10/05/2015, 00.00
NEPAL
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Women sold as sex slaves in Tanzania and Qatar

by Christopher Sharma
The victims’ stories are just about the same. Rima Basnet was lured into slavery in Tanzania, and Kamala Tamang was sold in Qatar, where she contracted AIDS before she was thrown out. In both cases, the victims received death threats if they did not perform to satisfy the sex desires of customers. Thousands of women share the same fate: sold and used in the Middle East and Africa.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Scores of young women from Nepal have been caught up in the sex trade. Rima Basnet and Kamala Tamang (not their real names) are two of them.

Rima Basnet is 22. Her painful journey began when she was lured by a job promise that ended up with her becoming a sex slave in Tanzania. “Our job,” she told AsiaNews, "was to dance and satisfy the sexual desires of the customers who came to the club and picked us. We could not tell our families what was happening. The owner always carried a loaded pistol, ready to shoot if we told anyone he was exploiting us."

Like Rima, Kamala Tamang’s journey of exploitation and abuse brought her to Qatar, but “Once I contracted HIV/AIDS, my captors threw me out."

These young women are but two of the thousands of women from Nepal, Bangladesh and India who are sold every year as sex slaves in Africa and the Middle East, including in Syrian territory under the control of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Rima Basnet comes from a poor family that belongs to a minority in the southern district of Morang. AsiaNews met her at the Patan Appellate Court (south of Kathmandu) -

After she finished high school, she left for the capital to look for work. “In Kathmandu, a friend of my brother told me I could go to Tanzania to work as a waitress in a restaurant,” she explained. “He told me that I would get a good paying job but had me promise not to tell anyone”.

“Then he took me to a hotel where five other women were staying. He took our passports and papers, and asked us to pay 200,000 Nepali rupees (about US$ 1,900), which I did not have. So he told me I had a debt with him and that he would invest in me.”

After a few days, the 22-year-old was moved to India. Here she and other women were passed on to an Indian agent, who brought them to a hotel in Delhi where they were raped and threatened. From there, they ended up in Tanzania, in a strip bar.

"We were denied food but were given stuff to increase our sex drive. We asked to be paid, but we were told that we had been sold, so we had to do everything we were told. "

Eventually, she was found and rescued, unconscious, in a forest where she had been beaten for refusing to have sex.

Kamala Tamang, from the northern district of Sindhupalchowk, endured a very similar same fate. She too was eventually rescued, by the Maiti Nepal, an association that saved two women in India from a Saudi diplomat.

Her brother sold her in Qatar when she was just 18 years old. “I was forced to have unprotected sex with up to ten men,” she told AsiaNews. “I eventually contracted HIV/AIDS and was thrown out. Many girls are enslaved like me in these countries."

These cases are far from isolated. In fact, the sex trade is growing in the Indian subcontinent. In Delhi, India, police rescued 235 women in 2014. A year earlier, they had saved 160, including 43 from Nepal. In 2012, they freed another 185, including 42 Nepalis.

Since the beginning of this year, Indian police have arrested 62 human traffickers. In 2013 they took into custody 199; the year before, 261.

Recently, the Achham District Court in (north-western Nepal) sentenced a 56-year-old man, Amar Bista, to 44 years in prison for selling his wife as a sex slave for 300,000 Nepali rupees (US$ 2,900).

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