The Danger of Human Trafficking Is No Secret in Nepal. Why Is It Still So Common?

The Danger of Human Trafficking Is No Secret in Nepal. Why Is It Still So Common?
A street scene in Thamel, a commercial zone in Kathmandu, Nepal, Dec. 8, 2016 (Photo by Jurgen Schwenkenbecher for DPA via AP Images).

Thousands of women and girls from Nepal are trafficked into India each year, and many are forced into sex work. The government is well aware of the problem of human trafficking, but interventions have been too minor to be effective. The most obvious solution may be the hardest: creating opportunities at home so people don’t want to go abroad.

BELAHIYA, Nepal–Chanda Basnet, an aid worker with the Nepalese NGO Maiti Nepal, stands beside a blue tin shack that functions as her organization’s field office in this border town. A few dozen meters behind her, an enormous stone gate marks the crossing into India. Nationals of both countries have the right to cross freely, provided they can produce some form of identification. Children under 10 require no papers.

The system is convenient for travelers—but not only for them. For years, the open border has enabled human traffickers to transport Nepalese women and girls to India with relative ease. Some of them have been recruited for domestic work in Indian homes, where conditions range from tolerable to highly exploitative. Many others have been forced into sex work or sent to third countries. Chanda and her colleagues from Maiti Nepal—the Nepali word maiti signifies one’s birth family—are here to prevent this from happening.

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