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One sex worker’s story;Affliction, Pain and Obligation

In category : Women Issues | Date: 13th Aug 2015

                                                                         

"No man would like to sleep with me. I have nothing to offer to them! Yet, I am forced to sell my body. I come to this street every day and offer sex to men for 50 to 100 rupees. Some pay me a thousand rupees. Some sleep with me freeof cost and steal my money." – Sundari Nepal (name changed for obvious reason.)

Sundari Nepal is a 55-year-old urban sex worker in Kathmandu, Nepal.  I met her while talking with several sex workers to gather their expectations from the new constitution.As we mentioned Nepal’slaws, government and society, Sundari burst into tears.  It clenched our hearts and our eyes filled with tears too. As she shared her plight, I felt the pain in my bones and therefore I am sharing her story:

"My name is Sundari Nepal. This year I turned 55. My maternal home is in Far WestNepal and my home is in a mountainous village in the Mid-West. I was married when I was 12 years old before my puberty. My husband was 22 years at the time of our marriage. He worked for the Indian Army and soon after the marriage, he left for deployment. My mother-in-law was visually impaired and my father-in-law couldn’t hear. I had 5 sisters-in-law of my age and younger.

Life after marriage was laborious. I had to wake up at 4 am and walk for 30 minutes to reach the cowshed, collect dung and grass, and feed the cows. By the morning, I had to carry bundles of grass taller than me. I had to cook for the entire family, feed them, finish the chores and I had to go to the farm to start my work.

When I came back tired from the market, I had to start preparing dinner. By the time the meal was cooked it was already 10 pm. The damp firewood took a long time to burn and created a lot of smoke. My father-in-law would lash out at me for my poor skills with the firewood. It was very difficult. I would be done by  midnight but before going to bed, I had to oil massage my mother-in-law. And again at 4 o’clock I had to wake up.

 

A year later, my husband returned to the village, and I became pregnant at 13 with a son. I later had 3 sons. My husband left his job in the army and moved to Kathmandu looking for employment. He used to come home during the festivals. In 2058 (1991), my neighbor received a call from Kathmandu.  My husband, who was working as an electrician, had been killed due to electrocution. My eldest son was living in Kathmandu with his father. The last rites were performed in the village, after which my son left for Kathmandu again. Later, we came to know that he had married someone in the city. After his father's death and after getting married, he stopped sending money to us.  I had to start looking after the house expenses. I had no source of income. I was illiterate and unskilled. One of my neighbors informed me about the widow security fund. He also suggested that I needed my husband's death certificate to claim the fund. I came to Kathmandu and reached the hospital to get my husband's death certificate. At the hospital I was told that the death certificate had already been handed over at the time of his death.

When I heard about the fund, I was hopeful that it would help me take care of my family. But I lost that hope;  I started to cry. One of the hospital employees saw me, and he said that they could still provide me with the death certificate if I knew the exact date. The concerned guy  was not in the hospital at that time and I would have to wait till he returned. I sat on a bench near the door, waiting for the man to arrive. There were lots of people coming in and out.

Just then, a lady in her mid-30s came rushing in.  She put her bag next to me and said, "DIdi, I will put this bag here for a bit. I need to go and bring the blood report." Before I could say ok, the lady had walked into the crowd.  Almost half an hour passed, but the lady did not return. I was putting the bag under the table to secure it, so I could check on the man's arrival. When I lifted the bag, I heard a child's cry. There was a baby in the bag. Within moments, everyone heard the baby. There was an uproar, with people cursing the woman who had abandoned her baby.  A huge crowdgathered to look at the newborn, wrapped in a black shawl. People said, '' whose child is this?'' '' Why and who left in this situation?'' what a cruel mother, etc.

Some people were disgusted hearing that the baby was a girl.  Some said they would have adopted the child if only she was a boy.  By 4 o’clock that day, the child's mother had not returned. No one else was interested in the child. I couldn’t leave heralonethere. I had conceived three sons and I felt that this girl was a gift to me in the form of a daughter, and I decided to adopt her.

Before I could tell my son and daughter-in-law about the incident, they were saying the child came from my lover. "Don’t put on your drama. This kid has come from one of your lovers. Why didn’t the hospital take heror give her to the orphanage instead of handing her over to you?" I couldn’t feel the floor when my son said that.

I never felt the arm of a man other than my husband after I got married at 12. But my own son was doubting me. I told them to ask at the hospital, but they said  they did not require any clarification. However,he pushed me out from the home and said go out immediately through the way I came before. I had no option. My eyes got wet; I rubbed my eyes with one hand and carried the baby by next hand... It was my first time in Kathmandu and I had no clue about what I would do. As I walked crying, I reached Maitidevi,I met a mid aged woman who was roasting corn in the street and described all my details. She showed sympathy towards me and took in her room. She bought powder milk, a baby bottle and some clothes for the baby.

