Gender and Development

Human Trafficking In Nepal, Protecting the Vulnerable

Nepal, a culturally and environmentally rich country, continues to grapple with longstanding poverty with women and girls being trafficked in large numbers. Sabrina Diaz sheds light on human trafficking in Nepal and the work being done by grassroots organizations to protect the victims.


Human trafficking is one of the world’s most serious and controversial crimes. Trafficking holds no prejudice, takes many forms and affects everyone— from young children to elderly persons.

Nations in the west, like the United States and Canada, have their fair share of unequal human rights and those who are subjected to be victims of sexual or labor trafficking.

What happens when we shift the lens from the west and move towards the other side of the world where the most developing nations are located?

Nepal, the country of beautiful mountain ranges and the birth place of Buddha, is one of the most poverty ridden- developing nations in the world. Nepal still suffers from the many years of the now illegal caste system, and the harsh realities and marginalized discrimination brought upon its people.

After spending a few weeks in this beautiful country, you will see not only what Nepal has to offer, but all the ways the country could prosper if it had efficient resources, sufficient capital, and infrastructure. Until Nepal has the capacity to do so, the never ending cycle of poverty and in this context, trafficking, will only persist.

Women and girls in Nepal are trafficked in large numbers, mostly into India. The Indo-Nepal open border not only allows free movement of persons between Nepal and India, but also serves as a transit country. Once these victims are in India they are sent to countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The government of Nepal recognizes the severity of human trafficking and has even instated new laws within their constitution to act on preventing and prosecuting this illicit crime. Even with new laws in place, the traffickers still persist in doing their job. Many NGOs in Nepal like ADWAN Nepal, Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal, Shakti Samhua, and Human Rights Monitors are working daily on prevention and protection measures, as well as best practices for victims and their families.

Sex trafficking is one of the many forms of human trafficking and has multiple underlying factors, with rape being one of them. Most of the women and girls who are trafficked for sex are raped and without the use or access to contraceptives, making their chances for conceiving a child extremely high. Here lies the question: what happens to the children of women who are trafficked for sex?

Prisoner’s Assistance (PA) Nepal is an NGO founded by Indira Magar, a social worker and a firm believer in social justice. PA Nepal provides an outlet to the burning questions we seek the answer to.

In Nepal, victims who have been trafficked and used as prostitutes are often seen as criminals if they are caught by law enforcement. Indira does not see them as criminals, but as victims. Part of her mission at PA Nepal is to intervene as soon as possible, especially if the victim facing a prison sentence has a child. Once the victim is incarcerated, Indira works with the courts and the prisons to gain custody of the victim’s child and bring the child into their new home at one of the 12 shelter homes throughout Nepal.

The shelter home in Kathmandu acts as her main office and as a smaller shelter than the others located across the country. In comparison to a shelter home or orphanage in the United States, it holds 2-3 girls in one of the eight rooms. The staff members along with Indira treat each child as their own. Children of all ages, the youngest being taken in at only a few months old are welcomed and treated with the utmost care. The rooms are similar in size to college dorms in the United States— each with an inspirational quote on the outside of the room door. These children are in school and have access to many opportunities they would otherwise not have access to if PA Nepal did not step in under the circumstances.

More importantly, the mothers in prison are not forgotten. PA Nepal assists them from their very first day of incarceration with tools of reintegration to when they are released from prison. These tools include, but are not limited to skills training, education, and rehabilitation. Once out of prison, it makes the transition back into Nepali society easier and more sustainable. The skills they learn while in prison through PA Nepal have truly made a difference in how these women are treated and how they view themselves once they are liberated.

The programs PA Nepal has established for trafficked victims are sustainable models that nations around the world can replicate. There is an overarching tendency across the world to place blame on the victim of sexual assault or violence, especially when it comes to a victim of sex trafficking. Human trafficking cannot be stopped overnight. The work Indira and other NGOs in Nepal are doing is pushing the government to act or give the NGOs capacity to act against these heinous crimes. As NGOs continue to shine a light on this subject, it gives the attention needed for more people in Nepal and around the world to act on and to not view victims of sex trafficking in a negative light. With movements against sexual assault taking hold throughout the developed world, it is important to continue to work towards ending the atrocities of human trafficking that many women and girls are subject to.

Sabrina Diaz is completing her Master’s degree in Global Affairs, concentrating in Transnational Security from New York University. She spent a few weeks in Nepal conducting field research for her thesis where she developed long lasting relationships and a tremendous understanding of the country and their current policies.

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

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