Loading...
Nepal: A Narrow Escape
Now Watching
Nepal: A Narrow Escape
Next Suggested Video
Living Service

Sushma, a 24-year-old single mother of four from a remote village in Nepal, was taken to India and sold to a brothel for $250. Unlike most victims of sexual slavery, however, Sushma managed to escape her captors and return home. In this film we meet some of the women trying to staunch the flow of an estimated 12,000 young women who are trafficked across the open Indian border every year, and follow Sushma as she sets out to find the man who lured her to Kolkata. 

Flash Player 9.0.115+ or HTML5 video support is required to play this video.
 
  • Loading...
  • Loading...
  • Loading...
  • Loading...
Loading...

Produced by dev.tv and UNIFEM as part of the series "Women on the Front Line."

Loading...

Share this video

Include start time Get current time
Include related videos, articles & actions
Loading...

Segment 1

TITLE
Women on the Front Line
ANNIE LENNOX
It threatens the lives of more young women than cancer. It affects one in three women worldwide. It leaves women mentally scarred for life. "It" is violence against women and girls. According to the UN, this brutality is on the rise. Our series comes from the frontline of the hidden war on women and girls. The field of conflict is just as likely to be the home as the brothel. This time on Women on the Front Line we are in Nepal to follow the story of Sushma, a courageous young woman who after escaping from an Indian brothel sets out to bring her trafficker to justice.
VOICEOVER
Deserted by her husband and with four children to support, 24-year-old Sushma from a remote village in Nepal was sold for sexual slavery.
SUSHMA
She told me he was OK, so I trusted him.
VOICEOVER
Her trafficker took her to Kolkata, but she managed to escape.
INTERVIEWER
Was the door open?
SUSHMA
Yes, and I slipped out and got away.
VOICEOVER
Sushma could have suffered the same fate as this Nepali woman – sold as a girl and now, in her sixties, still a prostitute.
KAMAL TSHERING
I was sold to a mean mistress for 10,000 rupees.
VOICEOVER
In this film we document how difficult it is for Nepal to staunch the flow of young women being trafficked across an open 2,500-kilometre long border with India, and we meet some of the women on the frontline trying to put a stop to the trade.
POLICEWOMAN
Do you have any proof that he's your brother?
VOICEOVER
And we follow Sushma as she sets out to find the man who lured her to a brothel in Kolkata.
TITLE
A Narrow Escape
VOICEOVER
Landlocked between China and India, the Asian economic boom has bypassed the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Corrupt government and more than a decade of civil conflict are among the reasons why Nepal is the 12th-poorest country in the world. Seven out of ten Nepalis live on less than USD$2 a day and, according to the World Bank, almost a third of the population doesn't have enough to eat. Since 1981, Nepal's population has almost doubled to nearly 30 million, making it one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia, and increasing competition for land. Nepal is now an aid- and remittance-dependent economy. Every year, according to the UN, about a hundred thousand Nepalis leave the country for employment. About a third are women and girls, half of whom are trafficked unwittingly across the open border to the brothels of big Indian cities. But the statistics are not much more than guesswork: the trade in women and girls for sex is covert and highly organized.
PUNYA PRASAD NEUPANE [Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women]
This particular problem, which is regarded as one of the [most] heinous crimes in our country. It is gradually expanding. The trade ... The traffickers are very much clever to hide themselves from the eyes of the law. But the government is trying its best to control, to combat the trafficking issue.
UGOCHI DANIELS [United Nations Population Fund]
Conservative estimates put it at about 7,000 girls a year, but we feel that it's much higher. Sex trafficking: it's a clandestine activity, it's very hard to get data on it, and it is something that urgently needs to be addressed.
VOICEOVER
While there are anti-trafficking laws in place in Nepal, an undermanned police force can do little more than make random checks on people passing through the official border posts. The hard-pressed authorities welcome the assistance of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, in identifying possible traffickers. These women, some of whom have been victims of trafficking themselves, are working for the NGO Maiti Nepal, which mounts its own vigilante patrols to help the border police.
BISHNU KUMARI KHATRI [Border Police]
Hey guys, open up! We work here from 5am, stopping people and asking them questions. If we believe what they say, we let them go. But, if we think they're lying, we take them to the police station for further questioning.
PUNYA PRASAD NEUPANE
They have some sort of dream in their mind for a better life, for a better quality life, like that. The traffickers, they easily can trap those aspiring for a better life. Girls are caught, they are easily tempted by their false promises.
MAYA NEPALI [Maiti Nepal worker]
When they get there, they're forced into prostitution. If they refuse they're beaten and reminded that they've been bought, and must pay off the debt.
GITA NEPALI
Where's your daughter going?
GANGA [father]
I'm sending her to Kuwait.
GITA NEPALI
OK, so why are you sending her there?
GANGA
Some sort of factory work.
GITA NEPALI
What sort of work, don't you know? So who's taking her there?
GANGA
It's somebody we know.
GITA NEPALI
Why isn't he with you?
GANGA
He had something else to do, so he left.
GITA NEPALI
Where did he go?
GANGA
Somewhere.
GITA NEPALI
What?
GANGA
Somewhere.
GITA NEPALI
He's gone somewhere, has he? OK, listen. If he's taking her to a proper job he should have come here with the paperwork to prove it. Where is it? Have you got your passport with you?
SUMAN [daughter] and GANGA
No.
DR. RENU RAJBHANDARI [Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)]
Some families -- even parents -- they agree to send their daughters. They don't have enough information and that's why they think that, OK, their daughters are going to India or some other place to earn money because they are poor.
VOICEOVER
Unconvinced this girl has a genuine job to go to, they finally persuade her father that it's likely they are victims of trafficking and stop them crossing the border.
POLICEMAN
You shouldn't be so naive! You shouldn't believe everything you hear and send your daughter away so easily. Her life will be ruined!

