human trafficking | diplomacy | financial inclusion |

Financial inclusion and diplomatic efforts with India can lessen Nepal’s human trafficking problem

Exploring remedies to the persistent problem of human trafficking

- By Rima Sah |

Designed by Dibyak Kapali
Designed by Dibyak Kapali

Nepal is a source, destination, and transit point for human trafficking.

35,000 Nepalis were trafficked in the year 2018/19 alone, says the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). According to a recent 2022 NHRC report, some 40,300 Nepalis were trafficked between 2021 and 2022.

Around 1.9 million people are at risk of trafficking, says the 2022 report which stood at 1.5 million people in 2018/19.

Women and girls are the major victims who are trafficked to engage in exploitative activities like child labour, bonded labor and sexual slavery. It is estimated that around 18,250 girls and women are trafficked to and via India — translating into a daily trafficking of 50 girls and women, but numbers could be much higher due to the clandestine and complex nature of human trafficking.

Labour migration, child adoption, foreign employment, education, tourism, cross-national marriage, and cultural exchange programs often masquerade as legitimate opportunities for human trafficking. 

Traffickers take advantage of women from poor communities and rural and semi-urban areas who often face the major brunt of social, economic and geographical constraints of the country luring them with promising work opportunities, a better life in cities, marriage, and other favourable opportunities abroad. 

Evidently, the major factors behind human trafficking have economic ties — broadly poverty and unemployment. 

On the other hand, the open border with India, weak border security and a lack of surveillance across the entire border area has rather eased the trafficking — making it one of the easiest and busiest routes for human trafficking in the world.
Although Nepal’s border regions have several check posts, these posts primarily monitor international trade but there is less scrutiny on human trafficking, making it easier for traffickers to operate.

Financial inclusion across the country and enhanced strategic coordination with India to bolster anti-trafficking measures are two immediate solutions to this persistent socio-economic problem.

Integrating financial inclusion into policies and programs to reach historically excluded populations such as women, the poor, the marginalised, rural residents, and other vulnerable groups can be a crucial step in mitigating the problem of trafficking.

Improved financial products for at-risk populations such as low-interest rate microfinance provision coupled with financial literacy and economic opportunities can help women find better opportunities and financial autonomy inside the country.

At the macro level, transboundary realities also need stronger emphasis. It is estimated over 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia — real figures estimated to be much higher. 

It is imperative that the entire region leaves aside their geopolitical egos and vigorously engages to solve this persistent socio-economic problem that has defied borders for decades. Unless governments across political boundaries fail to come together to moderate human trafficking related issues, the problem will continue to prolong.  

For Nepal, it is important it pursues a bilateral agreement for a formal mechanism with India for controlling cross-border trafficking — for instance a joint pact for enhanced border screening measures, formation of a joint task force and better coordination with information and intelligence sharing between the police forces of the two countries.

While India has reached a formal understanding with Bangladesh on prevention of human trafficking especially trafficking in women and children: rescue, recovery, repatriation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking, it is a shame that Nepal and India have failed to establish similar official agreements despite several discussions regarding anti-trafficking efforts in the past.

These two broader efforts alone will however not fully eliminate the problem, and more reforms will be needed at different areas of society.

Rima Sah is a researcher/writer at the_farsight. She is a graduate in Sociology from South Asian University.

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