photo of person from Nepal Sindhulpalchok
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(NEPAL 30)










originally Gorkha district, now Kathmandu




A shocking personal story of a young woman’s abduction by traffickers to the brothels of India from which she was rescued by a client, through the network of the NGO Maiti Nepal, which campaigns against trafficking and supports women who have been victims of the trade. She was brought back to Kathmandu, where she now works for Maiti Nepal as a counsellor with other former prostitutes.

Rita recalls her naivety when, after an unhappy childhood (“I never got my own mother’s affection, nor a father’s love”), she thought she had agreed to act as a carrier for diamond traders and found herself sold into prostitution. Much of the testimony describes the suffering and humiliation experienced in the brothels and the cruelty of the “Madams”, including regular beatings for any form of rebellion. “[We] had to service customers from five o’clock till one o’clock in the morning… It is painful, very painful. That’s why they gave me injections.” Not being allowed to make friends with the other girls was like being “kept in a tank full of watersuffocating”.

There are many insights into the background and circumstances of trafficking. Both educated and uneducated girls, the narrator says, are “coaxed, misled and taken”. But it is mostly Tamang girls from the hills who are trafficked, whether directly from poverty-stricken rural villages, or from Kathmandu, where they have migrated in the search for work. Customers in Indian brothels are “those studying in campuses, school students, businessmen Some involved in illegal trade, some good people, too”. Brothel owners survive well despite regular police raids; they bribe junior officers to tip them off and have devised elaborate ways of concealing illegal sex workers.

Remarkably, Rita considers herself “lucky”. “The way others have contracted HIV - that has not happened to me…” She would like to marry: “if somebody understands, if he is willing to accept me even after knowing everything, I will get married”. Through her counselling work she wants to help “those who have been sold and have returned [and] are suffering lots of pain and grief”. This work is not helped by the lawyers and police “returnees” have to deal with: “The way they question – it is like scratching a wound…Those policemen should have thought about how awkward it would be for this girl being questioned like that in the presence of everyone, but they don’t…. Forget about giving us justice - instead, in front of everyone they ask us questions like with how many we slept with and [what we did]. They shame us in public. It’s more painful because of this.”

detailed breakdown

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Section Section 1-2  Father died when she was 2, mother remarried, sent her to live with aunt. Education “sponsored” for a while but this ceased, so stopped studying and took up waitressing job in Kathmandu. With (dancer) friend agreed to go to India with two men purporting to be dealing in diamonds and needing female carriers. “I trusted my friend and because she said the men were really good and she knew them well…” They were drugged and taken across the border.
Section Section 2-3  Taken to “a big house”, had no idea it was a brothel. Traffickers said they were coming back with the money. Separated from friend at 1 am and told that the “brothers” had sold her. “I felt as if I had fallen off a cliff.” Citizenship papers snatched. Tried to escape through window - “At times like that one seems to gain strength” – but caught. “Two, three of them beat me very badly, all were women.” Sold to a “second Madam”. Another brutal beating: “They banged my head on the wall. I can’t tell you…how I felt then.”
Section Section 3-4  Found out how much she was sold for. Told she could go after 2 years. “What can one do in a place like that when you are compelled by circumstances...? I suffered a lot, and was forced by circumstances to do that work.” Tried to get customers to help her – all Indian, as brothel keepers feared Nepalis would help the girls. After 3 months one Indian customer agreed to help her – reported case to the NGO Maiti Nepal. Police raid/rescue. Friend left behind, to her great sorrow. System of moving girls on from one brothel if trying to escape.
Section 5  Current work at Maiti Nepal as a counsellor with “those who have been sold and have returned are suffering lots of pain and grief”. Support from Maiti Nepal “brothers and sisters” enables her to “work this much”. Conditions in brothels.
Section Section 6-9  Recalls first client, a Muslim, who let her be and didn’t have sex with her as she was distressed and told him she’d been sold. More details re life in brothels: numbers of customers daily; lack of sleep; physical pain and being given injections, vitamins and medicine; HIV/AIDS – new sex workers unaware of risks, but allowed to refuse clients who didn’t want to use condoms; otherwise, beatings for refusing clients – graphic and disturbing descriptions of these; not being allowed to make friends – more beatings if they did; treatment of “old girls”.
Section Section 9-12  Says “To say that only the uneducated are sold there is also wrong. Because even many educated ones are being sold… They are coaxed, misled and taken. Many are taken away with the promise of marriage and later sold.” One of her own captors caught; more on circumstances of capture. Recalls sad childhood. “…since I was very young, because I got no affection I was running about in search of affection.” No siblings. Work with Maiti Nepal is “very good”; she lives there, sometimes visits mother; helps guard the border as well as counselling. More on circumstances of abduction.
Section Section 12-14  More on brothel life: being sold on and why; abortions. More on her rescuer; brief contact since. Feels “lucky” compared with sex workers who contracted HIV. Would marry if she found someone who accepted her past.
Section Section 14-17  Maiti Nepal training work – sewing, handicraft, counselling. More on brothels, women who don’t feel able to leave even when brothels raided. Many there for 13 years+ and say “What will we get if we go to Nepal? We’ll get nothing but misery. We’ve been sold like this, we’ve become prostitutes. We will not be accepted by society…” Brothel keepers hide girls during police raids. Often alerted beforehand through bribery of lower ranks in police force. Not being allowed to make friends: “Suppose somebody is kept in a tank full of water - how suffocating it would be, isn’t it? Just like that…” More on the “work” and conditions they were forced to accept.
Section Section 17-19  Impossibility of escape – grills on windows, the Madam and others on guard outside. Only Nepali girls in Indian brothels. Insensitivity to, even harassment of, escaped prostitutes by lawyers and police since return: “The way they question – it is like scratching a wound.”