Sold to slavery
- Time to review and amend activities and laws against human trafficking
Sep 2, 2014-
Work against human trafficking is one area where the Nepali people and organisations have won multiple global accolades. In 2010, Anuradha Koirala, founder of Maiti Nepal—an organisation which has been working against women and children trafficking since 1993—received CNN’s Hero of the Year Award. The following year, Charimaya Tamang, one of the founding members of another NGO, Shakti Samuha—run by survivors of human trafficking—was awarded with a ‘Hero Acting to End Modern Day Slavery’ award. Following that, Shakti Samuha won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for its efforts to abolish trafficking and improving the lives of survivors in 2013. Going by such international recognitions, one would think that Nepal is on its way to abolishing trafficking of persons. On the contrary, trafficking remains a thriving business.
On Monday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) released a report ‘Trafficking in persons, especially on women and children in Nepal’ 2012-13 which showed that the rate of human trafficking had increased by 60.34 percent in the past one-and-a-half years. The number of people trafficked or attempted for trafficking increased to 29,000 in 2012/13 compared to 11,500 in 2011. This number could be much higher, as reliable statistical data on trafficking is unavailable. An indication of the magnitude of the problem is the fact that Nepal is fifth in the list of 162 countries with the highest prevalence of slavery, compiled by the Global Slavery Index 2013. Of those who are trafficked, most women are victims of sex and labour trafficking within Nepal, forced to work in massage parlours and adult entertainment businesses, and also trafficked to India, the Middle East, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, and even Sweden. This has continued in the face of a plethora of programmes at awareness raising across the country by both governmental and non-governmental organisations. The NHRC points out such prevention campaigns have largely been ineffective because they are mostly donor driven and superficial in nature.
The government, on its part, has a Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007 which slaps a 20-year sentence for buying or selling a human. But this law does not criminalise hiring, transporting, sheltering, or receiving of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labour. On the part of victims of international labour trafficking, most find it easier to claim compensation from the Department of Foreign Employment than undergo lengthy processes to prosecute perpetrators. The government’s investment in the protection and rehabilitation of victims is also woefully inadequate. Furthermore, victims of sex trafficking are repeatedly detained by police, only to be returned back to their traffickers on being bribed. Clearly, much needs to be done to curb the trade in humans. Amending the Trafficking Act would be a good move towards that end. Likewise, courts can facilitate implementation of the Act by speeding up prosecution of those convicted of trafficking. Providing resources to the police to protect victims and witnesses would also go a long way.
Published: 03-09-2014 09:07