The next day, I took the child with me, absolutely unknown about my destination. I called my son from a shop, hoping he had changed his thoughts. He snapped at me, saying they were shocked to know that I was still alive. It was painful and I started crying. The man at the shop offered me a household job. I agreed and started working. But the newborn baby was crying for her mother for24 hours. My employer got tired of the baby's crying and told me that I should handover the baby to the police or the hospital. I couldn’t let go of her, so I left the job instead.

 

While working at the house, I met a maintenance man. With his help,I started to remain in the open sky of the city and kept my body in the auction. I thought of killing myself several times amongst the lusting men. There was no difference between the little girl who had been abandoned by her mother and me who had been abandoned by my own children. I promised myself I would live for the little girl and do whatever I could to support her. I never spent the entire night with anyone, even if they paid me a lot of money. I don’t trust anyone.

My daughter is now 10 years old. She studies in class 3 in a boarding school. I have been selling myself to look after her expenses like school fees, stationaries, food and health expenses.

This society, the law and the government considerwhat I am doing illegal. They treat me with disgrace. Why doesn’t the government look after people like me who have to sell their body in order to survive? I am also a part of this society. Was it my fault that I gave life to a little girl who had been abandoned by her own mother? I do not have trust on any government, community or law because even the son whom I have kept for nine months in my own womb told me a ‘’prostitute’’Therefore, I do not trust anybody."As she finished, she cried out loud.

Menuka Thapa- President of RakshaNepa, www.rakshanepal.org

 

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Women’s and Children’s Vulnerability after the Earthquake

In category : Women Issues | Date: 18th Jun 2015

April 25th started out as any other ordinary Saturday;it was a weekend for the citizens of Nepal. No one would’ve ever thought of the devastating disaster that awaited them; an earthquake that would not only take more than 8000 lives, destroy several national heritages and people’s households, but also severely affect the lives of the ones that were spared; physically and mentally. Many lost their loved ones, their limbs, their homes, but most of all, their emotional stability. And not even mere two weeks later, another huge earthquake of 7.4 Richter scale took away whatever was left standing. The second one threatened the stabilising conscience of the citizens, and did nothing but scar them more. Amongst them, women and children have comparatively fallen victim to anxiety and irrational fear. Of course, aid was sent (and is still being sent), from across the globe, after the declaration of the state being in a national crisis; but people need more than materialistic objects to cope up with such life-changing catastrophe.

Women and children, especially, suffered through a lot of irreversible psychological trauma. They are still in constant fear of losing whatever they have left of themselves, and their lives. Evaluating the current situation, statistics show upsetting results of the quake; 404,000 children suffering from malnutrition, 200,000 pregnant and breast-feeding women malnourished, 1.5 million school-aged children in need of education in emergency support and more than 500,000 households without houses. Many people are vulnerable on the basis of socio-economic, language, religious, caste, ethnic and geographic structures, according Nepal Flash Appeal Revision. However, women and children are particularly more vulnerable in this situation as the consequences of the earthquake may lead to forced human trafficking, significant increase in prostitution, high risk of sexual violence and exploitation, as well as, early marriage. Dr FlaviaBustreo, WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Women’s and Children’s Health states that Nepal has made a substantial development and potential improvement to reduce child and maternal mortality. But, she also states that, “Women and children are often the most vulnerable and most affected in such disasters,” adding, “First of all, both women and babies are more susceptible to injuries. The harsh living conditions that follow a disaster like this, with unsafe food and insecure and temporary shelters, affect them disproportionately, especially young children under-five. Lack of safe water and sanitation can often lead to diarrhoea and pneumonia—two of the leading killers of infants. Vaccination programs are often swept to the side, as we have seen in the Ebola crisis, making children even more vulnerable to deadly, age-old diseases that are vaccine-preventable, like measles,”

Looking at the condition of Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, there were several cases of children trafficking through fake adoptions, which prove that traffickers will take maximum advantage of the on-going chaos to recruit people. This is not unlikely to happen in Nepal, since, Nepal has always been a country of migration and government does little to facilitate these migrations. Hence, we can clearly see why women and children are more vulnerable in a situation of national crisis such like an earthquake, particularly, in the case of Nepal.

