Kamala Sarup: A Nation At War & Human Trafficking
A Nation At War And Human Trafficking
By Kamala Sarup
A nation at war generally fails to protect young women from traffickers. This is evident from the fact that a few thousand women in the western and eastern parts of Nepal have already been forced out of their homes due to the nine-year-old conflict. There have been no comprehensive study linking displacement and women trafficking. It's not certain how many women have been displaced and trafficked over the past decade because there is no mechanism to properly identify victims of trafficking in Nepal.
Poverty is definitely linked to trafficking but it is not the only reason. It exacerbates an already desperate situation caused by war. The trafficking of girls in Nepal is the direct consequence of years of economic and political crisis, and the low status afforded to women.
Women from minority groups such as refugee women, women living in rural or remote communities, and women in situations of armed conflict, are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Since they have a limited access to occupations and resources, they are the ones hardest hit during economic crisis and during the war. Young women and poor children without social protection are the first to be constrained into sexual transactions due to lack of alternatives.
Displacement is the most common consequence of armed conflict. Many displaced women and their families in Nepal are still without adequate shelter and are among the most vulnerable to trafficking. In addition, it is important to note that most women suffer the impacts of war in multiple ways. One of the most tragic consequences of the long-drawn civil war has been abduction of women and children. However, the government as well as non-governmental organisations have failed to systematically identify and meet distinct needs of a large and particularly at-risk group of women and have no program for them.
A latest study published by the UNICEF calls for greater efforts to empower those who have been trafficked or who are at risk by tackling root causes in countries of origin and destination, further strengthening social protection systems to prevent child trafficking, and greater understanding of trafficking within the broader context of development, gender equality and poverty reduction, with responses shaped accordingly. The report also highlights the changing nature of trafficking, with girls and women increasingly trafficked within countries and men increasingly trafficked for labour.
Because of the war, many women are separated from their families. Rape is also reported, though it remains difficult to document. More frequently the fear of retaliation and the knowledge that nothing will be done, silences them.
Existing discriminatory laws, lack of support system for survivors of trafficking, and lack of specific laws on sexual assaults have further aided the rise in trafficking of women. 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. The government has not been able to come out with concrete and effective programs to curb this problem. If governments don't prosecute and punish then, there is a tendency for it to continue. A coordinated approach to the problem is central to effective and sustainable solution.
On the other hand, across the country the women trafficking has produced a health epidemic. However, HIV and conflict create a double jeopardy for women because the internal war had not allowed the country to set up the necessary conditions required to combat HIV/AIDS. Women's health can be effective only in as much as the security of victims or armed conflict is guaranteed.
On the other hand, special attention must be given to the encouragement of economic growth in the rural areas. For this reason, alternative income generation strategies are needed. It is necessary to carry out work for prevention of trafficking, protection of victims and arrest of criminals. The work on first two directions in Nepal is not satisfactory.
It is crucial to mobilize mass media on matters related to women trafficking and HIV/AIDS, condom promotion in order to reach a considerable number of people and helping to fight the problem and disease. Broad alliances involving governments, voluntary organizations, local communities, workplaces, and schools and the military must be part of this joint effort. For trafficking to be addressed in situations of conflict may well require a psychological and political revolution. The invisible will need to become a political priority.
Education and awareness are the two powerful instruments, which can check the spread of the problem. Women trafficking should be addressed during a conflict rather than waiting until it has ended.
(This article was published in Nepalnews.com. Kamala Sarup is editor of http://peacejournalism.com/ )