USDOS – US Department of State (Author)
NEPAL (Tier 2)
Nepal is mainly a source country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some Nepali women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Nepal, India, and the Middle East, and also are subjected to forced labor in Nepal and India as domestic servants, beggars, factory workers, mine workers, and in the entertainment industry, including in circuses and in pornography. They are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in other Asian destinations, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Nepali boys also are exploited in domestic servitude and – in addition to some Indian boys – are subjected to forced labor in Nepal, especially in brick kilns and the embroidered textiles industry. One NGO is concerned that China is an emerging sex trafficking hub for Nepali girls. There were reports of traffickers in the remote Karnali region who deceive families into sending their children to urban areas with false promises of schooling. Many of these children, however, are never sent to schools and some end up in forced labor, including forced begging. Bonded labor exists in agriculture, brick kilns, and the stone-breaking industry. Particularly in agriculture, this is often based on caste lines, where traditional landlord castes use debt bondage to secure unpaid labor from Dalit laborers. Traffickers generally target uneducated people, especially from socially marginalized and traditionally excluded groups. However, a growing number of victims are relatively well-educated and from traditionally privileged groups.
Many Nepali migrants seek work in domestic service, construction, or other low-skilled sectors in Gulf countries, Malaysia, Israel, South Korea, Afghanistan, and Libya with the help of Nepal-based labor brokers and manpower agencies. They travel willingly but some subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labor such as withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse. Some are deceived about their destination country, the terms of their contract, or are subjected to debt bondage, which can in some cases be facilitated by fraud and high recruitment fees charged by unscrupulous agents. Many workers migrate via India; this is illegal, due to the 2007 Foreign Employment Act that requires all workers to leave for overseas work via the Kathmandu airport. Many migrants leave by land because it is easier and cheaper than traveling by air, and to avoid legal migration registration requirements, the scrutiny of a labor migration desk in the airport, and bribes that some officials reportedly require at the airport to secure migration documents. A recent survey of returned migrants served by the NGO Maiti Nepal assessed that 67 percent of female Nepali workers who returned from the Gulf were unhealthy; most disorders were psychological illnesses. Nepali officials have reported a large increase of Bangladeshis transiting through Nepal in recent years due to increasing migration restrictions of Bangladeshis by foreign countries. Officials believe many Bangladeshis illegitimately obtain Nepali visas and work permits for employment in the Gulf, and noted, because these Nepali documents are often produced fraudulently, the Bangladeshis are at risk of being trafficked.
The Government of Nepal does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. During the year, the government established the Central Crime Investigative Bureau’s special unit to investigate trafficking and increased its direct financial support for protective services in Nepal and abroad. Incidents of trafficking-related complicity by government officials were not documented by the government, but reported by civil society. The lack of proactive victim identification remained a serious problem in Nepal.
Recommendations for Nepal: Increase law enforcement efforts against all types of trafficking, including labor trafficking, and against government officials who are found to be complicit in trafficking, while respecting the rights of victims and defendants; institute a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to protection services; ensure that sex trafficking victims are not punished for involvement in prostitution; improve protection services available for victims of all forms of trafficking; promote legal awareness programs to potential trafficking victims and government officials; work with Indian officials to establish a procedure to repatriate Nepali victims of trafficking in India; decentralize the system to file complaints under the Foreign Employment Promotion Board as a means to facilitate victims’ access to legal remedies; consider increasing avenues for female migrant workers to migrate legally and safely to the Gulf; and provide disaggregated data under the Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act.
Nepal prohibits most forms of trafficking in persons, including the selling of human beings and forced prostitution, through its Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act (2007) and Regulation (2008) (HTTCA). Prescribed penalties range from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Bonded Labor (Prohibition) Act (2002) prohibits bonded labor, but has no penalties. Defendants in trafficking cases are not assumed innocent, violating fair trial standards. According to the Office of Attorney General, 174 offenders were convicted in 119 cases tried in court under the HTTCA; 71 cases resulted in convictions and 47 cases resulted in acquittals in Nepal’s 2009-2010 fiscal year. This compares with 172 offenders convicted in 138 cases tried in court, with 82 cases resulting in convictions and 56 case acquittals, in the previous fiscal year. It is not known how many of these cases were for human trafficking, since the HTTCA also prohibits other offenses that do not constitute human trafficking, such as people smuggling. Government statistics did not include information about punishments and did not disaggregate whether convictions were for sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or non-trafficking offenses. The much lower number of convictions reported in the 2010 Report represented only convictions obtained from the Supreme Court, while the numbers offered above represent convictions obtained from district courts. Some Foreign Employment Tribunal case convictions under the Foreign Employment Act may have involved human trafficking. The tribunal is based in Kathmandu without branch offices, which restricts victims outside of the capital from filing cases. In 2010, the government established a special unit to investigate human trafficking within the Central Crime Investigative Bureau. One government source noted a decrease in victims’ confidence in the prospect of justice in Banke district – a western district of Nepal – because very few labor traffickers of migrant workers have been punished in the district. This is believed to have negatively affected the number of trafficking cases filed with police in the district.
