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Monday, September 17, 2012

Dealing with human trafficking in Nepal: Awareness and Education

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery is a complex problem of many countries all around the world, whether developing or developed ones. The phenomenon is usually caused by a combination of factors. Especially, when looking at the countries of South-Eastern Asia, such as Nepal, one can observe communities struggling with poverty, illiteracy, absence of any awareness about human trafficking, various forms of discrimination and consequent social exclusion.  Furthermore defective governmental policies to prevent and punish human trafficking as well as insufficient victim protection coupled with gaps in effective law enforcement and corruption omnipresent at all level of public administration make combat against human trafficking and modern slavery to seem a mission impossible.

One the one hand, the state is bound by a number of international and regional instruments imposing measures to be taken and regulating cooperation in order to tackle human trafficking. In that way, the government shall adopt policies and develop strategies to comply with its international obligations. On the other hand, the executive is struggling to carry out its own commitments. Deficiencies in pursuance of anti-trafficking programs lack unified approach and are often caused by shabby and chaotic coordination among actors involved. Competency between programs of public bodies and NGOs and among various NGO initiatives does more harm than good. Even a well-drafted action plan remains a long shot when it is spoilt by corrupted civil servants and policemen who are themselves involved in the trade with human beings. In the end shortage of financial means in one of the poorest countries in the world ‘lends its helping hand’ to the problem.

However, even if the legal framework was excellent and governmental efforts were well-managed, any such action would work without corresponding grassroots initiatives. Human trafficking is featured by a hidden nature. Similarly, dynamics of current flows of migration, which goes through unregulated channels together with, lack of reliable research data on human trafficking folds the problem in the mist. Above all, many victims place themselves into the hands of traffickers voluntarily. Fooled by promises of greener pastures, lured by false perspectives of employment abroad and a better life, poor people submit themselves to traffickers absent any knowledge about real purposes and practices of the traffickers. More and more often, families pressed by economic uneasiness sell their own children persuaded that such step would provide them with means to nourish the rest of the family. At the same time they posses no knowledge about real forthcoming fate of their sons and daughters.

After that, instead of promising employment opportunity, Nepali children end up as sex workers in Indian brothels or servants in wealthy residences in Middle East. Physically and mentally exploited, tortured and stigmatized, they are not only rejected a normal childhood, but also their future perspectives are gone with the wind.

Because of all that, it is crucial to adopt a grassroots approach to both prevention of human trafficking and rehabilitation of victims. NGO and governmental initiatives, action plans and programs shall be aimed at raising awareness, counselling and providing information among endangered communities predominantly in remote areas without sufficient media coverage and high rate of illiteracy. Education, training and awareness-raising play a key role in preventing a heinous crime of human trafficking and slavery. Civil society shall actively participate by providing support for educational activities, qualification and skills-gaining with the view to enable persons´ access to secure labour market. In that regard, it is important to ensure that employment services are provided on equal basis. Similarly, rural development, support for local business is a must once we want to put malignant phenomenon of modern slavery to the end. Of a cardinal importance is also promotion of non-discrimination, equality, solidarity and social inclusion of all communities within Nepal.

In the very end, only coherent and joint action at all levels of the society, underlined by mutual understanding, respect, and solidarity and will to search for a meaningful solution can bring Nepal and other countries out of the vicious spiral of slavery.

Jana Lopusna, LL.M.

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