Katie Orlinsky

Bought and Sold: Trafficking and Migration in Nepal

Nepal may be known for natural beauty and Mount Everest, but there is also a darker side to this small, picturesque country. Women and girls are being bought, sold and smuggled across the Nepal-India border more than ever before.

In the late nineties an estimated 20,000 Nepalese women were involved in the Indian sex trade. Today it is believed that up to 35,000 Nepalese women and girls work in the Mumbai red light district alone. The sex industry in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu also exists, but it has gone underground and women work as “dancers.”

Many realities compound this problem. For one, the societal devaluation of women is widespread in Nepal, with the practices of dowry and child marriage alive and well. In addition Nepal is also one of the poorest countries in the world, and poverty is one of the root causes of trafficking. Job options are scarce and around 200,000 women leave to work abroad every year, mostly as domestic servants. Poor, rural women think they are going to be domestic workers in Dubai, but instead end up working as prostitutes in Delhi. Many of the women who do make it successfully to the Gulf are mistreated, and can become indentured servants.

The mistreatment and trafficking of women is a global problem of unparalleled proportions. It is unfortunately becoming a defining characteristic for Nepal, a country that will never escape poverty as long as women can be so easily stolen, bought or sold.