By: Niyama Rai, CTIP Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for The Asia Foundation
Eighteen year-old Sita met Prakash in Banke, a district in the far west of Nepal, where she lived with her parents. Prakash came to her village during a festival celebration, and Sita’s uncle introduced them. The two quickly fell in love and decided to elope. Prakash told Sita that he had a job waiting for him in Delhi, and the two of them traveled to the border to cross into India.
Upon Prakash’s suggestion, they took different rickshaws to cross the border. They traveled to Delhi by bus, and Prakash set Sita up in a private house. He told her that he had to travel to another city for work, but that he would return in two weeks. He never returned, and instead, Sita was sold into a brothel a few weeks later by the landlady of the house where she was staying. In the brothel, Sita was beaten, tortured, and coerced into serving 20 to 25 male clients a day.
Women gather at a CTIP-supported community orientation meeting in Kanchanpur, a remote district in the far west of Nepal. Photo Credit: The Asia Foundation
After a year in the brothel, Sita fell ill and was taken to receive treatment at a nearby medical center. She managed to escape from the hospital, and with the assistance of a Nepali whom she met during her escape, returned to Nepal and was reunited with her family. A month later, Sita was approached by the Center for Legal Research and Resource Development (CeLRRd), a paralegal committee organized by a local NGO, which encouraged her to go to the local police and file a report against Prakash. Unfortunately, Sita was too traumatized to tell her story and couldn’t garner enough evidence to file a case.
Sita was then referred to CeLRRd’s Victim Legal Aid Lawyer in Nepalgunj. Under The Asia Foundation’s USAID-funded Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) program, a lawyer worked closely with Sita to ensure she understood her legal rights and the victim protection provisions of the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007 of Nepal. Equipped with an increased understanding of her rights and of victim protection strategies, Sita filed a First-Incident-Report with the Nepal Police. On the basis of this report, the police carried out an investigation and eventually arrested Prakash.
Sita’s case was filed in the district court and CeLRRd’s CTIP-funded Victim Legal Aid Lawyer represented her. She bravely testified against Prakash, which strengthened the case. During the court hearing, Prakash admitted to having trafficked three other women on the pretense of marriage. With Sita’s testimony and the persistence of the legal counsel, Prakash was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
USAID is currently supporting a five-year project with The Asia Foundation to combat human trafficking in Nepal. Trafficking is a serious problem in Nepal, with as many as 15,000 Nepali women and girls trafficked annually to India and over 30,000 trafficked domestically for involuntary labor and sexual exploitation. To combat these trends, The Asia Foundation and its partners are increasing awareness of the risks of trafficking in six key districts, while working to improve the ability of the judicial system and law enforcement to prosecute traffickers. The program also provides legal aid to trafficking victims like Sita, one of the many beneficiaries of the project’s counseling and court representation for survivors.
Check out USAID’s IMPACT blog this week for more stories about USAID TIP programs around in the world in support of the Department of State’s eleventh annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report release.
Click here for further information on USAID’s work on Trafficking in Persons.
Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.