Nepal is a small landlocked country lying between India and Tibet. In the hills and valleys of Nepal, in small isolated villages, live 26 million of the poorest people in the world. Most of the rural people speak only local tribal languages, not even Nepali, the lingua franca of their country.Educational and medical facilities are almost nonexistent, and more than a third of the children are severely undernourished. Half of the population is under 23 years of age.
In Nepal, women are second class citizens, both legally and socially. Young girls are a financial liability to families who must often pay a dowry to marry their daughters. The female population between the ages of eight and 18 is approximately 4,000,000 – most of them are at risk of being trafficked. The basic literacy rate among rural women is about 30 percent. An estimated 20,000 Nepalese girls were trafficked into brothels in India last year and the number is increasing rapidly.
Poor families are deceived by the fraudulent promise of an arranged marriage, or by promises of gainful employment for their daughters in Kathmandu or India. Sometimes a trafficker will meet a girl at the marketplace and “treat” her to a soft drink, which turns out to be laced with narcotics. The girl wakes up four hours later under control of the trafficker, on her way to an Indian brothel. In addition, many girls are taken from their villages under false pretenses by an unscrupulous relative or a corrupt formerly-trusted “friend” of the parents.
Traffickers take small groups of girls across the open border with India and sell them to brothel owners in major Indian cities. Once sold, the girls are tortured, beaten, and raped into submission.They are often forced to submit to sex more than 20 times per day. Their physical condition is monitored monthly, and they must submit to abortion. Once diagnosed as HIV-positive or otherwise too sick to work, they are abandoned in the street or they arrive, ill and destitute, at the Nepalese border. many are pregnant. Most returned girls are suffering from AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.The damage, both physical and psychological, is incalculable. The human suffering is unspeakable.
Working with Nepalese police, Maiti Nepal assists in intercepting young women at border crossings before they are taken into India, by providing surveillance at the border points. Maiti staff members rescue trafficked girls and women in Indian brothels, repatriate them to Nepal, and rehabilitate them. Maiti provides food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and a hospice. For the young women whose physical health can be restored, Maiti provides vocational education and micro-loans to help them start small businesses. In addition Maiti provides legal and psychological counseling, public awareness campaigns, and it lobbies for tougher trafficking laws in Nepal.
Following more than eight years of an armed Maoist revolt, Nepal is struggling to institute a democratic republic, but the fledgling government is not yet fully functional. The meager funds for services to rural areas have been diverted to military and other expenses. The resultant disorder and confusion in the country has allowed traffickers free rein, and the number of young women taken has increased significantly. The burden on Maiti Nepal has also increased dramatically with the rising number of young women rescued or returning from India. They arrive at the rescue center as social outcasts, many of them pregnant, with severe medical problems, no physical possessions other than the ragged and soiled clothing they are wearing, and no other place to take shelter