NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK INITIATIVE
Times of India
KOLKATA: One doesn’t expect socialites to spend a languid rainy afternoon listening to horror stories. Especially when it’s a diminutive 62-year-old narrating the tales. But when it is one Anuradha Koirala doing the talk, the glamour quotient doesn’t matter. The grit that fuels this character does. It jolts listeners out of stupor and lands them in a stark world with sleaze and grime.
A packed audience, mostly members of the FICCI ladies organization, listened with rapt attention as the chairperson of Maiti Nepal (an NGO that has rescued over 18,000 women from sexual slavery and exploitation) recounted stories that touch a nadir in human depravation.
Radhika, a 16-year-old from a well-to-do high caste Nepali family, fell in love with a boy from a low caste and eloped to get married. But with the boy unable to find a job and the girl’s family unwilling to support them, the husband convinced her to sell one of her kidneys at Chennai for Rs 65,000. By then, they had already had a girl. After the money was spent, the husband sold her along with the daughter to a brothel in Mumbai. There she was first gang raped and then forced into sex trade. Her daughter’s tongue was burned to prevent her from crying for her mother when she was entertaining clients. They lived like this for six years till a client learnt about her tale and informed Maiti.
“We managed to rescue Radhika and her daughter. There are many instances when tip-offs from clients have led to rescue of Nepali girls forced into prostitution. But for every such fairytale ending, there are hundreds of cases in which a girl lives and dies a sex slave,” said Koirala.
Sarita, another Nepali girl trafficked to Mumbai and working in a brothel, broke both her legs after jumping off the three-storied building when she attempted to escape from forced oral sex. She survived. But for many girls, it is too late when rescued. “Several of them are infected with AIDS. Others become drug addicts. All that Maiti can then provide them is dignified death. At its hospice, there are 17-year-olds who look like 70, waiting for death to deliver them from a short, yet horribly cruel life. While women rescued from India are usually infected with diseases, those rescued from the Gulf are worse off with 57% psychotic cases from not just sexual but physical and mental abuse as well. Depravation reaches new levels when girls are trafficked to the Gulf. They are like zombies when rescued,” she said.
While most girls trafficked from Nepal land up in brothels in Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Surat, Delhi, Bangalore, Siliguri, Gorakhpur and Meerut, girls are increasingly being re-routed to the Gulf, China and South-East Asia as well. “While traffickers in India prefer girls with mongoloid features as prevalent in people from lower castes in Nepal, those in China prefer girls from high caste who have prominent nose and high cheek bone,” Maiti Nepal director Bishwo Ram Khadka said.
Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked every year globally, 70% are women and children. Of this, 150,000 cases are in South Asia with Nepal accounting for a lion’s share. Maiti estimates there are 150,000-400,000 Nepali girls and women in Indian brothels. A big chunk of them are aged 7-24 years.
“The girls undergo systematic rape and torture. They are starved and scalded by smoldering cigarettes and sometimes even murdered. Those who are young are given hormone injections so that they appear big and then gang raped as an initiation into the trade. Thereafter, they are made to entertain 5-50 clients a day,” said Koirala.
While extreme poverty in west Nepal is considered the primary reason for Nepali girls being trafficked in large numbers, Koirala says gender discrimination is the root cause, citing social practices like Chaupadi, Deuki and Badi where girls are driven into flesh trade by families.
Koirala took up the cause of rescuing and rehabilitating women in 1993 after suffering domestic violence. “At the time, everyone in Nepal was speaking about trafficking but no one was doing anything. So I took a plunge and have been swimming against the tide since,” said Koirala, who was awarded CNN Hero of the Year 2010.
- 6 arrested for trafficking minor girl from Mizoram (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- NE trafficking victim rescued from Haryana (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)