Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Nepali women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Nepal, particularly in the adult entertainment industry and massage parlors, as well as in India, the Middle East, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Sweden. Nepali men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in Nepal, India, the Middle East, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Israel, and the United States in construction, factories, mines, domestic work, begging, and the adult entertainment industry. In many cases, this forced labor is facilitated by recruitment fraud and high recruitment fees charged by unscrupulous Nepal-based labor brokers and manpower agencies. Unregistered migrants—including the large number of Nepalis who travel through India or rely on unregistered recruiting agents—are more vulnerable to forced labor. Some migrants from Bangladesh, Burma, and possibly other countries transit through Nepal for employment in the Middle East, fraudulently using Nepali travel documents, and may be subjected to human trafficking. Nepali and Indian children are subjected to forced labor within the country, especially in domestic work, brick kilns, and the embroidered textile, or zari, industry. Extreme cases of forced labor in the zari industry involve severe physical abuse of children. Bonded labor exists in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic servitude. Bonded laborers freed by a government decree in 2000 may be vulnerable to trafficking in the absence of sufficient government-mandated rehabilitation services.
The Government of Nepal does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made improvements in its efforts to prevent trafficking; during the reporting period, authorities created a new investigative body to pursue trafficking cases, suspended manpower agencies and orientation centers for malpractice, and funded and participated in a range of awareness-raising activities. To address corruption, it indicted public officials and private individuals for fraudulent labor recruitment. The government continued to struggle with victim protection and law enforcement efforts, particularly with regard to labor trafficking. Anti-trafficking structures were not fully effective, and trafficking victims did not receive sufficient support from the government. Anti-trafficking laws were inconsistently implemented, and the government ineffectively used funds allocated for protection. Victim identification efforts were weak; there were reports that sex trafficking victims, including children, were returned to their abusers after being detained in the course of police raids. Many government officials continued to employ a narrow definition of human trafficking; domestic sex and labor trafficking victims and male victims of transnational labor trafficking were only marginally protected, often leading the vulnerable to repeated victimization.
Recommendations for Nepal:
Increase law enforcement efforts against all forms of trafficking, including sex trafficking of Nepali females within Nepal, and against government officials complicit in trafficking-related crimes; ensure victims are not punished for their involvement in prostitution or forgery of official documents as a direct result of their being trafficked; ensure officials convicted of trafficking-related offenses receive sentences that reflect the gravity of their crimes; prosecute, respecting due process, suspected labor trafficking offenders and Nepali labor recruiters accused of charging excessive recruitment fees or engaging in fraudulent recruitment; lift the ban on women under age 30 traveling to the Gulf states for employment as domestic workers to discourage migration through illegal channels, and publicize that policy change; raise awareness among government officials and the public of the existence of forced prostitution of Nepali women and girls within Nepal; work to revise the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act (HTTCA), or finalize a new draft law to bring the definition of human trafficking in line with international standards; institute a formal procedure to identify victims, particularly by police who conduct raids, and refer them to protection services; modify the business licensing regime to facilitate effective police monitoring of brick kilns and adult entertainment businesses; continue to monitor and evaluate anti-trafficking shelters; ensure victim services are available to male victims of trafficking; implement the victim protection provisions of the HTTCA, including protections for victims who serve as witnesses in trafficking prosecutions; provide specialized training to investigators, including on evidence collection and educating victims on the processes required to submit their testimony; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Nepal demonstrated mixed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; authorities convicted fewer traffickers, but they prosecuted public officials accused of complicity in fraudulent recruitment. Nepal prohibits many, but not all, forms of trafficking in persons through the 2007 HTTCA and the 2008 regulation. While the HTTCA criminalizes slavery, bonded labor, and the buying and selling of a person, it does not criminalize the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor. It criminalizes forced prostitution but, in a departure from the 2000 UN TIP Protocol’s definition of trafficking, does not consider the prostitution of children as a form of trafficking absent force, fraud, or coercion. The law also criminalizes facilitating prostitution and removal of human organs. Prescribed penalties range from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Bonded labor is prohibited through the 2002 Bonded Labor (Prohibition) Act. Forced child labor and transnational labor trafficking offenses may be prosecuted under the Child Labor Act and the Foreign Employment Act.
The Nepal Police Women’s Cell conducted 144 sex and labor trafficking investigations under the HTTCA during the Nepali fiscal year ending in on July 15, 2013, compared to 118 cases in the previous fiscal year. These investigations involved crimes in which women and girls were the primary victims; crimes involving male victims are handled by other police investigative units. For the first time, the Office of the Attorney General provided categorized case data on prosecutions based on the types of exploitation covered by the HTTCA. The government initiated prosecutions of 375 defendants in the fiscal year, compared to 371 in the previous period. Nepali courts convicted 119 traffickers in the fiscal year, a decrease from 190 in the previous period. This represented a 44 percent conviction rate, compared with 53 percent in the previous period. The government did not provide information on sentences or the number of convicted traffickers who served time in jail. Government officials and civil society groups noted that the vast majority of convictions under the HTTCA concerned transnational sex trafficking and that law enforcement authorities often rely on other legislation to combat internal trafficking. The government provided specialized training to 249 judicial and law enforcement officials in 2013. Nevertheless, police officers’ lack of awareness of the anti-trafficking law, challenges in evidence collection, and poor investigation techniques impeded prosecutions. Observers reported that victims of transnational labor trafficking prefer to submit claims for compensation through the Department of Foreign Employment (DFE) rather than pursuing lengthy criminal prosecutions. In April 2013, authorities established a 14-person department within the Central Investigative Bureau that was dedicated to trafficking investigations; however, the government did not provide the investigators with trafficking-specific training.