Segment 2

VOICEOVER
It's 5am at Maiti Nepal's women's shelter in Kathmandu. This is Sushma, the 24-year-old mother-of-four who escaped from a Kolkata brothel. She was taken to the local police who alerted the Nepali Consulate. Maiti Nepal have brought her back to Kathmandu and, in an act of great courage, she has agreed to help them and the police find her trafficker. As dawn breaks, Sushma leads Maiti Nepal staff, accompanied by plainclothes police officers, to the house where she met her trafficker barely a week before. The couple who introduced them will have no idea she is back in Nepal. The police are hoping catch to them unawares.
INTERVIEWER
Tell us why you're here.
SUSHMA
I've come to catch them.
VOICEOVER
The police find three suspects in the house and arrest them. This is the man Sushma says sold her to a brothel in Kolkata. He admits to accompanying her to India.
KALE DAMAI [suspected trafficker]
We went sightseeing. We got separated. She was left behind.
INTERVIEWER
Who separated you? You said you were separated.
KALE DAMAI
I don't know what happened. The moment we got off the bus we were separated.
VOICEOVER
The police formally charge the suspects at their station. From here they are taken to Maiti Nepal's headquarters. "Maiti" means "mother's home" and the organization has been giving shelter to victims of trafficking for nearly 20 years, supported by international donors. The suspects have been brought here to be questioned by founder of the organization, Anuradha Koirala, and a team of lawyers.
ANURADHA KOIRALA [Founder, Maiti Nepal]
Sit on the floor, not on the chairs!
VOICEOVER
The case can't proceed if Sushma doesn't make a formal accusation. Separated from the suspects in the next room Sushma tells lawyers her side of the story.
LAWYER
It's OK, don't cry now it's all over. You'd be crying if they hadn't been arrested! Now you must be strong. You shouldn't cry in front of them.
BISHWO RAM KHADKA [Director, Maiti Nepal]
If you file a case against traffickers they threaten these girls, so we have to counsel them, and we have to encourage them to file a case against these people because, until and unless you put people behind the bars, you are not going to prevent trafficking anywhere.
LAWYER
What did she tell you? Did she say she knew him well? That he'd get you a job?
SUSHMA
She said he's a good man, we know him quite well and it's fine to go with him. So I trusted him.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
How much did you sell her for?
KALE DAMAI
I wasn't given any money.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
How much were you promised, then?
KALE DAMAI
They said she wasn't very good-looking so they only gave me 10,000 rupees.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
Indian rupees?
KALE DAMAI
Yes.
VOICEOVER
And that's it: casually and apparently without forethought he admits to receiving money.
SUSHMA
He said if the police ask any questions on the border I should keep quiet and say…
LAWYER
He said that?
SUSHMA
Yes, and say I'm his wife.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
Then where did you go with 10,000 rupees?
KALE DAMAI
I didn't go anywhere.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
Then you came back to Kathmandu?
KALE DAMAI
Yes.
SUSHMA
On the fourth day I escaped. I tried to make out the road I came from through the door which was ajar.
LAWYER
Was the door open?
SUSHMA
Yes, and I slipped out and got away.
LAWYER
Weren't there any guards?
SUSHMA
No, there weren't.
VOICEOVER
This is the man who admits he was directly involved in her sale to a brothel. Sushma says he told her he was helping her to find a better job.
SUSHMA
My children are at home. I came to Kathmandu for them. I worked weaving carpets in a factory.

