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Human trafficking in Nepal: a man-made havoc unleashed by a natural calamity

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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Cracking down upon the vivacity of the overarching mountains and the lush greenery, the amiable laughs and an affable brouhaha, the recent earthquake that had struck the Himalayan nation has not only juddered it but has also left its people at the mercy of conspirators and connivers. Amid the monotony and surging humdrum, the wreckage doled out by the calamity has given way to a series of incessant cries vociferously protesting the injustice put forth by few unscrupulous beings, fleshing out episodes of inhumanity and consolidating the unbridled, illicit trade of human trafficking in the nation.

The earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation, apart from wreaking havoc on its nature and environment, has also opened up a pathway for human trafficking in Nepal, which takes place in the name of help to brighten up their future.

“Three months after a major earthquake shook Nepal, the biggest threat is not disease or further tremors but child trafficking” – UNICEF

Keeping in line with the aforementioned statement by the UNICEF, there seems to be an escalation of human trafficking owing to the nation and its citizenry being in a state of limbo. Despite the relentless efforts put forth by the government officials and other international help in diluting the havoc through reconstruction and medical aid, there has been a marked rise in the number of trafficking cases.

According to a UNICEF report, around 12,000 to 15,000 Nepalese children are trafficked to India every year. A majority of the girls are forced into prostitution and are taken to gulf countries, Africa or are sold to brothel owners in India.

Taking advantage of the prevailing poverty, traffickers trick the vulnerable parents into their trap by assuring them of providing amenities and steady financial assistance that would strengthen their children’s future.

Virginia Perez, chief of child protection for UNICEF in Nepal, said that children are unnecessarily separated from their families and placed in institutions with fake promises of access to health, education and other services. But the reality is that they are being “exploited” by privately run shelter homes and orphanages that ignore the best interests of the child and “want to make profit.”

A Huffington Post report states that around 245 children have been rescued from getting trafficked or illegally placed in children’s care homes.

“The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future. But, the reality is that many of these children could end up being horrendously exploited and abused,” Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF’s Nepal representative, said.

Further, in some cases the parents are forced to relinquish their children, after which the hapless children are admitted to orphanages with dilapidated conditions.

Then these children are used as bait to garner voluminous funds from volunteers, donors and rich families.

Shakti Samuha, an NGO in Nepal, which has been relentlessly trying to curb the malpractice of trafficking unravelled the nuances of the trade. According to the organization, a calamitous situation is apt for the criminals to kick off their wretched deeds; this is the time when brokers, in the name of relief, go to kidnap or lure women.

Nevertheless, the NGO has been making honest efforts to make the locales of the earthquake-hit nation aware of such gory and horrific traps where a woman or child gets lured and thrown into excruciating conditions.

While paging through the annals of past, one might run into the root-cause triggering such a consolidation of the trade engulfing the country – a unique Nepalese cultural system known as Deukis.

As per this custom rich Zamindars’ whose wives fail to gestate babies procure girls from poor Nepalese families and keep them as their slaves or mistresses to produce babies. These girls get inducted in the household through temple rituals. On their 30th year or thereafter, these girls are forced into prostitution.

Considering a UN special report on violence against women, as formulated by Radhika Coomaraswamy, an internationally acclaimed human rights advocate, there has been an increase in the number of Deuki girls from a 12000 in 1992 to 30,000 in 2007.

Therefore, an escalation in the rate of human trafficking is predated by an ingrained culture that has been a part and parcel of this nation for a prolonged period now.

The grisly situation has been befittingly quoted by Damayanti Dutta in an India Today report on human trafficking in Nepal after the damage let loose by the earthquake in the month of April, “The earthquake has unleashed another sordid man-made tragedy on Nepal.” She further adds, “I will always remember those dysfunctional lives …terrible things are happening to Nepal and India has a huge responsibility.”

In a bid to crack down upon the illicit trade, the Nepalese government and organizations like UNICEF have undertaken several corrective steps. According to a Huffington post report, the UNICEF has set up around 84 checkpoints throughout the country in collaboration with NGOs like Maiti, in 12 sensitive points along the India and China border.

Besides that, the organization has also apprised 25 airline companies of the need to screen passengers properly in a bid to ensure that children travelling aboard are accompanied by at least one of the parents or an authorized guardian. It has also circulated 40,000 handbills in order to educate the public and sensitize them.

As cited in Reuters, the Nepal government has put a complete ban on children travelling alone without parents. According to a senior official of the district child welfare board, children under 16 have been completely forbidden from travelling all alone without a parent or an authorized adult.

“If strangers are found travelling with children they will be under the watch of the police,” said an official from the Ministry of Women, as quoted in Reuters.

The recent crackdown that busted two Air India staffs gives an inkling of the efforts made by the Indian government to cease the malpractice. According to reports, the culprits were found fudging documents of 7 Nepalese women who were being taken to Dubai without adhering to any prior immigration clearance. The miscreants were nabbed by the Delhi police.

Mulling over the severity of the issue, one would end up concluding that the wrongdoing can be diluted only if the Nepal government works hand in glove with other international organizations and governments and take up restorative measures in order to put an end to the macabre situation looming over the Himalayan nation. Further, the Indian government requires playing a major role, considering the fact that a major chunk of the trafficked women or girls is forced into brothel houses based in India.

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A Data Project To Predict Human Trafficking Before It Occurs By Corporate Giants

Along with IBM and Western Union, participants include Europol, Europe's law enforcement agency is also included

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Human Trafficking
People protesting against human trafficking and slavery raise their fists during a demonstration in Mexico City. VOA

Computer giant IBM Corp., financial services company Western Union
Co. and European police launched a project Thursday to share financial data that they said may one day be able to predict human trafficking before it occurs.

The shared data hub will collect information on money moving around the world and compare it with known ways that traffickers move their illicit gains, highlighting red flags signaling potential trafficking, organizers said.

“We will build and aggregate that material, using IBM tools, into an understanding of hot spots and routes and trends,” said Neil Giles, a director at global anti-slavery group Stop the Traffik, which is participating in the project.

Human Trafficking
Ethnic Uighur Muslim boy stands inside a police van in Khlong Hoi Khong of southern Songkhla province, Thailand. He was in a group of 200 people rescued from a human trafficking camp. VOA

Data collection, digital tools and modern technology are the latest weapons in the fight against human trafficking, estimated to be a $150 billion-a-year global business, according to the International Labor Organization.

The U.N. has set a goal of 2030 for ending forced labor and modern slavery worldwide, with more than 40 million people estimated to be enslaved around the world.

Certain patterns and suspicious activity might trigger a block of a transaction or an investigation into possible forced labor or sex slavery, organizers said.

The project will utilize IBM’s internet cloud services as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning to compare data and to spot specific trafficking terms, said Sophia Tu, director of IBM Corporate Citizenship.

Human Trafficking
The project will utilize IBM’s internet cloud services

With a large volume of high-quality data, the hub one day may predict trafficking before it happens, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“You can’t do it today because we’re in the process of building out that amount of data and those capabilities, but it’s in the road map for what we want to do,” she said.

While law enforcement is teaming up with banks and data specialists to chase trafficking, experts have cautioned that it can be a cat-and-mouse game in which traffickers quickly move on to new tactics to elude capture.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

Also, less than 1 percent of the estimated $1.5 trillion-plus laundered by criminals worldwide each year through the financial system is frozen or confiscated, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Along with IBM and Western Union, participants include Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency; telecommunications giant Liberty Global; and British banks Barclays and Lloyds, organizers said. (VOA)