-Sharmin Thapa

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अठार नपुग्दै यौन व्यवसाय

In category : Women Issues | Date: 8th Aug 2014

थापा बताउँछिन्। रक्षाले सन् २००८ मा क्यानाडेली सरकारसँग मिलेर मनोरञ्जनको क्षेत्रमा काम गर्ने २५ सय महिलामा गरेको एक अध्ययनमा ३९ प्रतिशत बालिका यसमा संलग्न रहेको पाइयो।

नाबालकलाई ललाईफकाई र जबरजस्ती यौनधन्दामा लगाउनु अपराध हो। यस्तो अपराधमा संलग्न हुने समाजका प्रतिष्ठित र पहुँचवाला व्यक्तिलाई राजनीतिक संरक्षण मिलिरहेकाले समस्या ज्यूँका त्यूँ रहेको अध्यक्ष थापाको भनाइ छ।

संस्थाका अनुसार हाल देशभरि दुई लाखको हाराहारीमा बाध्यात्मक देहव्यापारमा संलग्न हुने महिला छन्। यी महिला सामाजिक असुरक्षाका कारण संगठित भएर अगाडि आउन पनि नसक्ने र कानुनले पनि उनीहरूलाई नै दोषी मानेर पक्रने र बेइज्जत गर्ने भएकाले यस्ता वर्गका लागि राज्यले नै एउटा पुनस्र्थापनाको प्याकेज ल्याउनुपर्ने थापाको सुझाव छ।

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No one knows the extent of the sex industry’s reach in Kathmandu

In category : Uncategorized | Date: 18th Jul 2014

This cannot be accomplished alone, and will require active networking with other organizations that abhor this exploitation as much as we do.

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Thamel’s Underside

In category : Uncategorized | Date: 18th Jul 2014

In the surrounding streets of Kathmandu, one can find hundreds of dance, cabin and dohoree git restaurants and bars.  Most of these also cover for other services.  Most of the women working in all of these establishments are girls from rural areas who came to Kathmandu seeking work or education.  What they found, with no skills, was people who are only too ready to exploit them.  Once they have been used, these girls cannot go home.  So they need skills to earn a wage, and to care for their children, often a by-product of their jobs.  They sometimes need care for HIV-related illnesses.

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A New Life

In category : Women Issues | Date: 18th Jul 2014

Uma Khadka was 21 years old when she fled the conflict in her home village in Dolakha and came to Kathmandu. Unable to find any work, she landed up in one of Kathmandu’s seedy ‘dance bars’. She met a man there whom she married, but he soon started abusing her. One night, he poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.Uma was rescued by Rakshya Nepal, a charity dedicated to rehabilitating abused young women. Her body, hands and face are badly scarred but she is enrolled in driving lessons with eight other women rescued from violent husbands or abusive employers.

Sushmita Basnet lost her right arm when she was hit during crossfire in a battle at Mulkharka, Okhaldhunga five years ago. She was helicoptered out by the army and it took her one year to recuperate at Chhauni Hospital. Today, at 20, she has started rebuilding her life and, undaunted by her handicap, is taking tailoring lessons at Rakshya Nepal.

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Woman at Work

In category : Women Issues | Date: 18th Jul 2014

Case

Uma Khadka, a 21-year-old bar dancer, was set ablaze by her husband (a driver with the Nepal Electricity Authority) in January last year. Her neighbours rescued and admitted her to the hospital.

Uma’s statement to the doctor: Petrol had spilled on the floor and when I was trying to light a match I caught fire.

Doctor’s comments: Her bruises hint at a different story. It is quite impossible for her to survive. She is in a critical state.

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विकल्पको खोजीमा मसाजका महिला

In category : Women Issues | Date: 18th Jul 2014

कक्षा सातमा अध्ययनरत रहँदा माओवादी लडाकु र नेपाली सेनाबीचको दोहोरो भिडन्तमा परी उनको बाबुको मृत्यु भयो । त्यसपछि विधवा आमा र ५ जना भाइ-बहिनीको लालनपालनको गर्‍हांै भारी बोकेर उनी सहर हानिएकी थिइन् । रामेछाप जिल्लाको एउटा दुर्गम तामाङ बस्तीबाट एकैपटक साथीको आड र भरोसामा सहर पसेकी उनलाई के थाहा ? यो का माडौंको कोलाहलमा उनको रुवाइ अनि चित्कार सुन्ने कानहरू थुनिएका छन् भनेर !

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Empowering Women

In category : Women Issues | Date: 18th Jul 2014

The only literate one among her other seven siblings, Thapa was believed to be cursed after her father died while she was in the womb. Coming from an economically challenged family, her only source of stationery was winning the extracurricular activities in school. After grade 10, she made it to Kathmandu for further studies and to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. But it was not easy.

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