Crossing pointExtra vigilance needed on both sides of Indo-Nepal border to curb human trafficking
Human trafficking, particularly of women and children for forced and exploitative labour including sexual exploitation, is one of the most egregious violations of human rights. Yet human trafficking today remains a global phenomenon and a thriving business. And Nepal—as a source, transit point and destination country to exploit men, women and children and subject them to forced labour and sex trafficking—is right in the thick of it.
According to the National Human Rights Commission report, the estimated number of people trafficked or attempted to be trafficked in 2015/16 was 23,200—a 40 percent increase compared to the year before. The report also highlights the particular vulnerability of women. As many as 60 percent of the 6,200 persons trafficked, and 70 percent of the ‘untraceable’ 3,900 were female.
These victims eventually find themselves in the Middle East, various Asian countries, and even as far as sub-Saharan Africa. Commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour, forced marriage and organ removal are the fates that await them. Yet regardless of where they end up, it is invariably through the porous Indo-Nepal border that they travel. By all accounts, relatively unrestricted movement across the 1,751km long Nepal-India boundary has allowed for cross-border trafficking to flourish. And it seems that this particular trade is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), an Indian force mandated to guard this frontier, produced a report on human trafficking on the Nepal-India border earlier this year and brought some alarming facts to light. The number of victims brought illegally into India from Nepal has gone up by 500 percent since 2013. Victims trafficked from villages and the Tarai region of Nepal are sold to brothel owners in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities for up to a paltry Rs50,000. These statistics indicate a dire need for extra vigilance from both the Indian and Nepali authorities on either side of the border.
It does seem as though those authorities mandated with the responsibility of policing the border are pulling their weight to a certain degree. While 108 women and children were rescued at the border in 2013, in 2017, 607 such victims were rescued. And just this month, Maiti Nepal and the Indian police liberated another five Nepali women from a brothel in Agra after two months of meticulous planning and collaboration. This victory, small though it may be, is representative of the work and cooperation that is required from both sides of the border if any serious inroads are to be made to curb incidents of trafficking.
Specifically on Nepal’s side of the border, significant efforts to combat forced trafficking have been demonstrated by a rise in both the number of trafficking investigations and victims identified, and by a doubling of the budget to provide victim care services. Yet the country remains hamstrung by an endemic lack of understanding of trafficking crimes amongst government officials, poor investigative techniques, and legislative shortcomings. Nepali laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking such as recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labour. At this juncture, initiatives to address these limitations are essential if any serious inroads are to be made to curtail trafficking.