Kamala Sarup: Women Trafficking And Conflict
Women Trafficking And Conflict
"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 one of the men told us that we had to work in prostitution. I told him that I didn't want to work in prostitution, but he threatened me severely. I had several clients a day and was forced to hand over all the money they paid me. I was heavily guarded by those people and beaten up on several occasions. They often threatened to kill me if I wouldn't comply. I was afraid of them as I knew they carried guns". Says Rita Kumari. "We are forced to work as prostitutes if we want to eat. And 38 women sleep in the same room". said Rita Kumari.
"My Uncle sold me for Rs. 55,000 to the brothel owner in exchange for food" says Radha who received 10 to 12 clients a day until being rescued and brought to Nepal. Radha 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 in the streets. For sure I refused to work, but you would never believe what kind of persons they are and what methods they use to keep you feeling as a prisoner, as a victim. They took all the money I used to earn. I used to work every night in the streets and used to earn enough money for them. But they were never satisfied". Rita Kumari and Radha Kumari 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 and sent to larger cities to be kept in slave-like conditions in huge and highly profitable brothels.
Political instability and the Maoist insurgency have hindered Nepal's efforts in fighting women trafficking. 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. The social and economic conditions here make a good atmosphere to work for these traffickers. The ongoing insurgency and internal migration have fueled trafficking.
The trafficking of women for forced prostitution into Nepal is a serious problem and a grave human rights abuse. Women unemployment in the cities is twice as high as male unemployment. Jobs as domestic worker are so badly paid that it is impossible to live on them. Thus the high number of women who are forced to turn to prostitution is not surprising. The Nepal government does nothing to prevent trafficking in women. In addition to exploiting economic need, traffickers exploit the vulnerability of women who have fled their homes because of violence or have been displaced by armed conflict.
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. Poverty, unemployment, internal migration and persistent political conflict have increased the vulnerability of women in many fields. Nepal's extreme poverty and its economic and political relationship with India have facilitated the trafficking of Nepali women and girls to brothels in India.
Many Nepalese women trafficked to India many return to Nepal with the HIV virus. The Nepal government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Nepal's law enforcement efforts against trafficking are limited due to continuing political instability and a severe lack of resources. Forcing the poor even to consider questionable means of earning a livelihood, including prostitution, is downright condemnable.
Girl-trafficking is considered hardly an issue these days due to the conflict and its impact. Even on the other side the concept of girl being trafficked is gradually changing as large numbers of women are being displaced due to the conflict. In Nepal where poverty has already limited people's choices, discrimination against women in education, employment and wages can leave them with very few options for supporting themselves.
Social worker Dr. Jamaika, while speaking with the Telegraph, not only made these queries but also said, " By disrupting normal economic activity and destroying bases of economic support, armed conflict also puts women at risk for trafficking and at greater risk for having to engage in survival sex or sexual bartering, through which many women are becoming infected with HIV. Corrupt leaders, and a profound lack of political will coalesced to guarantee impunity for traffickers and to exacerbate the suffering of their victims. In addition, women faced rampant violence and discrimination in conflict lives. Rape and sexual assault against women are all too common in conflict situations".
The business of trafficking women is growing. Traffickers recruit women and children through deceptive means including falsified employment advertisements for domestic workers, waitresses and other low-skilled work. Traffickers include those involved in highly sophisticated networks of organized crime and may be as close to home as a relative to the victim. In the context of the above there has been a growing feeling within governments, and civil society organizations, that there is an urgent need to work closely with the travel and tourism industry and draw-up a collective agenda to address the issues of sex tourism.
Elisabeth Rehn, who has served as Finland's Defense Minister, an undersecretary general for the UN said "The real problem is in the fact that the traffickers are not only trafficking women and girls. They are also in the organized crime, and unfortunately, the corruption in many, many of these conflict countries. So those who are in political power also are dependent on the organized crime for financing. The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is a high-profit, low-risk trade for those who organize it, but it is detrimental to the thousands of women and children exploited in slavery-like conditions in the global sex industry".
She further said "Yet because human trafficking is intensely secretive and kept underground, it's not easy to identify victims or bring traffickers to justice. The traffickers also exploit lack of political will by governments to tackle trafficking and its root causes. Corruption, weak inter-agency coordination, and low funding levels for ministries tasked with prosecuting traffickers, preventing trafficking, and protecting victims also enable traffickers to continue their operations".
Trafficking in women is becoming an increasingly national procedure. Our laws are lacking or insufficient. The trafficking of women for sexual exploitation is accompanied by potentially lifelong and/or life-threatening health consequences. Corruption contributes heavily to traffickers. Even, the success of traffickers' business relies on their ability to keep activities hidden from law enforcement agencies.
(Kamala Sarup is editor of http://peacejournalism.com/)