N E P A L
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NEPAL
Nepal is categorised as Tier 2 (second to lowest possible status) by the 2021 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) (1), owing to the persistent labour and sex trafficking of domestic and foreign victims in Nepal and trafficking of Nepali victims abroad, particularly across the open border into India. Around 10,000-15,000 Nepali women and girls are being sold by traffickers in India every year, often lured by false promises of a better life, education and work opportunities or arranged marriages that appear very attractive to Nepali families with children struggling in poverty. Increasingly, traffickers are using social media and mobile technologies to attract victims and target young, poorly educated people from marginalized castes and ethnic minority communities. The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal (NHRC) predicted in its 2018-19 report that 1.5 million Nepalis are currently at risk of being trafficked into India (2). Despite the closure of the Indian-Nepalese border due to COVID-19, human trafficking is still ongoing through new unofficial routes with traffickers taking advantage of the increased unemployment, poverty, violence and abuse due to the pandemic (3).
Labour trafficking takes many forms in Nepal with a significant proportion trafficked into India and the Middle East; particularly men in the construction sector and females in domestic work. Many Nepali migrant workers in the Middle East have repeatedly cited issues such as contract violations or substitution, unpaid wages, unsafe work conditions, inadequate rest, inhumane housing conditions, and confiscation of the worker’s identity documents, as well as workers in the domestic services industry being confined to the home or subjected to sexual abuse (4). The Government of Nepal’s previous ban on female domestic workers to Gulf countries has resulted in many unregistered Nepali women in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia without valid work permits causing them to be highly vulnerable to trafficking, as well as increasing the use of fraudulent recruitment agencies which may take advantage of the lack of proper documentation to impose high fees, withhold pay, maintain oppressive working conditions or traffick migrants into forced labour in East Asia often in construction, factories, mining, begging and the adult entertainment industry (1).
Within Nepal, NGOs and the Nepali government continue to report significant labour and sex trafficking. This typically takes place through debt-based bondage compelling Nepali and Indian adults, and many children, into numerous seasons of forced labour in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, carpet factories and domestic work. Traffickers use debt and obtain tourist instead of work visas both to coerce marginalized or vulnerable communities in Nepal into forced labour or exploit migrant workers often from Bangladesh under the pretence of well-paying factory jobs. Recruitment of Nepali girls and boys into the adult entertainment industry (AES), commonly through a family member or friend connecting them to an establishment offering waitress like positions, has resulted in large scale sex trafficking taking place. This often entraps minors in the sex trade until they are adult women, forced into working at venues like dance bars, massage parlours and cabin ‘restaurants’ (a type of brothel) for several years; however, sex traffickers are increasingly using private apartments, rented rooms, guesthouses and restaurants as well. The 2021 US TIP report noted that forced and early marriage is still prevalent and that deeply rooted cultural and social norms may facilitate these situations turning into domestic servitude or commercial sex trafficking.
Under economic pressure and poverty, some families give up their children to unregistered children’s homes and ‘orphanages’ on the basis of giving them a better life, however these are commonly located in the country’s hotspots for tourists and so children often become victims of sexual exploitation, largely by male visitors from western countries. Furthermore, according to a local NGO, an estimated one quarter of Nepal’s population lack citizenship documentation, which prevents access to public services and participation in the local economy, therefore hugely increasing their vulnerability. (1)
The United States Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), [Online] Available at: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/nepal/ [Accessed 10 Nov 2021]
The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal (NHRC) 2018-19 Report, cited by the Kathmandu Post, 2019 [Online] Available at: https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/08/06/nearly-1-5-million-nepali-at-risk-of-human-trafficking-while-35-000-trafficked-last-year-nhrc-report [Accessed 10 Nov 2021]
Human trafficking persists during Covid at Indo-Nepal border, SOAS University of London, Nov 2020 [Online] Available at: https://study.soas.ac.uk/indo-nepal-border-human-trafficking-persists-amid-pandemic/ [Accessed 10 Nov 2021]
Paoletti, Sarah; Taylor-Nicholson, Eleanor; Sijapati, Bandita; and Farbenblum, Bassina, "Migrant Workers' Access to Justice at Home: Nepal" (2014). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. 1326. https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/faculty_scholarship/1326