FINAL: To raise public awareness on the seriousness and urgency of human trafficking:
First of all let me thank ICAP for choosing Nepal as the venue for the topic on human trafficking. With the uncertainties of political stability in Nepal in promulgating a new constitution through constituent assembly the human traffickers are having fields day in perpetuating and proliferating human trafficking. What makes Nepal hotspot for human trafficking is the high level of poverty, low wage, unemployment compounded with unitary state which has brought regional inequality and oppression of nationalities. On top of it the open border along south, east and west with India which constitutes almost 3/5 of the total border has all the more facilitated human trafficking.
At this point it is important to make difference between human trafficking and human smuggling. While human trafficking is to do with violation of human right of personal freedom and of personal integrity, human smuggling deals with illicit transfer of someone across sovereign borders, often with the consent of the person being smuggled.
To be precise human trafficking as per definition given by the united nation is:
“the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion of abduction, of fraud of deception of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having a control over another person for the purposes of exploitation. Exploitation shall include at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth (above) shall be irrelevant where in any of the means set forth (above) have been used.”
Having defined human trafficking it is important to know it’s root causes.
Human trafficking has different connotations in different epochs in history. During matriarchal period it is important to note that concept of private property had not arrived. With absence of exchange value leading to absence of market there was no question of human trafficking. However there used to be territorial clashes between hunting groups for their survival. The defeated group was either co-opted to winner clan or killed and eaten. In other words cannibalism was a way of doing away with unwanted, defeated clan in this period.
There came a time when it was found that it was more profitable for the winner clan to retain the prisoners of war as slaves than eat or destroy them. This concept developed with the advent of private property within slave era. Slaves became personal property for the masters who bought them, sold them and had right to their life and dignity. It was a crude form of human trafficking sanctioned by the state itself. All the ancient empires were built on slave economy.
With the advent of feudalism slaves gave way to serfs. Unlike slavery who are directly sold, serfs are tied to their feudal masters through partial land that are given to them to till without giving them ownership: A kind of modified slavery which moved along where feudal lords moved.
In the capitalist system a more finely paid slavery comes into existence. In this system everything is reduced to commodity, to be exchanged. Unlike slave he is neither bound to his master nor is he as serf bound to lord’s land. In absence of competition, both the slaves of masters and serfs of lords were bound to guarantee their life. However under capitalism under free market they are reduced to commodities determined by demand and supply of market economy. Every part of his / her body, every organ, soul becomes commodity to be sold in the market willingly or using force or deceit. The vulnerability of unemployment amongst deprived class particularly those who also fall under oppressed gender, nationality and region become easy prey to human trafficking.
With capitalism entering the stage of imperialism facilitated by globalisation human trafficking takes colossal scale. What makes it phenomenal is its speed of operation, the scale of expansion and multipronged approach to retain its market in the world market. The availability of opulent rich, leisure class at one end and availability of growing number of poor oppressed class in the world at the other end makes this profession lucrative, highly profitable, expendable, reusable and resalable commodities. Thes is compounded by increasing gap between have and have not, between developed and under developed countries which globalization goes on creating. In this context it will be useful to see where Nepal stands in human trafficking.
Nepal and human trafficking:
Human trafficking in Nepal is a serious concern due to poverty, inequality created by long history of active monarchy under a unitary state, an open border with India. It is mainly a source country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for forced prostitution is perhaps one of the busiest slave trafficking routes anywhere in the world. However today we have nascent federal republic state which has yet to get full constitution through Constituent Assembly.
In nepal human trafficking takes place at three level:
trafficking at domestic level.
Trafficking at national level.
Trafficking at international level.
Trafficking at domestic level may invoke controversy. What does one say to forced marriage without the consent of the two or one of them? Similarly what does one say to child marriage which still exists in many remote areas and also in Madhesh region? What about unequal marriage where there is great gap of age between husband and wife ?
Trafficking at national level:
Although Nepal has been declared as federal state, however it still functions as unitary state making Kathmandu valley as the centre of attraction. There is growing demand for prostitution as people flock from all parts of Nepal making it centre of economic, commercial activities. Women and children are forced to work in massage parlor which works as disguised prostitution. Also they are found working in dance clubs, cabinet restaurants and hotels.
An estimated 25,000-50,000 are trapped in Kathmandu’s internal sex industry. Similarly Pokhara, Biratnagar and other growing cities are attracting internal human trafficking.
Trafficking at international level:
As mentioned above long transitional stage of political state in Nepal is increasing human trafficking at international level. It is of course welcome that Constituent Assembly has been finally called. Let us hope that it will be followed with the formation of the government as soon as possible. This will set conducive environment for monitoring, controlling and finally curtailing human trafficking at both domestic and international level which is taking alarming rate. It is believed women and children are being trafficked to India at the rate of approximately 200000. It is expanding in other countries such as in China, Dubai, South Arabia, South Korea etc.
Challenges of combating human trafficking:
For combating domestic human trafficking it is important to educate girls, provide them with vocational training and to provide work at local level.
For combating internal human trafficking employment should be generated at local level. For this devolution of power at local level should be implemented by creating federal provinces as soon as possible. Federal provinces based on identity of oppressed region and nationality with special rights to women and dalits must be made as soon as possible with economic agenda.
At international level human trafficking can be reduced by controlling open border finally leading to closer of border with India. Similarly countries human trafficking takes place embassies of such destinations should be opened in Nepal. Also human rights organizations at every districts, villages, towns, should be opened and strengthened. Taking comparative advantage of Nepal vis a vis its neighboring countries, Nepal should embark upon economic activities that complement with economic activities with neighboring countries, China and India. In a long run it is the sustainable and inclusive growth of Nepal that will contain, control and finally eliminate human trafficking. For this multipronged approach it is necessary to have interaction with the affected state, inter states, UN organization, NGOs, INGOs, human rights organizations and particularly political parties to solve this problem. From this point of view I once again thank ICAP a forum of political parties in this region to take upon such a crucial topic which effects human dignity of not only this region but also of so called modern digitized world.