Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Nepali women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Nepal, India, the Middle East, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Nepali men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in Nepal, India, the Middle East, Asia, 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 manpower agencies engaged in fraudulent recruitment and the imposition of high fees. Unregistered migrants – including the large number of Nepalis who travel through India or rely on unregistered recruiting agents – are particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Some migrants from Bangladesh and possibly other countries transit Nepal en route to employment in the Middle East, using potentially falsified Nepali travel documents, and may be subjected to human trafficking. Some government officials are reportedly 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. Nepali and Indian children are subjected to forced labor in the country, especially in domestic work, brick kilns, and the embroidered textile, or zari, industry. Bonded labor exists in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work.
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 increased efforts to prosecute suspected trafficking offenders in 2014, resulting in 203 convictions. The government issued an implementation plan for its National Plan of Action (NPA) and increased funding allocations to each of the 75 districts for establishment of at least three new village-level anti-trafficking committees. However, the government’s victim identification and protection efforts remained inadequate. In the course of police raids, there were reports police sometimes detained sex trafficking victims and subsequently returned them to their traffickers. Victims frequently retracted their witness statements following alleged threats by traffickers. The government inconsistently implemented anti-trafficking laws, as many government officials continued to employ a narrow definition of human trafficking and domestic sex and labor trafficking victims and male victims of transnational labor trafficking were only marginally protected, often leading 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 officials complicit in trafficking-related crimes; ensure victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; revise the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act (HTTCA), or draft new legislation to bring the definition of human trafficking in line with international law; institute formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services; respecting due process, prosecute suspected labor trafficking offenders and Nepali labor recruiters accused of charging excessive fees or engaging in fraudulent recruitment; lift current bans on migration for domestic work to discourage migration through undocumented channels; ensure victim services are available to both female and male victims of trafficking; implement HTTCA victim protection provisions; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made modest improvements in its law enforcement efforts. Nepal prohibits most, but not all, forms of trafficking in persons through the 2007 HTTCA and the 2008 regulation. The HTTCA criminalizes slavery and bonded labor; however, 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 definition, 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 may be prosecuted under the Child Labor Act and the Foreign Employment Act (FEA).
The Nepal Police Women’s Cell conducted 185 sex and labor trafficking case investigations under the HTTCA during the Nepali fiscal year, compared with 144 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. The government initiated prosecutions of 454 alleged traffickers in the fiscal year, compared with 375 in the previous period. Nepali courts convicted 203 traffickers in the fiscal year, an increase from 119 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 the vast majority of convictions under the HTTCA were transnational sex trafficking cases and law enforcement authorities often relied on other legislation to combat internal trafficking. Observers reported victims of transnational labor trafficking preferred to submit claims for compensation through the FEA, rather than pursue lengthy criminal prosecutions under the HTTCA, partially because awarded compensation had the potential to be higher.
During the reporting period, the Nepal Police provided officers with special investigative training and the Women’s Cell introduced a new course on psycho-social victim-centered training. Despite this training, police officers’ lack of awareness of the anti-trafficking law, challenges in evidence collection, and poor investigation techniques still impeded prosecution efforts. Police officers and political party officials allegedly own dance bars, establishments that are often locations for sex trafficking, though there is little direct evidence of the officials’ involvement in trafficking. In 2013, the anti-corruption commission indicted 46 officials from the Departments of Foreign Employment and Immigration for issuing fraudulent documents; the cases remained pending trial at the close of the reporting period.
The government maintained its modest efforts to protect victims. Authorities did not track the number of victims identified, and observers reported government efforts to identify victims remained inadequate. Immigration officials reportedly did not notify police of possible trafficking crimes when abused migrant workers returned to Nepal, and instead urged them to register complaints under the FEA. Although observers reported an overall decrease in the penalization of victims, during some raids of cabin restaurants, dance bars, and massage parlors, police reportedly arrested and imprisoned trafficking victims, including girls, before releasing them back to their traffickers who had bribed the police. Due to pressure from influential suspects, police sometimes interrogated victims to discourage them from filing cases. The national minimum standards for victim care set forth procedures for referring identified victims to services; however, referral efforts remained ad hoc and inadequate. The Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare (MWCSW) continued to partially fund eight rehabilitation homes and emergency shelters for female victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking. The government did not fund shelter services for adult male victims in Nepal, although there was one NGO-run shelter for men in Kathmandu. There were reports some of these shelters limited victims’ ability to move freely. The government continued to run emergency shelters for vulnerable female workers – some of whom were likely trafficking victims – in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Nonetheless, shelter capacity was insufficient to adequately respond to the demand for rescue services and assistance abroad.
The Foreign Employment Promotion Board collected fees from departing registered migrant workers for a welfare fund, to provide repatriation and one year of financial support to families of injured or deceased workers. During the fiscal year, the fund was used to repatriate 52 migrant workers and provided financial support to the families of 107 injured and 880 deceased workers. 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 re-trafficking. The HTTCA impeded victim-witness protection by allowing victims who failed to appear in court or who provided testimony contradicting their previous statements to be fined. Protection mechanisms mandated in the HTTCA were inconsistently applied. Officials stated victims frequently retracted their statements to law enforcement under alleged threat by traffickers or those acting on the trafficker’s behalf.
The government demonstrated increased efforts to prevent human trafficking. The inter-ministerial National Committee for Controlling Human Trafficking (NCCHT) met regularly and issued its second report on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government also issued the NPA implementation plan and conducted two coordination sessions with local officials from at least 27 districts to clarify their roles and responsibilities and set budget and timeline goals to ensure completion of the tasks. The NCCHT allocated 233,000-380,000 Nepali rupees (NPR), approximately $2,300-$3,750, to each of the 75 district committees to support awareness campaigns, meetings expenses, and emergency victim services; this was an increase over the 42,000-57,000 NPR ($414-$562) allocated last fiscal year. This allocation specifically included 120,000 NPR ($1,180) for each district to establish at least three new village level committees.
The government maintained its ban on migration of females under age 30 to the Gulf States for domestic work, and in May 2014, the government suspended all exit permits for domestic work. Officials acknowledged the bans had increased illegal migration and subsequently heightened migrants’ risks to exploitation; however the government viewed these policies as temporarily necessary to protect female migrant workers while formulating safe migration guidelines. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. All Nepali peacekeeping forces were provided pre-deployment anti-trafficking training. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. Nepal is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.