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ASIA: Don't Sell Women's Bodies Threatening Chaos

ASIA: Don't Sell Women's Bodies Threatening Region-Wide Chaos

By Kamala Sarup

(Kamala Sarup is a Co-Ordinator of a media watch group - The Peace
Media Research Center - and can be reached at peacemedia@gmail.com )


The problems associated with trafficking in women in Asia have steadily worsened over the past three decades and are likely to have been a significant source of financial support for criminal organizations with a global reach. The Asian nations all face serious security and social problems from trafficking in Women that represent serious impediments to peace and development.

Across the region the flesh trade has produced both a health epidemic and a weakening of political and legal institutions that is an additional obstacle to vital economic and political development.

“Societal problems affecting women and making them vulnerable were a result of inequalities. It was clear that poorer people, particularly women and children living in less developed areas, were socially and economically the most vulnerable”. Women activist and TPMRC Women Committee’s member Puja Budhathoki said.

She further added “ Source opportunities for employment and education in countries might lead to them becoming countries of origin for trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children. It was necessary to address the root causes of inequality poverty and economic disparities in Asian countries.

The trafficking of girls in Asia also the direct consequence of years of economic crisis, and the low status afforded to women in the region.

Particularly, in South Asia has a unique geographical area from many points of view. The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation comprises Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives, while Burma and Afghanistan are sometimes included.

Due to geographical proximity and relatively open borders, trafficking in women is more pronounced in South Asian countries. India stands out as being on the receiving end of the trade. An estimated 150,000 women and children from South Asia and 225,000 from Southeast Asia are subjected to trafficking yearly.

”Because women have a limited access to occupations and resources, they are the ones hardest hit during economic crisis. Poverty is definitely linked to prostitution but poverty is not the only reason It exacerbates an already desperate situation caused by war”. The Peace Media Research Center’s Nepal Co-Ordinator Mr. Amrit Pandey said.

On the other hand, open borders, conflict and poverty are the main reasons for women's trafficking in Asian countries. However, the lower socio-economic development in the region have further made trafficking and prostitution severe.

The conventional model of trafficking related to some specific ethnic community with economic reasons at the top has been now transformed into new approaches of a blended effect of many background variables viz. Social, economic political and administrative ones.

Efforts to combat trafficking and use will have to be a major part of efforts to stabilise that country and the wider Asian region. Only, limited attempts have been made to combat the problem over the past decade.

Lack of commitment and policy implementation pose as obstacles in solving the crisis. Given the gloomy scenario, the government has not been able to come out with concrete and effective programs to curb this melody in the region.

Indeed, the government needs to act actively to abolish the practices of flesh trade. Because of educating and providing opportunities for women, the government would be doing service not to the women alone but in checking the spread of disease like AIDS which might one day engulf the whole generation.

There are both social and economic problems which have contributed to the upward trend of girl trafficking. Lack of education, awareness and opportunities has contributed to the rise of flash trade in Asia. There has also been little coordination of anti-trafficking efforts.

Amrit Pandey said “ Hundreds of women are involved prostitution for survival. Criminals are flourishing no where more so than in the prostitution business".

As a sad illustration of further social decay, there are about a thousand women who have turned to prostitution due to the war-caused break down of social structures and traditional security mechanisms. Thus, many women see the streets and prostitution as a way to freedom from conflict. Some women are also see in prostitution a way to earn more money.

Poverty is leading many women into street prostitution in Asia. Growing up in Asia’s not an easy task for today's girls, especially for those being raised in the region's conflict-ridden rural areas.

A nation at war, is generally speaking a nation unable or unwilling to meet basic human needs. While war-affected women more likely to be sexually abused.

There have been no studies linking displacement and trafficking in women. Clearly, reliable studies and data on sexual exploitation and trafficking in women and the link to displacement are urgently needed.

The direct impacts of the war on women are wide ranging. On the other hand, Left with no home, no income, Asian women ending up begging or prostituting themselves in order to provide food.

In Asia, poverty was the main obstacle to the full realization of women's equality. It manifested itself in poor health, low levels of education, food insecurity and unemployment. Further, women constituted the majority of the population living in rural areas, and they suffered the consequences of unsophisticated farming practices and inadequate power infrastructure.

One of the most tragic consequences of the long civil war has been kidnapping of women and children. Displacement is the most common consequence of armed conflict and women the most affected civilian population.

Many displaced women and their families are still without adequate shelter, are among the most vulnerable. In addition it is important to note that most women suffer the impacts of war in multiple ways.

