer exploitative living and working conditions in the construction of stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and some Nepalese migrant domestic workers experience practices that amount to forced labor in private homes throughout Malaysia and the Gulf States (Modern Slavery Nepal: Understanding the problem and existing responses, Walk Free Foundation, 2015).
Children are trafficked within the country and to India and the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation or forced marriage, as well as to India and within the country for involuntary servitude as domestic servants, circus entertainers, factory workers, or beggars.
It is estimated that between 12,000 to 15,000 girls between ages 6 to 16 are trafficked each year from Nepal to India. More than 250,000 Nepali girls are forced into the Indian sex trade where prostitution is legal.
Up to 7,000 girls from rural areas are brought as domestic slaves to Kathmandu city, where sexual abuse is common. More than 100,000 children have been forced to leave their villages and 10,000 children have been orphaned as a result of the 12 year long civil war in Nepal.