The Bigger Problem

If you drive a few kilometers outside of Kathmandu, there are many remote villages where subsistence farming cannot provide for all the needs of each family. As a way to preserve their own lives, the villagers are eager for their older children to get work in the city and send home what they earn. Traffickers find the girls easy marks since they are uneducated and impoverished, desperate for any opportunity. When they enter the villages nicely dressed and ask the girls if they want to go to Kathmandu for work, they reply, “Why not?” Once they arrive in the capital city, they are sold to the brothels in Nepal and India. The red-light district is illegal in Nepal, but there are many girls hidden within its walls, and the problem is growing and growing.

Poverty, illiteracy, and the lack of job skills are the main causes of sex trafficking in Nepal, an underdeveloped country. In the villages, people are very poor and cannot afford to send their children to school, especially their daughters. When those girls grow up without an education and their only work experience is in their own homes, they are easily deceived and lured away. They are promised a better job and they end up prisoners at hotels and guesthouses.

Even though the caste system has been outlawed in Nepal, it is still functioning largely unchanged. Those lower caste girls who do have the opportunity for education don’t want to attend school because they are shunned or ridiculed by other students from higher castes who will not “blend” with them. Lower caste occupations include blacksmiths and tailors, and untouchables include shoemakers and street sweepers. But the trafficker doesn’t care about caste; all he or she is interested in is finding girls to sell.

Our director in Nepal, Surendra, was traveling outside a village and saw a man plowing his field, with his 18-year-old daughter working alongside him. Out of curiosity he asked her, “Do you want to go to Kathmandu?” “Oh yes,” she replied, “can you take me there?” The father said, “Sir, give me 1000 rupees* and take my daughter to Kathmandu.” Surendra was not a trafficker, but he could understand how easy it is for one to find new girls for the brothels. Because of their poverty and need, the villagers readily sell their daughters and wives and sisters.

*1000 rupees = $8 USD