In fight, as well as upon arrival in an urban places, women commonly experience violence and abuse because conflict have contributed to arise in prostitution and trafficking, which threaten Asian women's health.

Prostitution is officially illegal and HIV is wide spread among prostitutes in Asia. Moreover, is the fact that the continuing conflict in Asia has exacerbated the problem.

Now we have some questions why normally, only the women who sold sex faced legal penalties, not the men who bought it? Why pressures from parties of the conflict, the government, the family all serve to intimidate many women into silence? Why the law continued to hold prostitutes, not their customers?

However, Government has failed to systematically identify and meet the distinct needs of a large and particularly at-risk women and have no program for them why ? Most women made the dangerous choice to sell sex because of financial difficulties and limited opportunities because of the conditions of the country's economy. In order to change
these things, the economy has to be improved.

”When the social infrastructure collapses as a result of war, famine, and economic crisis women turn to prostitution as a last resort. No matter how women and girls get into prostitution, it is difficult to get out. Often women can leave prostitution only after they become ill”. Amrit said.

In some cases, it is the parents who sell their girls to foreign paedophiles via local intermediaries.

For this reason, alternative income generation strategies are needed. A reintegration strategy should include greater training, credit and enterprise opportunities. There is an urgent need for better protection programs and human rights monitoring.

”Trafficking in women beings is an abhorrent and increasingly worrying phenomenon. The Member States of the European Union and the candidate countries are much affected by these scourges to society”. Pandey said.

In Asian societies the issue of trafficking in women was addressed about a century ago. Although The International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Trade, signed in Paris May 18, 1904 was the foremost international document to deal with the issue of trafficking in women, After then, one by one, some other remarkable efforts was also adopted in international scenario. Unfortunately, we are unable to deal each and every regional and international initiation because of lack of large space, and time.
For the first time, SAARC addressed the issue of trafficking only in its Ninth Summit held in Maldives, in 12-14 May 1997. The heads of state or government agreed to mention in its declaration "Expressing grave concern at the trafficking of women and children within and between countries, the Heads of State or Government pledged to coordinate their efforts and take effective measures to address this problem. They decided that existing legislation in Member States should be strengthened and strictly enforced. This should include simplification of repatriation procedures for victims of trafficking. They also decided that the feasibility of establishing a Regional Convention on combating the Crime of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution be examined by the relevant Technical Committee."

"The movement to suppress trafficking in Women began in England in 1969 as a campaign against state regulation of prostitution. Proponents of the campaign formed the Internationalist Abolitionist Federation in 1875 and, as a result of their actions, the Contagious Diseases Act which state regulated prostitution was repealed. Out of this movement came the British Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which made it a criminal act to procure a girl under twenty one years of age for immoral acts in England or abroad. This act served as a model for later international discussions.

The movement expanded to many other countries, culminating in an international conference which met in Paris in 1902. Out of this conference came the International Agreement for the Suppression of white Slave Traffic which was signed by twelve countries in 1904. (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland.)" (The Penn State Report- 1904, page-13) (Asmita maazine's report.)

In 1933 a new international agreement is signed in Geneva, removing the condition of constraint, but only with regard to the international "traffick in women". The Convention of 1910 was signed by 13 countries. This recognized a women under the age of twenty as minors and trafficking of such minors, even with their consent, was also punishable.


Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficking in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Others 1949 is the most specific, relevant and still effective convention to deal with the issue of trafficking in women.

The Declaration and Programme of Action of World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna on 25th June, 1993 has recognized the human rights of women and of the girl child as an in- alienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.

"The early eighties see "trafficking in women" resurface on the agenda of the United Nations, in 1991, the prevention of "traffic in persons and the exploitation of the prostitution of other's" is the main topic at the sixteenth session of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. This results in a Draft Programme of Action for the Prevention of Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, in its 48th session (1992) the Commission on Human Rights endorses the need to launch a concerted programme of action and decides to transmit the Draft Programme to Governments and other concerned organizations for their comments. Meanwhile, in 1994, the UN General Assembly adopts a resolution on "traffic in women and girls" which condemns:

The illicit and clandestine movement of persons across national and international borders, largely from developing countries and some countries with economics in transition, with the end goal of forcing women and girl children into sexually or economically oppressive and exploitative situations for the profit of recruiters, traffickers and crime syndicates, as well as other illegal activities related to trafficking, such as forced domestic labour, false marriages, clandestine employment and false adoption.


