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Nepali women victims of prostitution and slavery in Arab countries

Hundreds of women emigrated for work to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, and have not been heard from for years. Those who succeed in returning home shows signs of physical exhaustion, injuries and are often infected with AIDS. Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Nepalese women who emigrate to Arab countries in search of better jobs and wages, are unaccounted for. According to husbands and relatives they become victims of prostitution and slavery. The migrants who manage to return, show signs of physical exhaustion, injuries, psychological damage and are often infected with AIDS. To resolve this tragic situation, the Government of Nepal wants to block migration to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan where most cases are registered. In 2010, 242 women emigrated for work and were never heard of again.

Devi Lal Sunar, from the village of Sanoshree (Bardia district), has had no news of his wife Shanti in three years and is concerned about her safety. “Ten years ago – he says – a neighbour convinced my wife to leave for Kuwait, helping her to migrate across India.” Devi said that the last contact with his wife Shanti took place about three years ago. On the phone she said that the landlord did not allow her to leave, that he tortured and beat her when she tried to contact the house and did not give her a salary. “I called Kuwait several times – he says – a voice with an Indian accent always answers and refuses to let me speak to my wife.” The man claims to have done everything to bring his wife home, and in recent years has sold most of his property and now has no money to feed his two children.

Lila Thapa, a woman of 35, recently returned to her village of Katarn (Bardia), after seven years working as a maid in Kuwait. “Working in Arab countries is very risky and difficult – she says – cases of abuse and exploitation are rife.” The woman points out that she had never been sexually abused, however, she claims to have been exploited and poorly paid for all her stay in Kuwait.

According to Maiti Nepal, an association against the trafficking of women, alleged disappearance are still rising. In eight years we have gone from three cases in 2002 to 242 in 2010. The growth is mainly due to increased migration to the Arab countries that attract women aged 25 to 35 years with jobs as nurses, domestic helpers and caregivers. However, many of them are sold as prostitutes in brothels or are employed in private homes as domestic servants-slaves and subjected to constant abuse by employers.

by Kalpit Parajuli

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