[Stop-traffic] News/Nepal: Former Nepalese sex slaves part of campaign to save victims

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Nepal: Former Nepalese sex slaves part of campaign to save victims
From: Laura Rusu (rusul@hrw.org)
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 22:28:50 EDT

Former Nepalese sex slaves part of campaign to save victims

                               KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Nisha
                              and Geeta watch every woman who
                               crosses out of Nepal at the Kakarvitta
                              border point, trying to spot those
                              destined to be sold into brothels in India.

                              They know what to look for.

                  The two female border guards, ages 19 and 21, had been
                  lured from their mountain villages and sold as sex
                  to Bombay brothels by people who promised them jobs
                  in the city and escape from hard rural life.

                  "We were deceived and taken across the border to serve
                  as sex slaves, but we can still prevent more of them
                  facing the same fate," said Geeta, who for the past
                  years has stood guard 12 hours a day at the border
                  330 miles east of Katmandu.

                  She and her partner, who talked on condition their full

                  names not be used, nab at least 20 potential victims
                  traffickers a month.

                  "The police were too busy checking for criminals and
                  smuggling at the border, they had no time or did not
                  bother to check for traffickers," said Anuradha
                  who runs Maiti Nepal, a shelter for women who escape
                  and make it back home.

                  "Now these women who already have the bitter
                  experience can point them out for the police."

                  Maiti Nepal operates patrols at six border points and
                  plans eventually to cover all 26 crossings into India.

                  An estimated 200,000 Nepali women work as prostitutes
                  in Indian brothels. Now the Nepalese government,
                  and organizations such as UNICEF have joined forces to

                  combat trafficking of women to India.

                  Finding traffickers is made more difficult by the long,
                   border the two countries share, and the fact that
                  and India do not require visas to cross into each

                  An estimated 7,000 women are taken to Indian brothels
                  every year, yet only 130 trafficking cases have been
                  prosecuted, according to advocate groups.

                  "Due to the lack of evidence, about 58 percent of these

                  cases end up in a not-guilty verdict," said Sapana
                  an advocate with the Katmandu-based Forum for
                  Women and Development. "The only evidence we have
                  here is the story of these women, which often is not
                  enough to convince the judge."

                  A legal process that can take years also discourages
                  who do escape, women"s advocates said.

                  "When the case does come up in court, the law says
                  intention of sale has to be proved, which is
difficult. Most
                  cases are dismissed on technical grounds," Malla said.

                  Her group and other agencies have proposed legislation
                  that would lessen the women"s burden of proof.

                  Convicted traffickers face up to 20 years in prison.
                  Malla said those who are arrested and jailed are
                  poor, without the backing of powerful people with

                  "This is an organized crime where even members of
                  parliament have been involved in the past," Malla

                  At Katmandu"s central jail, half of the 84 female
                  have been charged with trafficking and face sentences
                  averaging 10 years.

                  "The actual traffickers and their leaders are never
                  arrested. We have often seen the real traffickers get
                  released from this very jail," said Nirmala Lama, 30,
                  serving a 10-year sentence for trafficking. "A very
                  notoriously known trafficker served only two years
                  sentence and left after offering a bribe of $2,850."

                  Nepal police have opened a separate department staffed
                  by female officers to deal with cases of women and
                  victims, and run awareness programs.

                  "We are not only sensitizing the community but also our

                  own force so they know how to deal when victims come
                  forward," said Govind Prasad Thapa, deputy
                  superintendent of police.

                  Still, thousands of Nepalese women continue to end up
                   brothels in the Indian cities of Bombay, New Delhi,
                  Ahmadabad, Silguri and Patna every year.

                  "It is a big business and powerful people are involved.
It is
                  a spreading and growing phenomenon," UNICEF
                  Director for South Asia Nigel Fischer said.

                  Experts say the economic conditions in Nepal, where
                  more than 40 percent are poor, is part of the problem.

                  "The real problem here is the low value placed on
                  women," Fischer said. "For people in South Asia, it is
                  sin to be born poor and a woman."

Laura Ioana Rusu
Women's Rights Division
Human Rights Watch
1630 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-612-4350
Fax: 202-612-4333
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