One doesn't expect socialites to spend a languid rainy afternoon listening to horror stories. Especially when it's a diminutive 62-year-old narrating the tales. But when it is one Anuradha Koirala doing the talk, the glamour quotient doesn't matter. The grit that fuels this character does. It jolts listeners out of stupor and lands them in a stark world with sleaze and grime.
A packed audience, mostly members of the FICCI ladies organization, listened with rapt attention as the chairperson of Maiti Nepal (an NGO that has rescued over 18,000 women from sexual slavery and exploitation) recounted stories that touch a nadir in human depravation.
While most girls trafficked from Nepal land up in brothels in Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Surat, Delhi, Bangalore, Siliguri, Gorakhpur and Meerut, girls are increasingly being re-routed to the Gulf, China and South-East Asia as well. "While traffickers in India prefer girls with mongoloid features as prevalent in people from lower castes in Nepal, those in China prefer girls from high caste who have prominent nose and high cheek bone," Maiti Nepal director Bishwo Ram Khadka said.
Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked every year globally, 70% are women and children. Of this, 150,000 cases are in South Asia with Nepal accounting for a lion's share. Maiti estimates there are 150,000-400,000 Nepali girls and women in Indian brothels. A big chunk of them are aged 7-24 years.
"The girls undergo systematic rape and torture. They are starved and scalded by smoldering cigarettes and sometimes even murdered. Those who are young are given hormone injections so that they appear big and then gang raped as an initiation into the trade. Thereafter, they are made to entertain 5-50 clients a day," said Koirala.
While extreme poverty in west Nepal is considered the primary reason for Nepali girls being trafficked in large numbers, Koirala says gender discrimination is the root cause, citing social practices like Chaupadi, Deuki and Badi where girls are driven into flesh trade by families.