Kathmandu, July 18
Twelve Nepali women rescued from a Kenya dance bar in April reached Kathmandu today.
The women were rescued by Kenyan authorities in a 4:00am raid conducted at New Rangeela Bar and Restaurant on April 13. The bar is based in Nyali, a residential area in Mombasa City, which is 485 km from Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Nepali women were entertaining revellers when the police raided the club as part of an operation against human trafficking. Police also arrested the bar’s owner, a Canadian national named Asif Amirali Alibhai Jetha, in the swoop.
The women landed at Tribhuvan International Airport at 8:15pm on a Qatar Airways flight QR 650. They flew from Mombasa to Kathmandu via Nairobi and Doha. Their return and flight tickets were facilitated by the Nepali consulate in Nairobi and Nepali Embassy in South Africa with the help of International Organisation for Migration and other humanitarian organisations.
The women were received at TIA by officials of Nepal Police’s Human Trafficking Bureau and IOM Nepal. Everybody had their faces covered with scarves and did not entertain THT’s request for an interview at the airport. The women were whisked into a shuttle as they stepped out of the arrival section.
One of the police officials who received the women said they would be first taken to the bureau’s shelter for necessary investigation before they were handed over to their families.
The oldest of the rescued women is 37, while the youngest is 19. Rest are aged between 21 and 30 years. The Himalayan Times has names and other details of the rescued women, but it chose not to publish them for privacy reasons.
Although the Kenyan police had rescued the women from the dance bar in April, they were released only after Kenyan police finished their investigation.
Ghanashyam Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at Nepali Embassy in South Africa that also oversees Kenya, said police kept them in their safe house as witnesses for their investigation.
Lamsal told THT over phone from Pretoria that the women had entered Kenya on three-month temporary passes at different times and their status was legal at the time of the rescue.
Although Nepal and Kenya have not entered into a labour agreement, Kenya is one of the 110 countries listed by the Department of Foreign Employment as ‘open’ for foreign employment for Nepalis.
“Although their status was legal, the job they were doing there was illegal and they were kept confined,” said Lamsal. Kenyan and Nepali authorities looked into the matter from the human trafficking perspective.
According to a Kenyan news portal Daily Nation, women’s passports were confiscated and they were forced to perform Mujra, a classical dance commonly believed to have originated in South Asia during the Mughal era.
According to the report, all the women lived together in an apartment and were not allowed to go outside except at night, when they went to the club, and during one outing a month that was chaperoned by one of the club staff.
The report adds that the club is open only to those who can afford the hefty entrance and tip fees. Revellers tip dancers during the entertainment sessions and if a reveller is attracted to any of the women, he may pay for a private session with her.
The Kenyan authorities have charged Jetha with three counts of trafficking, promoting human trafficking and interfering with travel documents through the act of seizing women’s passports. The suspect is also accused of allowing New Rangeela Bar to be used for trafficking purposes, according to the Daily Nation report.