By Sanju Balal

Lalitpur, July 5. Eighteen-year-old Kasturi Tamang (name changed) hates marriage, as her husband forced her into sex trade in an Indian city.

In 2009, Kasturi, a resident of a rural area of Makawanpur district, got married to Tej Bahadur Rana Magar, 20. Promising Kasturi of better life, her husband took her to Hetauda where the couple started working as labourers on a daily wage basis. But Kasturi’s husband, who was also a resident of the same district, wanted to remain unemployed.

"Then, he took me to India and sold me into a brothel where I led a hellish life for some weeks," she said.

This could be an indicative of the fact that Tej was involved in the heinous crime of trafficking in girls and women.

Kasturi had a telephone number of Maya, who was responsible for operating Maiti Nepal’s prevention centre at Hetauda. So, she contacted Maya, who informed Govinda Ghimire, Regional Programme Officer of Maiti Nepal.

A rescue team that included Kasturi’s father, her relatives and Maiti Nepal staffers went to India to rescue her. With the help of the Indian police and employees of the World Hindu Federation, the team was able to rescue her and brought her home.

She has registered a writ petition against Tej and his two accomplices-- Ram and Rakesh. The case is under consideration at the district court. Tej has been under police custody, while Ram died and Rakesh has still been absconding.

Nepal is considered as a major country of origin for trafficking in girls and women. An estimated 12,000 Nepalese girls and women are being trafficked to various Indian cities and the Gulf countries annually. Many of such victims return home with various sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

According to a report of the International Labor Organisation (ILO), most of those victims of trafficking are trafficked to India and the Gulf countries where they are compelled to lead their lives as commercial sex workers. Some of are also trafficked for their physical organs, the report said.

"The number of Nepali girls and women in the Middle East countries has been increasing considerably over the years", said Sekha Thapa, Programme Assistant of Maiti Nepal, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) fighting the menace of trafficking of girls and women.

Around 26 various districts of Nepal have been affected by this problem. Nepalgunj, Biratnagar, Kakarvitta and Bhairahawa are regarded as highly affected border cities.

Thapa said that traffickers sell a girl for at least IRs. 80,000 "Along with offering fabulous dreams of marriage and comfortable life, traffickers and pimps are found trafficking girls for prostitution, extracting kidneys, and involving them in household works," she said.

In brothels, the victims are compelled to face physical and mental tortures.

"Most of the girls and women are trafficked by their husbands, brothers, fathers, sisters and other relatives," she added.

Apart from establishing rescue, transit, rehabilitation and prevention homes, Maiti Nepal has been conducting awareness rising programmes through rallies, street dramas, awareness song. It has also set up a legal section on Nepal-India border to prevent girls and women from being trafficked.

Similarly, the girls and women who are hired as housemaids are forced to have sex with male members of the households and their relatives.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and negative influence of modernization are regarded as main reasons behind the growing trend of the scourge of human trafficking.

Despite the awareness campaign launched by the government, International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and NGOs to control trafficking, the magnitude of the problem of human trafficking has not decreased. Officials of security bodies and social workers involved in the fight against trafficking say that traffickers have been getting political protection.

As per the existing legal provisions in Nepal, a trafficker faces 20 years of imprisonment and has to pay Rs. 200,000 as compensation.

(Balal is an intern with TRN)

Source: The Rising Nepal [2010-07-05]