Home Destroyed by Nepal Quake, This 20-Year-Old Now Dances in a Kathmandu Bar

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Many young women from Nepal are trafficked to India across the open border between the two countries - 7,000 every year, according to the United Nations.


Kathmandu:  Every evening, 20-year-old Anita Tamang dances at a sleazy bar in Kathmandu. She has been working here for the last two months, ever since she came to the Nepalese capital looking for work.

On April 26 this year, the earthquake that devastated Nepal killing close to 9,000 people, also destroyed Anita's small home and all that her family owned in Sindhupalchowk, about 70 kilometres from Kathmandu.

With an ailing mother and a young brother in school to take care of, Anita says she came to the capital with an agent who promised to get her a job as an office assistant.

He brought her instead to the dance bar where she was first told she would serve drinks, but was soon asked to dance to Bollywood songs in front of customers.

"Customers torture us, touch us and try and take us out for the night" says Anita. They are mostly young Nepali men, but sometimes tourists from India and other countries also find their way to the bar.

For seven hours of dancing every evening, with not a day's break in the two months she has been here, Anita has managed to earn 8,000 Nepali rupees, the equivalent of 5,000 Indian rupees or 76 US dollars. Most of this money she has sent back home.

Escape, the young woman says, is not an option. "I tried several times to leave but the manager does not allow us. In fact even on days when we are sick he comes to the house and threatens to bring goons to beat us up. He has also threatened to rape us and throw us out on the streets."

An NGO, Change Nepal, which works against trafficking of women, has now promised to rescue Anita. But say, NGOs there are about 50,000 such young women who dance at Kathmandu's bars and nightclubs, many of them sold into slavery by traffickers.  

Many more young women from Nepal are trafficked to India across the open border between the two countries - 7,000 every year, according to the United Nations. NGOs fear that number has spiked after the killer earthquake that destroyed or damaged five lakh homes and hit tourism, the main source of income in Nepal.

Undercover, this reporter met a man called Sonam Bhai and his associate, who claimed they can arrange to have a woman sent anywhere in the world. It would take a month - the time required to get a passport - and one lakh rupees, the trafficker said.

The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal says close to 3,000 Nepalese women have been rescued in the last two and a half years from different countries. Several have returned home in deep trauma after being beaten, and in some cases raped by their employers.

 

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