March 23, 2023
KATHMANDU – Until a few months ago, Uma Tamang, 16, was working at a cafe in her hometown Pokhara. She had befriended one Aayush Aryan through Facebook. Aayush had promised her a job at a beauty parlour in India. Uma left her job for what she presumed was a better opportunity for her.
“I was excited,” Uma said. After all, Aayush had sent her a ‘friend request’ and she had shared her story with him. “I am a grade 10 drop out and my financial situation is not good, so when he offered to provide me with a job in Delhi, I trusted him. He said I would earn IRs 30,000 per month.”
Following Ayush’s instructions, Uma went to Kathmandu, where she met a woman who would take her to Delhi. “There were two other girls with her. All of us were to leave for Delhi together,” Uma said.
Upon reaching Delhi, Uma was taken to a flat already occupied by several other Nepali girls. The girls told her that she was brought to Delhi for sex work, not for a job at a beauty salon.
“When I heard that, my first instinct was to run but I couldn’t find an escape,” Uma told the Post recently. “The landlady of that flat who I believe was also a Nepali threatened the girls with consequences if we didn’t oblige. I was forced to sleep with 6-10 men every day after that. My life turned into a nightmare.”
On March 18, the Delhi police and social workers rescued nine Nepali girls, including Uma. Uma spoke to the Post on Monday at the Nepali Embassy in Delhi.
In Indian cities, including Delhi, Nepali girls are being held captive and forced into sex work by agents who have rented flats in the city, says Navin Joshi, the head of a social organisation that works in rescuing women forced into sex work in India. According to him, the latest rescue may have been the first conducted by the organisation wherein a large number of Nepali teenage girls were rescued from a single location.
Chima Rai, a 17-year-old girl from Khotang who was also forced to engage in sex work for four months, says that she was forced to sleep with several men every day. The agents did not give her any money for her work and did not even provide medical assistance when she was sick.
“I remember those four months like a nightmare. I can’t forget them,” Chima said. “Every girl there was obligated to have sex with more than 180 men per month willingly or forcefully. They always showed the girls the temptation of earning INR100,000 per month but no one got paid.”
Chima, who dropped out of college after grade 11, worked at a finance company in Kathmandu for two years after her father passed away. In the Capital, she was acquainted with a woman named Senji Tamang, who took her to Delhi with a promise of INR25,000 monthly salary working in a cafe in Delhi.
“Upon reaching Delhi, the agent forced and threatened me to get involved in sex work,” Chima said. “The agent would drug me and force me to have sex with clients if I refused to do it willingly.”
About a month ago, the Nepali Embassy in Delhi received a letter from Nepal regarding the disappearance of four girls from Kathmandu. For the past three weeks, the embassy had been coordinating with the Delhi Police and various social organisations to search for the missing girls. Embassy Counselor and SSP Uma Prasad Chaturvedi said that with the cooperation of Delhi Police and some social organisations, nine girls and a two-month-old infant were rescued from the flat last Saturday. All the girls were between the ages of 16 and 18.
Joshi said that the police had raided three suspicious flats and located the four girls who were missing. Increasingly, Nepali girls are brought to India under various pretexts and forced into prostitution Joshi said. “It is very hard to find places where women are being held captive,” he added. “The Saturday rescue was a stroke of luck.”
Chaturvedi of the Embassy said that brokers and agents mostly target young and vulnerable girls in poor financial conditions. “They lure those girls to the border and bring them to India via unofficial border points,” he said.
Isha Tamang, a woman from Nuwakot, was one of those who were forced into prostitution. She arrived in Delhi with her two-month-old daughter in search of work. Then some people promised her a good job but she was held hostage and forced into sex work. “I thank my luck that I have been saved,” Isha said.