Child Trafficking in Nepal

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About the only thing the Government of Nepal has gotten right since passing the Human Trafficking and Transportation (control) Act of 2007 is that they’ve started prosecuting public officials accused of complicity in fraudulent recruitment of underage labor and sex trafficking even if the numbers of prosecutions is a drop in the bucket to how much corruption really exists in Nepal around child trafficking. However, at least this new law brought them in line with International Trafficking laws (which make them look good, right?) But, The GoN has no national anti-trafficking plan in place, nor is it a party to the 2000 UN Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Protocol.

Child trafficking in Nepal is unfortunately on the rise, with between 7,000 and 12,000 children being trafficked from Nepal each year to countries such as Bangladesh, India and the United Arab Emirates where they will face exploitation, predominantly in the commercial sex industry but also being sold into forced labor. There are many factors that help perpetuate this complex problem of human trafficking especially in children including; political instability, transition into peacetime (post-conflict), high poverty levels, high illiteracy, unemployment and the patriarchal social norm. Nepal has all of this in abundance.

According to the US Department of State 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, “Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”[i] Let’s take a closer look at what the government hasn’t done yet:

  • The GoN has been developing and anti-trafficking plan, but not yet completed or voted on.
  • No publicity surrounding the policy change of Human Trafficking in 2007 to raise awareness of the stand the GoN has finally taken.
  • There still exists a ban on women under 30 from travelling to foreign countries to work as domestic labor, which forces migration through illegal and dangerous channels.
  • There has been no sign of increased law enforcement against all forms of trafficking including girls and women.
  • Punishment of those trafficked without proper ID continues as usual (typically stolen by their captors), or those forced into prostitution.
  • Very little, if any police training on trafficking as well as prosecutors and judiciary (for the handling of human  trafficking prosecution)
  • No formal procedures put into place to recognize victims and protect them once taken away from trafficked environment (especially by police conducting raids).
  • There is very little provision of and/or a referral to protection services, immediate healthcare, legal services etc.
  • Finally, among the most heinous of these insults to trafficked victims is returning them to their captors after raids. (because the captors paid bribes to the police).

When you have societal norms of bribery among the local police, prosecutors, judiciary etc. much of what the government may try to do is undone by this corruption. According to the US State Dept., there are reports of all this and since some of those in authority own dance bars, or businesses that force child labor and slavery from trafficked children (i.e. brick kilns) it is entrenched in their society. Additionally, the huge, thriving networks of manpower agencies which lure children from their homes with promises of real jobs are powerful, have been around for centuries and bribery has always been a part of it – it’s called organized crime.

In 2013, according to the Government of Nepal’s (GoN) Report on Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives[ii] they allocated a budget of 3 times as much to Nepal Embassies in other countries for trafficked Nepali citizens than they did for awareness programs, protection, rescue missions etc. within 75 districts in Nepal. (NRs 8 million vs. 3.7 million). Is this because the GoN will get more international coverage for what it is doing to ‘protect its citizens’ in other countries? They were the recipients of an international award for this.

The most important work is being done by local, national and international nongovernmental agencies and the communities they serve. The NGOs working in rural and urban areas develop awareness, create protection and shelters, provide legal aid and education include: Change Nepal and The Himalayan Foundation (). Since 1980, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which has been at the forefront in the fight against slavery, has conducted rescues of over 82,800 children and the withdrawal of over 200,000 bonded and child laborers. The organization Global March is a collaboration among child rights’ organizations, trade unions and teachers’ organizations. It is the largest and most established active global coalition that specifically targets child labour elimination. Their belief is ”child labour can never be eliminated as long as hard-to-reach children continue to remain out of school”[IChild_labour_Nepalii].

The work these organizations are doing by saving children’s lives, putting them into schools and providing life after slavery ultimately creates the slow process of social change.

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2 Responses to “Child Trafficking in Nepal”

  1. ksakyi1 Says:

    Marlene,
    This is quite an interesting piece. I have few questions. What happens once the children are rescued, say by Bachpan? Where do the children go? Do they know how many chilren are re-trafficked once they are rescued?
    If factors like poverty, illiteracy and instability/stability drive this problem, are the ways to support families to keep their children once they are reunited with them?

    I have many questions, but let’s start with these.

  2. marlaporte Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions.

    The BBA starts with the identification of cases or the receipt of complains and includes the detailed preparation of conducting raid and rescue operations, the prosecution of traffickers/ employers and the rehabilitation of survivors. Due to current strict penalties under Indian law, they file for prosecution of employers on behalf of the children in order to get back wages, which would help the families of victims.
    Their rehab services include: 1st – protection from re-trafficking, counseling in families homes or rehab centers (owned/operated by BBA) access to gov’t services, housing. The rehab centers offer food, clothing, medical attention, education, counseling, vocational training and training about trafficking to parents.

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