Segment 3

VOICEOVER
Kolkata: one of the most densely populated cities in the world, where over 30 percent live in slums. Here in the red light district there is an insatiable demand for Nepali women considered "exotic" by Indian men. Sushma was lucky to have escaped. Kamal was not so lucky. She was trafficked from Nepal as a girl. Now in her sixties and still a prostitute, she is not afraid to speak out.
KAMAL TSHERING
It's been 50 years.
INTERVIEWER
Who brought you here?
KAMAL TSHERING
A man brought me here. I was sold to a mean mistress for 10,000 rupees. Some are sold by their husbands, fathers, even their brothers.
INTERVIEWER
Are there small girls here? Nepali girls?
KAMAL TSHERING
Yes.
INTERVIEWER
How old are they?
KAMAL TSHERING
Ten, eleven, twelve years old.
INTERVIEWER
Do they start working at ten years old?
KAMAL TSHERING
Of course they have to! Who's going to feed them? Will their parents come from Nepal to give them money?
VOICEOVER
Back in Kathmandu the man who sold Sushma has been charged with trafficking. He will spend two years awaiting trial on a charge that now excludes the possibility of bail. And under new legislation in Nepal brought in by the 2007 Anti-Trafficking Act, traffickers now face much tougher sentences.
SARBENDRA KHANAL [Police Superintendent]
Recently the government has published one act, which is very strong against these traffickers. So if the trafficker is convicted he will be imprisoned for 20 years.
ANURADHA KOIRALA
There is a big vicious circle and I think about 20, 25 people are involved in one trafficking, one girl to be trafficked. She knows only this man who lured her. So this is the man, who gets the least money, is being put into the jail. It's not the planner or the money lender who is in the jail. So that is why we tried with two women when they came to Nepal -- they have big houses here, big businesses here -- we tried to arrest them, you know? One, we did arrest. But then [she had] political protections, so she was let out and she went back to India. She was trafficking women and she was running a brothel in India.
KALE DAMAI
It was pretty much a hand-to-mouth existence. There are six of us brothers. What we inherited from our father was never sufficient to lead a decent life. The best job I could get was sewing clothes.
VOICEOVER
Legal reform such as the recent Trafficking Act has been brought about by the efforts of campaigners such as Dr. Renu Rajbhandari to improve the status of women in Nepali society. For the past 15 years she has been helping rehabilitate victims of trafficking.
DR. RENU RAJBHANDARI
Discrimination is [a] real fundamental cause for trafficking in this country. Because here women are being kind of taken as a second-class citizen by the state, who doesn't have equal rights as men have in this country. And within the family also, women are being treated also as an asset: "OK, she's my daughter, so then I decide what is good for her," or "She is my wife, so I decide what is good for her."

