More and more women forced into Nepal’s sex trade
by Christopher Sharma
​Since last year’s quake, the government has failed to distribute promptly foreign aid. “There are no official data on displaced persons, deaths or victims of human trafficking,” one activist laments. “I preferred prostitution to suicide,” said one young woman. As AsiaNews shows, she is not alone.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Many young women who lost everything in the April 2015 earthquake are now being forced into prostitution by the failure of Nepali authorities to distribute foreign government and non-government aid.

Corruption and the country’s political divisions have hampered the distribution of the aid that poured into the country after last year’s quake, which killed 8,700 people and forced thousands of people to live in makeshift shelters.

This has forced many women to sell their bodies to survive. Rupa, a young woman from Gorka District, is one of them. At present, she works as an exotic dancer in a disco bar in Kathmandu, where her employer has forced her to have sex with customers or she would not be paid.

Speaking to AsiaNews, she remembers the quake. She had gone in the jungle to find food for her animals. When she felt the earth shake, she ran home, “but nothing was left. My house had become a burial ground.”

Her whole family – father, mother and brother – were under the rubble. Even the buffaloes she tended died when the building collapsed. “Everything is still there,” she said. “We were unable to pull out anyone.”

For a few weeks, the young woman waited for government aid. "When we saw that nothing was coming, I and some friends decided to try our luck in the capital."

A resto-bar manager hired her as a dancer. When she went to see him to be paid, “he told me he had no money and that if I wanted to earn some money, I had to prostitute myself with the customers. I had no alternative; I did not know how to pay the rent on my room. I preferred prostitution to suicide."

Like Rupa, Samita ended up the same. Orphaned and without education, she decided to work in a diner in Kathmandu. After a month, her employer forced her to have sex with customers.

Several associations, Christian and non-Christian, operate in the country to help women and improve their status.

Menuka Thapa heads Rakshya Nepal, an NGO that tries to rescue women from the sex trade. "My organisation is in contact with 55 girls,” she explained. “Five of them are working in eateries. The other 50 are in public places in the capital, usually by the roadside. They survive only thanks to the money they earn from prostitution. All are earthquake victims."

For Sapana Pradhan Malla, a lawyer and activist for women's rights, "The government must take action now and help earthquake survivors.” Unfortunately, “There are no official data on displaced persons, deaths or victims of human trafficking."

"The non-governmental sector is doing everything it can, but that is not enough,” said Rupa Rai, an activist and a member of Caritas Nepal. “Resources are limited, and the authorities need to adopt new policies and take tangible steps to solve the problem."