Article – L.B. Thapa – Selling Sex To Survive In Kathmandu Nepal

Source: Gorkhapatra

No official attempt has been made to register the number of commercial sex workers in the country so far. Nevertheless, various reports have confirmed that some 30 thousand sex workers are in the country. Of them over 5000 prostitutes are believed to have carried their profession in the Kathmandu valley alone. A big number of minor girls below 16 years of are also found in this profession. They sell sex to survive.

Although the law of the land prohibits prostitution, it is flourishing in cities and towns. There could be many reasons. Unemployment, rampant poverty, lack of job opportunity and illiteracy among others are responsible for the rise in prostitution. Widespread poverty and lack of job opportunity leave many adults jobless. Finally, many boys are compelled to leave their homes and look for greener pastures, while the girls join the flesh trade as it is an easy way to make their ends meet.

It is poverty that has to be blamed again for girl’s trafficking to India. Poor girls of villages are easily lured for a better employment in the neighbouring country. It is believed that every year around 10,000 Nepali women are trafficked to different Indian brothels.

More people have migrated from villages to cities in recent decades. Most of them fled from their villages to avoid Maoists’ constant highhandedness. City life is harsh and replete with many difficulties for these new comers. Due to illiteracy and lack of skill, many girls find life in the cities extremely difficult.

Many of the prostitutes are actively engaged in massage centers, beauty parlors, discotheques, dance restaurants, cabin restaurants, hotels, lodges and so on. More prostitutes are active in the hotels and lodges located nearby the bus park areas. Since prostitution is an illegal act, it is operated secretly. Hotel owners, pimps and prostitutes work together so that they can dodge the police and continue their business. In recent days, it seems that prostitution has reached to an uncontrollable point. Sex is being served on demand anyplace and anywhere including religious sites! Prostitutes are now available on highways’ thatched roof local bhatti to posh resident areas. Prostitutes are sent to entertain rich and VIPs to their apartments and star hotels!

Prostitution is managed in a most hotchpotch manner where sex workers are more exposed to various sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) including HIV/AIDS.

Taking advantage of weak law enforcement, the employers use sex workers like milking cows, and throw them away when their charm fades away. The real world of sex workers is horrible indeed.

Shanti (name changed), a Tamang girl, from Dhading spent nearly seven years in a Bombay brothel. She was the fifth daughter of her parents. She said that in order to have a son their parents went on having daughters. “I was just 14 when my parents sent me to India along with a local relative. I was told to work there as a housemaid. He took me via Sunauli to Gorakhpur. We stayed one night at a hotel in Gorakhpur where I met five other Nepali girls. All of them were of my age. From Gorakhpur we boarded a night train to Bombay (Mumbai) where I was thrown to suffer a hellish life,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Shanti made a few unsuccessful attempts to escape from strongly fortified brothel and each time she was punished severely. Eventually, she gave up all efforts and made compromise against her fate. One day she was diagnosed HIV/AIDS and was asked to leave the brothel. When she refused, one strongman dragged her out of the premises and left her in the mercy of god.

Shanti’s woes didn’t end here. Anyhow she managed to reach her village where her parents gladly accepted her, but not by the village folks. She was an eyesore for the villagers. Circumstance turned so hostile in the village that she had to leave her village to Kathmandu where she stayed with one of her friends. In order to douse the flame of hunger, she jumped into prostitution, knowing that she is carrying deadly virus. “I always advise my clients to have safe sex. And most of them follow as well. But some lahures on leave prefer to spend whole night, indulging into unsafe sex. Some use condoms but after having drunk they refuse every thing and get into unsafe sex. I really feel sorry for them, but I can do nothing,” she said.

Poverty, lack of job opportunity and illiteracy as mentioned above encourage many to take prostitution. Unless such problems are eliminated from the country, flesh trade will remain here.

Now voices are heard from different quarters about legalization of prostitution. Many people might be offended by the idea of legalization of prostitution in a society like ours, but time has come to address this issue with adequate attention. It can’t be avoided or leave for tomorrow. It should be dealt today and now. It would be wise enough to manage it in a most effective manner.

If prostitution is legalized, hundreds of thousands of prostitutes across the country can heave s sigh of relief. The first thing, they can’t be exploited any more. Law will protect their rights. Their profession will attain legal status, and they can carry on prostitution as a profession like others. This will, in addition, check the spread Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) to a large extent. After the legalization of prostitution, they do not have to operate their business secretly. In case of exploitation, they can knock the door of the court for justice. One can stay in this profession as long as they please.

One should clearly understand that legalization of prostitution will not encourage women into flesh trade. It will draw respect for their labour instead. Prostitution has nothing to do with morality; it should be treated like a profession.