The rape and torture of two Nepalese women working for a Saudi Arabian diplomat in Delhi, highlights the plight of those migrants from Nepal whose numbers have increased since April’s earthquake.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) estimates that more than 28,000 women may be at risk of gender-based violence in Nepal in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake and the series of aftershocks that has claimed nearly 9,000 human lives, and left trail of devastation.
Official figures suggest 529 women have disappeared from relief camps and ravaged village, and authorities suspect they may have been lured by human traffickers. As the natural disaster has increased the vulnerability of low income groups, especially women, more and more people are reported to be crossing the border to India in search of security and job.
Given the open and congruous border, homogeneity of social structure, the natural, easy, and preferred destination would be nearer home, or India. “However, we are not able to find out how many women have crossed the border for jobs as there is no entry of movement on the border, not does the Nepalese Embassy in Delhi keeps any record,” says Maiti Nepal, a prominent NGO that has an anti-trafficking network in operation along Nepal-India border.
Its team centres in six places found that in the first four weeks after the earthquake altogether 133 families migrated to India in search of safer places. But given the porous nature of the border, officials say, this figure is only a tip of the iceberg.
The government, as a precautionary measure, had imposed a ban on international adoption and restricted children from travelling outside their district without an accompanying adult guardian soon after the earthquake. However, this does not apply in the case of exodus from a village, or an entire family moving out.
Deeper social connects across the border and better economic opportunities in India, attracts Nepalese families in distress. Nepal has been classified as a Tier 2 country by a US State Department report, meaning that the country’s laws against human trafficking are less than satisfactory.
The UN and other agencies have listed Nepal as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex-trafficking in Nepal, India, the Middle East, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Unregistered migrants- including the large number of Nepalis who travel through India or rely on unregistered recruiting agents- are particularly vulnerable to forced labor,” an official report says.
So while it is difficult to state how many Nepalese families have cross over to India or the extent of human trafficking from Nepal, it is clear that the practice is common and widespread.