Segment 4

VOICEOVER
Sushma, who hasn't seen her children for over a month, is finally on her way home after having made her statement to the court.
SUSHMA
I've been living at my mother's house. She has a small piece of land. If we wanted to eat, we had to grow it ourselves. Or I had to work in other people's homes in return for food or clothes.
VOICEOVER
Abandoned by her husband, who left her for another woman, Sushma couldn't make enough money in her village to support her four children. Eighty percent of Nepalis live in villages. Most land is owned by a few influential high-caste families, with the poor trying to eke out a living as tenant farmers. Most rural Nepali households now depend on at least one member's earnings from employment in the city or abroad. During the last five years, Nepali migrant workers have sent home as much as 1.5 billion US dollars -- this totals 15 percent of Nepal's GDP.
SUSHMA
You do what you can to survive. You can't just sit idle. I left the village to earn a little more. If you can get a job out there you can even earn double.
SANGEETA PURI [Maiti Nepal]
When you get home will you tell your mother what happened?
SUSHMA
Yes, I will. If she understands, that's fine. Otherwise, what can I do? She always said I'd never go astray.
DR. RENU RAJBHANDARI
Girls who have been trafficked, her family usually accepts, but society continues stigmatizing, you know? This girl has been in Mumbai or somewhere, so she's a bad woman, she has been already exploited woman. So those kind of stigmatizations comes there.
VOICEOVER
After a 12-hour journey, Sushma finally reaches her village. She meets her mother and her youngest child on the road to their house.
SUSHMA
Sujit's forgotten how to talk! He was talking before. OK, let's walk, let's walk. Look at the state of our village!
SANGEETA PURI
All villages are like this.
SUSHMA
What can I do? Our house looks in bad shape.
SANGEETA PURI
How much land do you have?
SAREETA [Sushma's mother]
This is all we have.
SANGEETA PURI
So, what do you grow? Rice? Barley?
SAREETA
Nothing. There's nothing. I just got tired of tilling.
SANGEETA PURI
Then what do you eat?
SAREETA
That's why I've had to send my beloved daughter.
SANGEETA PURI
You sent her to earn?
SAREETA
Whatever she can bring back is fine.
SANGEETA PURI
They told her there was a job for her in Kolkata. They were trying to tempt her with a better job with more pay. She knows you're struggling, she wanted to bring home more money. Poor girl, she didn't know what was happening. It's not her fault. They took her to Kolkata. She escaped. She's done nothing wrong. The gods saved her and she didn't have to do anything bad.
SAREETA [Sushma's mother]
We women have roles: housewives, prostitutes, some good, some bad. But girls should work and earn as well as boys. That's why I allowed her to leave. But if she's destined to get into trouble, how can I protect her?
ANURADHA KOIRALA
You cannot say end of trafficking, you know, but I would like ... at least the magnitude of trafficking should go down, right? For this, the government is doing something, but it is not enough. There should be job opportunities for women in the villages, literacy programs for women in the villages. For me, the main problem of trafficking is gender equality.
UGOCHI DANIELS [United Nations Population Fund]
The challenge is in moving from legislation to practice in having an effect on the lives of people on the ground, so that women know that a life as a second-class citizen is not the way it's supposed to be and that they have opportunities to change that.
SANGEETA PURI
Oh you look lovely! It fits you perfectly!
PUNYA PRASAD NEUPANE
We have realized that changing [the] value system is not that easy thing. Those values that we have were the results of hundreds of years, and so within a few years or maybe one decade or two decades, it's not that long to change the mindset of the people, to change the value system. And we are optimistic, actually.
SUSHMA
I am feeling extremely good! I'm finally home.
INTERVIEWER
How will you feed the kids now?
SUSHMA
What can I say? We have to manage on what we've got here. I'll do my best for my children.
VOICEOVER / TITLE
Six months on, Sushma remains in the village with her children. Her traffickers are still in jail awaiting trial.
TITLE
[end credits]