The incidence of trafficking-related complicity by government officials remained a problem. Anecdotal evidence suggests that traffickers use ties to politicians, business persons, state officials, police, customs officials, and border police to facilitate trafficking. Although in the past it was reported that many dance bars, “cabin restaurants,” and massage parlors in Kathmandu that facilitate sex trafficking were co-owned by senior police and army officials, some security officials report that recently adopted police and army rules prohibit officials from running businesses without approval, and that this has decreased the practice; this has not yet been confirmed by civil society groups. Some Nepali officials may work with traffickers in providing false information in genuine Nepali passports. Politically-connected perpetrators enjoy impunity from punishment. There were no trafficking related investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for complicity in trafficking during the reporting period. Between January and March 2010, according to official statistics, the Maoists discharged the 2,973 child soldiers they recruited during the 10-year conflict, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. However, no Maoist official has been charged in connection with the conscription of child soldiers. Government officials who participated in counter-trafficking training-of-trainers programs led workshops in their various districts.
The Government of Nepal does not have a formal system of proactively identifying victims of trafficking among high-risk persons with whom they come in contact. Some police officers made arrests during raids on commercial sex establishments but did not identify victims. As a result, child trafficking victims were arrested, jailed, and then charged “bail” which the police and court allowed traffickers to pay; this further indebted the girls before they were handed back to their traffickers. A 2009 Supreme Court ruling which ordered police to not arrest females in these establishments was largely unheeded, but some NGOs recently filed successful contempt of court cases which released some girls from detention. Police arrested some Bangladeshi migrant workers during raids in 2010 while they were allegedly trying to fly overseas with fake Nepali passports, and did not make attempts to identify whether they were trafficking victims.
During the last year, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MWCSW) fulfilled a commitment reported in the 2010 TIP Report to open and partially-fund five NGO-run shelter homes for female victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault; a total of eight NGO shelters are now given some funding by the government. As of February 2011, 77 victims were in those shelters. During the year, the MWCSW fulfilled a second commitment to open 15 emergency shelters across the country for victims of trafficking and other forms of abuse. All facilities that assist trafficking victims were run by NGOs and most provided a range of services, including legal aid, medical services, psychosocial counseling, and economic rehabilitation. The Nepal Police Women’s Cells reportedly sustained partnerships with NGOs to ensure that victims were provided with available shelter; however, it is unknown how many survivors received assistance. There were not sufficient facilities to meet the needs of all survivors, nor were there any protective services for males. The Government of Nepal allocated approximately $7,000 for rescue efforts by the Nepal Embassy in India in the 2010 to 2011 fiscal year, a 55 percent increase compared to the previous fiscal year. The government continued to run emergency safehouses in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. While the Foreign Employment Promotion Board collected fees from departing registered migrant workers for a welfare fund, most of the funds remain unused and are inaccessible to migrants who did not register with the Board; these irregular migrants may be most at risk to trafficking.
Limited protections for victims negatively affected law enforcement efforts. Victims were often intimidated in their communities not to pursue a case, and they did not want to prosecute due to concerns for personal and family safety, particularly as their traffickers may have been family members. Many victims were unaware that legal recourse was available against traffickers. The government did not encourage trafficking victims to participate in investigations against their traffickers. Judges reportedly often took an adversarial, rather than impartial, stance when dealing with trafficking victims.
The Government of Nepal improved efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. The government organized rallies and distributed posters and pamphlets to mark the fourth annual National Anti-Trafficking Day. The National Human Trafficking Task Force was more active in the reporting period; it met more times than in previous years, secured more funds for rescue, and helped repatriate a Nepali victim from a rehabilitation home in Bangladesh. The MWCSW established District Committees on Controlling Human Trafficking in 49 districts this past year. While all districts are now covered, a number of those in rural areas are not active. According to the Foreign Employment Promotion Board, during the year the Board conducted safe migration radio programs on more than 50 stations throughout the country; this is twice as many stations as was reported in the previous year. In January 2011, the Ministry of Labor formed a Committee to Hear the Issue of Undocumented Workers. The committee met once during the reporting period, and includes an NGO. Chapter 9 of the 2007 Foreign Employment Act criminalizes the acts of an agency or individual sending workers abroad through fraudulent recruitment promises or without the proper documentation, prescribing penalties of three to seven years’ imprisonment for those convicted; fraudulent recruitment puts workers at significant risk of trafficking. Despite national registration drives and committees responsible for registering births, the Central Child Welfare Committee in 2008 reported that only 40 percent of children had birth registration certificates. All Nepali military troops and police assigned to international peacekeeping forces were provided some pre-deployment anti-trafficking training funded by a foreign government. Nepal is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 (Periodical Report, English)