03/08/2017, 15.23
NEPAL
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Kathmandu: Catholic activists slam the trafficking of enslaved women

by Christopher Sharma

The victims are sold for organs or as sex slaves for militant Islamists. Women from Nepal’s Tamang, Rai Thakuri ethnic groups are particularly at risk because of their "fair and beautiful" skin. The government's work is affected by the problem’s links to organised crime. Various women’s groups organised activities and events to mark the day.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - In order for International Women's Day to be really meaningful, the exploitation and trafficking of women must end, this according to several Nepali Catholic women's rights advocates.

They note that more and more Nepali women are exploited as sex slaves and in organ trafficking. The National Human Rights Commission has reported in fact that at least 16,000 women have been rescued from trafficking in the last 16 years, while 13,000 were trafficked in a number of countries.

"Women trafficking has changed," said Chandrasekhar Aadikari, a journalist who reports on women. "Before women were sold in India and China as prostitutes, but today hundreds of Nepali women are used by Islamist militants as 'comfort women' or human shields.”

"According to media reports, 300 women are serving as sex slaves in Syria alone,” mostly from ethnic minorities such as the Tamang, Rai, or Thakuri who are at risk because of their "fair and beautiful skin”.

Indeed, because of their skin complexion Nepali women have become victims of this traffic, said National Women Commission President Shesh Chandtara. "Their fair skin is loved by many around the world,” she explained, people who are “eager for skin surgery."

However, for Sujata Rai, a Catholic activist, for women “There are several other problems including domestic violence, superstitious traditional practices and unemployment among others”.

It is especially "intolerable" that whilst the world marks International Women's Day, thousands are condemned to a hellish life in prostitution dens. Only when all this is ended can this day be one of joy.

For another activist, Renu Rajvandari, the role played by religion is important. If Catholic teachings are good for the family, Islam and Hinduism, with their oppressive traditions, are a problem.

Meanwhile, the government is doing everything possible, said Minister of Women, Children, and Social Welfare Kumar Khadka, but solving the problem requires time, the more so given its links to organised crime.

“We understand the situation,” he noted. “Only few elite women are celebrating this day. Thousands more are crying and suffering whilst we celebrate this day. Collective efforts are needed to solve the problem.”

According Bishnu Lamsal, chief secretary at the same ministry, "We have legal instruments against such trafficking but it is hard to put them into practice because of low awareness."

Many women’s rights groups are marking the day through various activities and events. For its part, the Government of Nepal has declared it a public holiday.

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