Nepal joins the fight against human trafficking

Nepal launches global report on trafficking in persons4 March 2009 - The Global Report on Trafficking in Person's was launched on 13 th February in South Asia, at the Yak and Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The report was launched by the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Chief Guest for the evening and Secretary, Ministry of women, Children and Social Welfare, Chairperson for the evening. Mr Robert Piper, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal was also present on the occasion. The high profile event was attended by over 150 people, including representatives from the Government, international donor community, NGOs, INGOs, the media and UN sister agencies.

The evening began with Ms Ashita Mittal, Deputy Representative and Officer in Charge UNODC ROSA presenting a broad overview of the report and UNODC's work on anti human trafficking in the region. Ms Mittal highlighted the fact that human trafficking is one of the worst forms of organized crime that affects almost every country on the planet. As a global problem, it requires a global response. The UN office on drugs and crime had put together this first global assessment on trafficking in persons, based on data gathered from 155 countries. It offered the first global assessment on the scope of human trafficking and what is being done to respond to it. It included an overview of trafficking patterns; legal steps taken in response and country specific information on reported cases of trafficking in persons, victims and prosecutions.

According to the report, Ms Mittal said, the number of convictions for human trafficking was simply not enough. As an example of this, as of 2007-08, 2 out of every 5 countries covered by the UNODC report had not recorded a single conviction.  The report also highlighted the fact that worldwide almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. The most common form of human trafficking, according to the report was sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation were predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women made up the largest proportion. Ms Deepika Naruka, Research Officer UNODC ROSA and contributor to the report, then presented the highlights of the South Asia section of the report.

Mr Robert Piper, UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal, in his statement highlighted that UN efforts to combat trafficking in Nepal had taken different shapes and were implemented through different mechanisms. UNICEF, UNODC, ILO, UNAIDS, UNIFEM, UNFPA and UNDP were collaborating to mainstream trafficking in their respective country programmes, supporting awareness campaigns, providing technical assistance to law enforcement agencies, helping develop national policies and guidelines, providing care and support through rehabilitation and transit centres, providing vocational training and helping foster dialogue on cross-border efforts.

He stressed that the United Nations system in Nepal would intensify its support to the government and civil society in this realm: based on the belief that the only way forward is to work together, continue gathering solid evidence and plan a robust response. He said that improving the data collection and analysis through global and standardized reports would contribute to further mobilise stakeholders in Nepal in order to establish a more comprehensive and multi-sectoral response to the unacceptable threat of trafficking that endangers victim's lives and their families.

Mr Govind Prasad Kusum, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Nepal, presented the situation of trafficking in Nepal, and Government's initiatives to combat the same. He pointed out that trafficking in persons, more specifically in women and children, was a very serious human rights problem in Nepal. Studies revealed, he said, that among others, the perpetrators often take advantage of poverty and ignorance among young and rural women to compel them to accept the menace of trafficking. At the same time, the studies in the situation of trafficking especially on women and children showed that the problem of trafficking has extended from rural to urban areas, and from India to other countries in the context of social, political and economic development of Nepal. However, due to the clandestine nature of the crime and lack of effective institutional reporting system, the updated situation of trafficking and impact in combating trafficking from policy, program and judicial efforts have been difficult to monitor and report.

Focusing on the government's response to trafficking, he said that these could be broadly clubbed under three heads:

i.                     National policies on trafficking

ii.                   Institutional arrangements for combating trafficking

iii.                  Government's programs directly or indirectly related to anti - trafficking initiatives.

Anti trafficking policies, he stressed, have found a mention in the Development Plans and the National Plan of Actions for the years 1998, revised in 2001 and plans including women and children made in the year 2004. Further, under the Institutional Arrangements to deal with trafficking, Task Forces have been set up against trafficking of women and children including the National Task Force the District Task Force and the Municipality Task Force. Regarding government programmes, he pointed out that the Ministry of Home Affairs has a programme of cross border security and organizes annual cross border meetings with Indian security officers on border issues including trafficking in women and children. Also, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, WCSCs (Women and Child Service Centres) have been formed in 26 districts to protect children and women from violence specially related to trafficking.

Ms Bindra Hada Bhattarai, Secretary, Ministry of Women, children and Social Welfare, started off by acknowledging that the report had drawn attention to a very serious yet largely ignored social evil. She stressed that the need of the hour, was to act by joining forces across borders, and committing resources to the ongoing preventive, rescue and rehabilitation efforts in a rights based perspective.

She spoke about the legislative efforts made by the Government of Nepal in this area, specifically the Anti Human Trafficking Act of 2007. Pointing out that this was the first legislation drawn up from the victimology perspective she said that some of the salient features of the Act were:

  • Compensation to the victim
  • Rehabilitation
  • In camera court proceedings
  • Protection of privacy of the victim
  • Protection to the victim and
  • Onus of proof on the perpetrator

Participants at the meeting were enthusiastic about the report and highlighted the need for integrated programming and more resource allocation for anti human trafficking efforts from all present there.