Nepali Women Trafficked to Kolkata
Photo: UN Photo/Kibae Park
The trafficking of Nepali women into India is a horrific situation that is rapidly worsening. According to a study conducted by border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in 2017, the number of Nepali girls trafficked into India has increased by 500% since 2013. The report states that Nepal is regarded as the main “source” country for trafficking of women and children into India, with 26 out of 75 Nepali districts labelled as prone to trafficking.
However, these statistics reflect only the cases that have been reported. It is estimated that 5,000-10,000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked into India every year for forced prostitution, and an approximately 200,000 Nepalese women are involved in India’s sex trade, and these numbers are on the rise.
Girls from as young as 10 years old are often forced into the trade by family members or are deceived into joining the trade by pimps and mercenary middlemen. Younger girls frequently have to lie about their age to avoid suspicion from the police. They are taken to border towns in Nepal, where agents pay up to Rs 6,000 (US$90) per child. A girl's assessed worth may range from less than a water buffalo, to slightly more than a video recorder, depending on her beauty. Once sold, they are then brought by train or bus to various parts of India, including Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
Kolkata is home to India’s largest red light district, which is also one of Asia’s largest. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an estimated 10,000 sex workers are based in the notorious Sonagachi red light district alone, where they live and work under the appalling conditions of overcrowded multi-storey brothels. Apart from Sonagachi, Kolkata houses multiple red light areas in the South including districts in Kalighat, Baruipur and Tollygunge.
Most victims are subject to physical and psychological torture and abuse tantamount to modern-day slavery: they are held in debt bondage for years, raped, severely beaten and threatened. Some young girls are no more than 10 years of age, and are made to serve anywhere between 3 and 40 men a day.
After serving their bonds, many of these women are isolated from the outside community, separated by barriers of language and shame of their past. Many of the trafficked thus often end up staying in the trade, and may rise up the ranks to become managers or traffickers of their own family members themselves, perpetuating the vicious cycle. Touch Nature hopes to play a part in liberating girls from this cycle by giving them a new hope in dignified labour.