Plea for better cooperation among organisations, policy-makers

Better networking between institutions and government policies with fewer loop-holes are the need of the present day to combat the alarming situation of girl-trafficking in Nepal and abroad.

Activists and officials fighting against girl trafficking in India and Nepal voiced their opinion at a press meet held by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) here on Friday.

When there is a strong network between countries within which trafficking goes on, prosecution becomes less complicated, said Nandita Barua, Regional Programme Coordinator of UNIFEM South Asian Regional Office (SARO).

Member of the Technical Advisory Group in South Asia (TAGSA) Dr Shankar Sen said that there should be a strong link between the police and the NGO sector. “The laws are there – the problem is that police either don’t know about them or don’t know how to use them,” he remarked, adding that the police seriously needs to be sensitised.

As Barua informed, many complications have now been very simplified after bringing about links and coordination between different agencies. The repatriation process which took several years to come through has been reduced to two-three months in the last couple of years.

The number of victims rehabilitated and culprits caught per year has also escalated in the past years, Barua said. A contributing factor to this achievement is that the police force has become much more sensitive in the issue of girl trafficking, she said.

UNIFEM SAROS therefore places much focus on building alliances and networks between agencies and nations. The South Asian Professional Group on Anti-trafficking (SAPAT) formed by UNIFEM brings about close coordination amongst police, lawyers and judges.

Apart from networking and building alliances, other areas of focus for UNIFEM are advocacy, capacity-building, media campaigning, reliable data and information base and mechanisms for accountability.

Women’s activist Sapana Malla, who did a study on the law enforcement mechanism in Nepal, figured out several loop-holes in the current law in the country and problems faced in the implementation of these laws.

Owing to a weak and ineffective judicial system in this regard, there is no proper environment here for victims of such trafficking cases to approach the court to file a case,” she observed. The Supreme Court data therefore speaks of a mere 105 cases registered with the court per year in a situation when there are reports of 5,000 to 7,000 girl trafficking cases annually.

The rules and regulations in the present system are such that the victim is more vulnerable to slander and injustice. Moreover, the courts often rule strictly on the grounds of principles –‘and even they are not well-defined’ – and do not attempt to understand the plight of the victimised girls, Malla reasoned.

Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director at UNIFEM SARO, said that much of the problems in implementation of laws arise from a unclear policies and definition regarding trafficking. The present laws call for carefully thought out amendments, she added.

Apart from prosecuting the culprit, it should also have provisions for protection and rights for the victim, she further stressed.

UNIFEM statistics have it that some 150,000 victims are trafficked annually in South Asia. The estimated number of Nepali girls and young women lured or abducted to India for sexual exploitation each year ranges from 5,000 to 10,000.

According to women’s right organisations and NGO’s, the total number of Nepalis working as prostitutes in India range from 40,000 to 200,000. Some 7,000 Nepali women and children are trafficked for prostitution to the Asia Pacific area also, especially Hong Kong.

1999 UN estimates indicate that the fastest growing international business is trafficking in women and children. Profits to criminal groups are $7 billion annually. No wonder, trafficking closely follows the arms and drug business in illegal market profits.