The Edge on the India - Nepal border
Few people are aware that the India-Nepal border is one of the largest corridors for human trafficking on the planet. While the outside world pays little notice, the problem has reached endemic proportions with an estimate of nearly 200,000 Nepalis having already been trafficked into India.
The vast majority of these victims are women and children who are subjected to forced labour, prostitution, and sexual abuse. The porous, 400 mile-long border between southern Nepal and Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, is an ideal environment for traffickers to operate within.
There has been a further spike in the trafficking of women and children since the devastating April 2015 earthquake in Nepal. The Indian government’s agency charged with protecting its border (Sashastra Seema Bal) reported a “massive spurt” in the forced movement of women and children from Nepal along the Bihar border.While exact numbers are impossible to attain, it is clear that what is already an appalling situation has been made even worse by this natural tragedy.
There are numerous causes for this problem on both sides of the border, but the primary reason is that Nepal is an agrarian country which lacks sufficient infrastructure and economic opportunities to support its population of nearly 23 million people.
About 90% of its inhabitants rely on subsistence agriculture to survive. More than half of Nepal’s women are illiterate, poorly-educated and, therefore, easily targeted by traffickers.
Each year an estimated 7,000-10,000 women and children are trafficked through Bihar, many ending up in de facto slavery in Bihar’s red-light zones. With nearly a quarter of those trafficked below the age of 16, the situation is particularly grave for children.
Currently, the precedent for young girls in these communities is to follow their mothers into prostitution. Parents surveyed from the community say they would prefer that their children find other means of employment, but, with limited choices, many children are still drawn into the same line of work.
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