There continued to be reports that some government and political party officials were complicit in trafficking-related crimes. There were reports that political parties sometimes supported traffickers by pressuring a variety of authorities, including police, prosecutors, and the judiciary, to ignore or drop cases. Traffickers reportedly exploited ties to government officials to facilitate trafficking, including by paying bribes for protection and favors. There continued to be allegations that police officers and political party officials owned dance bars, establishments that are often locations for sex trafficking, though there is little direct evidence of the officials’ involvement in trafficking. Upon discovering businesses facilitating trafficking, authorities rarely prosecuted the owners. Some officials reportedly have been bribed to include false information in genuine Nepali passports or to provide fraudulent documents to prospective labor migrants, a tactic used by unscrupulous recruiters to evade recruitment regulations. In 2013, the anti-corruption commission indicted 46 officials from the DFE and Department of Immigration for issuing fraudulent documentation; the cases were pending trial at the close of the reporting period.
The Government of Nepal did not demonstrate increased progress in protecting victims. Authorities do not track the number of victims identified, but observers reported that efforts by public officials to identify victims remained inadequate. In some raids of cabin restaurants, dance bars, and massage parlors, trafficking victims, including girls, were reportedly arrested and imprisoned for up to 24 days, after which they were released back to their traffickers who paid bribes to the police. One NGO identified 122 victims and another identified 463 child victims in 2013. The national minimum standards for victim care outlined procedures for referring identified victims to protection services; however, efforts to consistently refer victims to care were inadequate. The Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare (MWCSW) continued to partially fund eight mixed-housing shelter homes for female victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault, as well as women’s emergency shelters for victims of trafficking and other forms of abuse, run by local women’s cooperatives, but it was unclear how many of those assisted were trafficking victims. The government disbursed the equivalent of approximately $36,100 to these shelters to offer medical treatment, legal services, education, food, and clothing; however, most of the funds the government allocated for protection efforts remained unspent because the NCCHT did not receive sufficient requests for money for protection and rehabilitation efforts. Authorities returned identified child victims to their parents or placed them in government shelters or foster care. The government did not fund shelter services for adult male victims in Nepal, although some Nepali embassies sheltered male laborers fleeing exploitive conditions overseas. Other facilities that assist victims were run by NGOs without government assistance, and most provided a range of services. There were reports that some of these shelters limited victims’ ability to move freely and controlled their access to money and to family members.
The government continued to run emergency shelters for vulnerable workers—some of whom were likely trafficking victims—in embassies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia. The MWCSW allocated the equivalent of approximately $3,000 to the Nepali consulate in Kolkata to assist in repatriating victims. Nepali embassies also assisted some victims in addressing labor disputes and referring trafficking cases to the DFE. The Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB) collected fees from departing registered migrant workers for a welfare fund, but the funds were rarely disbursed. The government did not provide legally mandated benefits to many bonded laborers who in past years were freed through government decree, leaving them impoverished and vulnerable to further trafficking. The police do not have sufficient resources to provide protection for victims and witnesses, though they paid for travel expenses in some cases. The lack of effective victim-witness protections continued to be a major impediment to prosecutions.
The Government of Nepal made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking. Under the leadership of an MWCSW undersecretary, the inter-ministerial National Committee for Controlling Human Trafficking (NCCHT) met regularly; continued to develop, but did not finalize, a national action plan; and prepared a public report on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The NCCHT provided each of the 75 District Committees for Controlling Human Trafficking (DCCHT) between the equivalent of approximately $420 and $570 for awareness campaigns, meetings expenses, and emergency victim services. A public official estimated that more than half of the DCCHTs were active. The NCCHT issued a directive for DCCHTs to form village-level committees. Observers noted that coordination among government bodies remained weak, due in part to an unclear delineation of responsibilities, though coordination between government bodies and NGOs was reportedly strong. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $2,700 to mark the annual national anti-trafficking day, and officials held several events throughout the year to raise awareness. Observers reported that the government’s trafficking rapporteur office was ineffective. The government maintained the ban on migration of females under age 30 to the Gulf states for domestic work, increasing the likelihood that women will use unregulated recruiters who are more likely to exploit migrant workers. Observers reported that the ban has not reduced the number of women traveling to the Gulf states.
The Government of Nepal worked to improve the monitoring of labor recruitment. The DFE conducted surprise inspections of 156 manpower agencies and issued 227 license suspensions during the reporting period. Nepali recruitment agents often register up to three companies; in the event of license cancellation, the agent continues business under a different name. In March 2014, the DFE fined 44 manpower agencies between the equivalent of approximately $1,000 to $2,000 after mobile monitoring teams discovered malpractice, including withholding aspiring migrants’ passports and operating unlicensed agents. The DFE also ordered compensation for aggrieved workers who submitted claims during the fiscal year; during the first six months of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the DFE ordered the equivalent of approximately $407,900 in compensation from labor recruiters. In January 2014, the DFE inspected 34 of Nepal’s 103 pre-migration orientation centers; all were found to be in violation of legal guidelines and 25 were closed for up to one month. Authorities indicted 18 defendants for illegal recruitment practices; their trials were pending at the close of the reporting period. The DFE maintained limits on fees charged to labor migrants; the fees varied based on the destination country. Nepal does not have effective licensing regulations for the adult entertainment industry or brick kilns, hampering the possibility for effective police monitoring. The government did not report any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. All Nepali military troops and police assigned to international peacekeeping forces were provided pre-deployment anti-trafficking training. Nepal is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.