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Saudi Diplomat Case Symptomatic of Trafficking in Post-Quake Nepal

Desperation leads to haphazard migration, which leads to increased human trafficking in post-quake Nepal.

Updated
India
3 min read
The two women from Nepal were allegedly raped, enslaved and tortured by a senior Saudi diplomat. (Photo: ANI Screengrab)

Nepal is vulnerable to human trafficking, now more than ever. Two women who tried to eke out a living outside the earthquake ravaged country allegedly endured four months of pure torture at a plush apartment in Gurgaon, where a senior Saudi diplomat lived with his family.

Rescued on Monday with the help of Maiti Nepal – an NGO that works towards a society free from trafficking of women and children, the women claim they were locked up, rarely fed, brutally raped, sometimes by five to six expats at a time and beaten or slashed with a knife if they tried to cry for help or fight back.

They were both duped by an agent with the promise of Rs 30,000 in cash and employment as a domestic help in the Middle East. The offer was a lifesaver for the women who were desperate to get back on their feet in the aftermath of the earthquake.

They were not the only ones.

Rise in Human Trafficking

The United Nations estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 women and children are trafficked from Nepal to India every year. That number could well have gone up after the earthquake. While Maiti Nepal recorded 133 families had migrated to India, the United Nations raised the red flag when 245 children were saved from being trafficked into India in June.

April 26, 2015: A girl holds her mother as they stand outside a hospital during a strong aftershock after an earthquake in Kathmandu, a day after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. (Photo: Reuters)
April 26, 2015: A girl holds her mother as they stand outside a hospital during a strong aftershock after an earthquake in Kathmandu, a day after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. (Photo: Reuters)

Agents posing as health care or rescue workers are believed to have flooded Nepal after the earthquake and sought to recruit women and children as sex workers. These agents prey on women and children who were rendered even more vulnerable after the earthquake. They are offered money and jobs as maids in India, the Middle East, Africa and even South Korea. Once they get consent, these agents procure fake passports where they are able to pass off a 12-year-old girl as a 28-year-old adult and then push them into prostitution.

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Pushed to the Edge: Earthquake and Aftershocks

What has compounded this haphazard migration and consequent trafficking are the ninety-seven aftershocks that occurred between April 25 and July 11 have kept Nepal on edge this entire summer. Speaking to The Quint, Advocate Achyut Kumar Nepal, who works as a Communications Officer with Maiti Nepal says the NGO started border monitoring and surveillance activities almost immediately after the deadly earthquake that the 7.5 of April 25.

April 26, 2015: People search for family members trapped inside collapsed houses a day after the earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal (Photo: Reuters)
April 26, 2015: People search for family members trapped inside collapsed houses a day after the earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal (Photo: Reuters)

Property was damaged, there remained no means of livelihood or sustenance. Add to that the aftershocks. People were terrified and did not want to stay on in Nepal. They gathered whatever they possibly could and moved along with their children, but in most cases they didn’t have a concrete plan about where they want to end up and what they were going to do once they land there. This made them vulnerable to trafficking.
– Achyut Kumar Nepal, Advocate & Communications Officer, Maiti Nepal

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The Saudi Diplomat Case

Convenor of Maiti Nepal India, Bal Krishna Pandey was personally involved in rescuing the two women and claims the diplomat in question is the First Secretary to the Saudi Ambassador to India. The embassy for now, claims the allegations of sexual abuse by the two Nepalese women are false and the media reports about the purported incident unwarranted.

The diplomat in question, is untraceable since Monday and former Ambassador to Nepal, Deb Mukherjee tells The Quint, he could well be on his way home.

As a diplomat he has immunity so he cannot be proceeded against unless his government of his origin waives his diplomatic immunity only then can he be proceeded against. What normally happens in such cases is that the person concerned leaves the country very quickly.
– Deb Mukherjee, Former Ambassador to Nepal

The question is how much effort can we expect the Indian government to make in this specific case considering a strategic partner like Saudi Arabia is concerned.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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