[Stop-traffic] News/Nepal: Their Lives Ruined, Former Sex Slaves in Nepal Work to Save Others

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Nepal: Their Lives Ruined, Former Sex Slaves in Nepal Work to Save Others
From: by way of Melanie Orhant (listproc@friends-partners.org )
Date: Wed Jul 12 2000 - 21:46:16 EDT

        An interesting (and heartening) variation of a support


        IHT, Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2000

                            Their Lives Ruined, Former Sex Slaves in
                            Nepal Work to Save Others

                            By Dexter Filkins Los Angeles Times Service

                            BIRATNAGAR, Nepal - Of the thousands of
        Nepalese girls kidnapped
                            to work in brothels across Asia, a brave
        few have returned to haunt their

                            Seized as adolescents, the women now stand
        guard at checkpoints along
                            the border shared with India to stop
        traffickers and rescue other girls about
                            to be spirited out of Nepal.

                            Since 1997, when the women first took their
        posts, they have caught 70
                            suspected traffickers and saved 240 girls
        as they were being smuggled
                            across the frontier. In a country where
        thousands of girls are kidnapped and
                            sold into prostitution each year, their
        efforts reflect a growing commitment
                            to stop the illegal trade.

                            For women such as Sushma Katuwal, sold for
        $700 to an Indian pimp
                            when she was 14, the border duty offers a
        chance to reclaim the self-worth
                            she left behind in a brothel.

                            ''I came back from hell,'' said Miss
        Katuwal, who was freed by police after
                            13 months in captivity. ''I am trying to
        stop these girls from being sold like I

                            The capture of suspected traffickers has
        provided moments of high drama:
                            Bursting with rage, some of the women
        guards have attacked suspects as
                            police led them away. One woman chased a
        suspect into a canal, where he
                            was hauled out and arrested. Others have
        coaxed traffickers and their prey
                            back across the border and into the hands
        of authorities.

                            At the chaotic Biratnagar crossing, Miss
        Katuwal, now 19, stood recently
                            in a bright green sari, scanning the faces
        of girls as they came through.
                            Hours passed before she stopped a girl
        seated in the back of a bicycle
                            rickshaw. Miss Katuwal asked her a few
        questions, nodded and waved her

                            ''I know what to look for; it's in their
        eyes,'' she said. ''These girls think they
                            are going to jobs in India, but I have
        never seen one come back and say her
                            life is better.''

                            Nepalese police credit Miss Katuwal with
        nailing four suspected traffickers
                            and rescuing 15 girls since the beginning
        of the year.

                            ''Usually Sushma is right,'' said R.K.
        Shrestha, a police sub-inspector in

                            The traffic in girls represents a national
        humiliation for Nepal, an
                            impoverished country better known for its
        Himalayan treks. Experts here
                            say most of the abductees are smuggled out
        of the country to brothels in
                            India, where they are prized for their fair
        skin and East Asian looks.

                            Many of the Nepalese girls who wind up in
        Indian brothels come from poor
                            villages in the mountains. They often are
        lured by the promise of
                            housekeeping or factory jobs in India or
        the Middle East. Once in India,
                            they are held captive, sometimes in tiny
        windowless rooms where they
                            service dozens of men each day. Some
        escape, others are rescued.

                            The experiment to catch the traffickers was
        set up by Anuradha Koirala,
                            who runs a home in the capital, Katmandu,
        for women brought back from
                            the brothels. The home is called Maiti
        Nepal; Maiti means ''mother's
                            house.'' Most of the women are doomed:
        HIV-positive, like Miss Katuwal,
                            and without the money for treatment. Most
        will not talk about their

                            Three years ago, with the women growing
        restless, Miss Koirala hit upon
                            the idea of posting guards at the border.
        With the help of a grant from the
                            International Labor Organization, she set
        up four guard posts.

                            ''All the girls want to go to the border,''
        Miss Koirala said. ''They are angry,
                            but they don't know how to express

                            Miss Katuwal is one of only a handful of
        returnees strong enough to tell her
                            story. In 1995, when she was 14, floods
        washed away her village,
                            Dhungra, in southern Nepal. Her family had
        resorted to sleeping under a
                            plastic sheet when a village woman asked
        her if she wanted to make money
                            working in a garment factory in Nepal. Miss
        Katuwal, the youngest of five
                            children, jumped at the chance to earn
        money for her family.

                            But instead of Katmandu, the woman took
        Miss Katuwal by bus to the
                            Indian border, where they were met by three
        men. Miss Katuwal had never
                            been to the capital and was not sure what
        it looked like or how far it was.

                            ''Where are you taking me?'' Miss Katuwal
        recalls asking her captors.

                            The men took her out of Nepal to a brothel
        in the southern Indian city of
                            Pune. The village woman had sold her to the
        men, she later discovered, for
                            2,000 Indian rupees, about $50 at the time.

                            In a typical day, she recalls, she serviced
        about 30 men. Each paid between
                            $3.50 and $12, depending on how long he
        stayed and what he wanted
                            from her. She was kept in a four-story
        building in Pune's notorious Koothi
                            district, which housed 13 other Nepalese
        girls, most of whom, she guesses,
                            were 14 or 15 years old.

                            ''What could I do?'' Miss Katuwal asked.
        ''I had to have sex with many
                            men. I was so sad. From the first day that
        I was in that place, my goal was
                            to punish the people who did this to me. I
        never lost that faith.''

                            Many of the girls in the brothel were not
        so resilient. One, a Nepalese
                            named Sarad, hanged herself from a ceiling

                            Miss Katuwal did not go outside the brothel
        until 13 months after her
                            arrival, when the Indian police raided it.

                            Miss Katuwal attained her goal. Weeks after
        her arrival in Katmandu, while
                            sitting by a window at Maiti Nepal, she
        spotted two of the people who had
                            taken her to India. She screamed for help
        and ran out after the men.

                            ''We all ran out the door, every girl in
        the house, and chased down the men
                            and dragged them to the police station,''
        Miss Koirala said.

                            Miss Katuwal testified against the pair,
        and they were convicted in a
                            Nepalese court. One got a three-year term.
        The other was sentenced to
                            five years. After that, Miss Koirala
        decided to send Miss Katuwal to the

                            She seemed almost serene as she watched the
        rickshaws pass through the
                            border crossing. Miss Katuwal says saving
        kidnapped girls has given
                            meaning to her short, traumatic life.

                            ''As long as I survive,'' she said, ''this
        is what I am going to do.''

        From: <stop-traffic@friends-partners.org> AT UNS_GTWY on
              06/28/2000 09:17 AM

        To: stop-traffic@friends-partners.org AT
        cc: (bcc: Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt/UNCHR/UN)

        Subject: REQUEST - Information on support networks to help

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        Dear List,

        I work for Refugee Action in UK and am doing some research into
        trafficking of women into prostitution. At present the UK law
        does not allow
        women who have been trafficked into prostitution, any temporary
        stay in the
        country which obviously makes it extremely difficult for women
        to come

        In order to assess what our organisation can do, I am
        interested in finding
        out what other organisations exist worldwide (in particular
        Europe) to help
        and support vulnerable women who have been trafficked into
        prostitution and
        need somewhere to go, where they can be offered understanding,
        and given information that will enable them to make their own

        I would be grateful for any information and advice as to what
        organisations are doing.

        Many thanks,

        Ros Colman

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