Nepal's new sex slaves, sold by fathers and husbands for a few rupees
by Christopher Sharma
According to the latest report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), human trafficking increased by 60.34 per cent over an 18-month period, from 11,500 in 2011 to 20,000 in 2012/2013. The story of Sita, sold at 19 by her husband to an Indian brothel, is like that of Rita, forced to prostitute herself for 12 years in China.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Sita Gurung was 19 when her husband sold her to human traffickers for 10,000 rupees (US$ 100). Theirs was a life of poverty, and he wanted her to find a job. One day, he convinced her to emigrate to India.

When Sita arrived in Nepal's big neighbour, she did not know that her husband had sold her to a brothel. Only when she met her first customer did Sita realise that she had become a sex slave.

Forced to prostitute herself for a year, she managed to escape with the help of a customer and is now free again.

Sita's story is similar to that of thousands of Nepali women and girls, sold cheaply by members of their own families: fathers, mothers, husbands and brothers.

According to the latest annual report issued by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), human trafficking in Nepal jumped by 60.34 present in an 18-month period. The number of women and girls involved in this racket was 20,000 in 2012/2013, compared to 11,500 in 2011.

Rita Tamang, 28, is from Hetauda. Today, she is free and lives at a rehabilitation centre. However, her story is not that dissimilar from Sita's.

For 12 years, she was forced to prostitute herself in China. "When I was 16," she explained, "my father asked me to go for job in China with an agent and when I went with him, I was forced to work as sex worker".

"When I was saved by an anti-trafficking association," she said, tears in her eyes, "I found out that my father had sold me for 15,000 rupees (US$ 150), and used the money to repair the roof of our house."

"Women and children are the main victims," said Rupa Rai, a Catholic human rights and anti-human trafficking activists.

"It is hard to believe it when close relatives are involved, a husband selling a wife or a father selling a daughter," he explained.

What is more, "Many women and girls don't know about the trafficking."