Rights groups call for law to combat internal traffickingRights defenders have raised concerns over the government’s apathy towards addressing the issue of internal trafficking of women, calling for the formulating of an effective law to tackle the problem facing the women working in the informal sector.
Rights defenders have raised concerns over the government’s apathy towards addressing the issue of internal trafficking of women, calling for the formulating of an effective law to tackle the problem facing the women working in the informal sector. They argue that the Human Trafficking and Transport (Control) Act, 2007 lacks clear provisions to prevent such illicit activities and punish the guilty.
Thousands of women have been working in the entertainment industry in the country’s urban areas, with many of them being forced to work for minimal wage and often times sexually exploited by the employers.
Cabin restaurants, massage parlours, dohori (Nepali folk song and music) restaurants and dance bars make up the core of the entertainment industry, and a huge number of them are known to be fronts for prostitution rackets.
However, it is dismissed as exploitation and not treated as trafficking especially for prostitution, according to the rights defenders. “Women working in the informal sector are victims of trafficking, but the lack of specific law makes it difficult for them to seek legal remedies. Their problems are seen only as labour and sexual exploitation but even treated as victims of trafficking,” said Rupa Sharma, president of Media Mobilisation for Sustainable Development (MMSD) Nepal.
According to Sharma, poor young girls seeking a source of income are lured into working in the massage parlours and cabin restaurants in the Capital and other urban cities with fake offers of respectable jobs.
Although there is no government data, an estimated 15,000 women work in the entertainment sector, according to Women For Women Forum, an organisation working for the rights of women working in the informal sector.
The decade-long conflict saw a surge in the number of women in the entertainment sector and more women from the districts affected by last year’s earthquakes were pushed into the business.
According to Uma Tamang, legal advisor at Maiti Nepal, the government has taken action only in the shape of occasional raids on entertainment establishments, though anti-trafficking laws are never invoked.
“Conceptual clarity is required between sexual exploitation and trafficking. Also necessary is a law to curb this menace and provide justice to the women trapped in this vicious circle of trafficking by the employers,” said Tamang.