SPECIAL REPORTS

Modern-day Slavery

The struggle to prevent human trafficking in Nepal

Women learning vocational skills at a Safe House in Nepal. © Christian Aid/GCRI 

Nepal is a country roughly the size of Arkansas and yet it has become a major supply depot for what is considered modern day slavery—human trafficking. According to the American Himalayan Foundation (AHF), 20,000 Nepalese women and children each year are robbed of their normal lives and forced into Domestic servitude, bonded labor or sexual slavery. Perpetrators steal girls as young as nine years old and sell them to brothels in foreign countries where they are horribly beaten if they attempt to escape.

The issue of Human Trafficking in Nepal is only escalated by the instability of the government, an instability that has been brought on by more than a decade of civil strife, say most advocacy group officials working in Nepal. “Nepali law formally prohibits bonded labor, but the government does not enforce penalties for violators,” said Colette Bercu, co-founder of Free for Life, an organization that helps raise awareness about Human Trafficking in Nepal and fundraises for anti-trafficking efforts. “According to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), 14 individuals were convicted of trafficking offenses and during the reporting period, six more than in the previous year, while 19 people were acquitted.” This lack of enforcement within the government allows traffickers an open door where they can easily smuggle Nepalese captives into India and even farther without getting caught. Today, the government has offered little help to grassroots organizations fighting trafficking in persons. While Nepal’s government has made some progress by signing the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, the difficulty of convicting criminals remains as many people who have important information never seek out the police for fear of their own safety and lives. Fighting Human Trafficking in Nepal is not an easy battle, but both prevention and rescue are possible and happening. Awareness and education are crucial elements in preventing this crime since many traffickers use similar tactics to deceive victims and informing individuals of specific warning signs can save lives. In terms of deception, many victims are offered false hopes of work and a better life somewhere else only to be taken to a foreign country where they are abused and forced to work without any pay. This situation could be prevented if people were prepared to recognize these false claims and warn officials of the situation. In some circumstances, parents in heavy debt or extreme poverty will sell their children to strangers who promise to provide them with better lives and good work, but these children are often forced to work as prostitutes in Indian brothels. Educating families about the reality and warning signs of this rampant crime is essential to its prevention. While the situation in Nepal is devastating, organizations are making progress in the areas of both rescue and prevention. The American Himalayan Foundation (AHF), for example, is dedicated to ensuring that Nepalese girls get an education. They help raise support for girls from primary school all the way through college. AHF strives to give these girls a future and a career that changes their lives forever. These efforts focus on preventing girls from ever becoming victims by giving them a path in life as an alternative to the poverty that often is a trap for slavery. Prevention is key to combating human trafficking but girls who are already trafficked need to be rescued, which usually entails purchasing them from those that own them for labor or other uses. This creates a complicated situation as often those rescued are reluctant to return home for fear of being ostracized in their community and shaming their family. In this case, safe houses allow victims an opportunity to recover and gain valuable work skills to start their lives again. Great Commission Resources International (http://www.gcri.org/), based in Virginia Beach, Va., is an organization that raises funds for indigenous ministries in persecuted regions of the world to facilitate the restoration process practically and through Jesus Christ. “Sex trafficking across the border between Nepal and India is horrid and we try to alleviate and eradicate this as much as we can,” said Ed White, GCRI founder and president. “We wanted to support a place where girls who feel shamed and are not wanted by their families or communities can be drawn out by the love of Christ.” In light of this goal, GCRI raised funds to build a safe house in Nepal that currently houses rescued girls. The girls are taken out of the prostitution ring and also given opportunities to learn vocational skills to succeed in life. Today, the Safe House provides access to sewing machines where these girls can learn the profession of a seamstress and make beautiful sarees. Introducing these girls to the love of Christ, however, is a gradual process requiring years of trust to be built in the relationships the workers have with the freed women. While the circumstances are tragic, we serve a God who is more than capable to restore the country of Nepal and rescue the victims of this crime. Please pray for Nepal’s government, victims, the perpetrators and the organizations working to fight against this crime. The journey ahead is long and difficult, but rescuing girls who may not reach even the age of twenty if left in bondage is well worth the daunting task and absolutely essential. Anyone can help make a difference to end this crime in Nepal and the rest of the world. One way to help is through donations, AHF can keep a girl in school for an entire year for $100. You can donate here: http://www.himalayan-foundation.org/projects/girl-trafficking. Free for Life offers a similar scholarship fund to provide vocational training: http://www.freeforlifeintl.org/donate/scholarshipfund/. If unable to donate, two other fundamental elements that anyone can do to help stop Human Trafficking are educating themselves and others and bringing awareness about the reality of this type of slavery. Start a conversation today and make a difference in ending human trafficking.