In 1996 the Commission on Human Rights adopts a resolution calling on governments to implement the Platform for Action of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women by "considering the ratification and enforcement of international conventions on trafficking in persons and on slavery."

World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen on 6-12 March 1995. It's Programme of Action also somewhat deals with the issue of trafficking of women and children but it is not only focused for the purpose of prostitution. Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing in September 1995. It was the largest world conference convened by United Nations so far.

As other world conferences, this conference also adopted the declaration and platform for action. But one thing is most different than other conferences, that the documents adopted there are the synthesized and precise form of all existing UN concepts and attitudes which death with the progress of women through various ways.

The World Conference, held in stockholm Sweden on 27-31 August 1996, adopted many agenda for action against commercial sexual exploitation of children. For the Protection of children from trafficking the agenda was set as " in the case of trafficking of children, develop and implement national laws, policies and programmes to protect children from being trafficked within or across borders and penalize the traffickers; in cross border situations, treat these children humanely under national immigration laws, and establish re admission agreements to ensure their safe return to their countries of origin accompanied by supportive services; and share relevant data".

Asmita says "A fundamental problem in responding to the issue of trafficking in women is the lack of a precise and coherent definition. The debate is above all characterized by an immense amount of confusion about what is exactly meant by the term "trafficking in women". Old and new definitions show inconsistencies, contradictions, conflicting interests, failure to pinpoint violence and abuse, and a tendency to deny female self-determination. These trends are reflected in the various definitions and concepts used in international and national legislation"

But we have a question how long will we allow the current situation to continue?

Trafficking in Nepal

"I got acquainted with a boy who was 30 who said he loved me and promised to marry me. He convinced me to go to India for a better life. I went with him. The same night he told me that I had to work in prostitution. I was heavily guarded by those people and beaten up on several occasions. They often threatened to kill me if I wouldn't comply". Says Rita Kumari.

"I was forced to work as prostitutes. And 20 women sleep in the same room". She said to me. "My father sold me for Rs. 55,000 ($800)to the brothel”. says Radha who received 10 to 12 clients a day until being rescued and brought to Nepal.

Anupama Kumari says " As soon as we arrived to Bombay we met some other girls that were there for the same reasons. We all had to work as prostitutes”.

“They took all the money I used to earn. I used to work every night and used to earn enough money for them. But they were never satisfied". Jamuna Kari Thapa said. Anupama and Jamuna are one of hundreds of thousands of Nepali women who are abducted or persuaded to go with brokers by their parents, husbands, relatives and friends?.

Young women often from rural, poverty stricken areas are sold by their parents.

Now Nepalese women in droves are leaving their homes due to the bad security situation. As it is difficult to survive the deteriorating conditions in the villages, large number of women tend to leave their villages looking for better opportunities.

More and more women, particularly from the very poor rural West and North of the country, are pouring into the cities.

In Nepal, for example, traffickers preyed on young girls raped in the course of armed conflict. Maoist insurgency activities have led to the withdrawal of police from most rural areas, and the number of reported investigations of trafficking decreased. Many Nepalese women trafficked to India many return to Nepal with the HIV virus.

Girl-trafficking is considered hardly an issue these days due to the conflict and its impact . The traffickers also exploit lack of political will by governments to tackle trafficking and its root causes.

HIV epidemics

Asia has witnessed a sharp increase in HIV infections in recent years. The incidence of HIV/AIDS has reached pandemic proportions in the region. The disease has crippled the socio-economic life of these countries. The urgent need for reducing sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS in Asia before it is too late.

The need to accelerate specific actions to alleviate the epidemics.

Human resource development index indicates that there is tremendous pressure on social, economic, educational and human resource development of a nation where its intensity is very high.

Data available from Asia shows HIV prevalence rates increasing very fast. Given the number of women affected by HIV in Asia, the potential for vertical transmission to newborn children is significant.

In spite of such sad factors, less access to health delivery services, lack of sex education in school curriculum, sexuality issues as social taboos, and poor knowledge about condoms are also contributing to increase HIV infection in this region.

Programs that offer voluntary HIV counseling and testing to pregnant women and appropriate therapy to those infected are needed to prevent vertical transmission of HIV to newborns.

In Asia, efforts aimed at prevention and treatment are seriously impeded by the social stigma, shame, and isolation that HIV/AIDS patients frequently endure, in addition to the lack of adequate nutrition and health care.

The challenges which confront Asia are enormous and immeasurable. The disease is killing tens of thousands of young women in Asia.

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