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, the imposition of high fees facilitates forced labor, and recruitment agencies engage in fraudulent recruitment. Unregistered migrants—including the large number of Nepalis who travel through India or rely on unregistered recruiting agents—are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. 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. 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. Many Nepalis living in areas affected by an earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 are vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers utilize social media and mobile technologies to exploit their victims. Some government officials are reportedly bribed to include false information in genuine Nepali passports, including of age documents for child sex trafficking victims, or to provide fraudulent documents to prospective labor migrants, a tactic used by unscrupulous recruiters to evade recruitment regulations.
The Government of Nepal does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to prosecute suspected traffickers in 2015; however, the law did not define the prostitution of children as human trafficking absent force, fraud, or coercion. The government took steps to address the increased vulnerability of women and children in areas affected by the April 2015 earthquake, including awareness-raising programs. The government adopted labor migration guidelines in April 2015, including a policy to reduce the financial burden on Nepali migrant workers at risk of being subjected to trafficking. Nonetheless, the government’s victim identification and protection efforts remained inadequate, and the government did not track the total number of victims identified. The government inconsistently implemented anti-trafficking laws, as many government officials continued to employ a narrow definition of human trafficking. The impact of the April 2015 earthquake placed a significant strain on government resources.
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) to bring the definition of human trafficking in line with international law; institute formal procedures for proactive identification and referral of trafficking victims to protection services; respecting due process, prosecute suspected labor trafficking offenders and labor recruiters accused of charging excessive fees or engaging in fraudulent recruitment; eliminate all recruitment fees; lift current bans on migration for domestic work to discourage migration through undocumented channels; enforce newly adopted labor migration guidelines; ensure victim services are available to victims of trafficking of all genders; implement HTTCA victim protection provisions; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2007 HTTCA and the 2008 regulation prohibit most, but not all, forms of trafficking in persons. The HTTCA criminalizes slavery and bonded labor but 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. The 2002 Bonded Labor (Prohibition) Act prohibits bonded labor. Forced child labor and transnational labor trafficking may be prosecuted under the Child Labor Act and the Foreign Employment Act (FEA). The National Committee for Controlling Human Trafficking (NCCHT) drafted prospective revisions to the HTTCA to bring the definition of human trafficking closer in line with international law; however, the government did not adopt the revisions by the end of the reporting period.
The Nepal Police Women’s Cell conducted 181 sex and labor trafficking investigations under the HTTCA during the Nepali fiscal year, compared with 185 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. In one of these investigations, police arrested members of a transnational crime network involved in trafficking Nepali women and children in the Middle East and Africa. The government prosecuted alleged traffickers in 341 cases in the fiscal year; of these, 227 remained pending. This data was not disaggregated to distinguish between sex and labor trafficking cases, or new cases versus those initiated in the previous fiscal year. At the district level, courts convicted 260 traffickers during the fiscal year, compared with 203 traffickers in the previous year, and acquitted the accused in 107 cases. Victims of transnational labor trafficking preferred to submit claims for compensation through the FEA, rather than pursue lengthy criminal prosecutions under the HTTCA, often to avoid the stigma associated with being labeled a trafficking victim and because the potential to be awarded compensation was higher.
The Nepal Police launched an initiative to combat human trafficking, resulting in the establishment of a working group with civil society and international organizations. Twenty senior police officials attended a course on trafficking investigations and victim protection. The women’s cell continued conducting a course on psycho-social, victim-centered training during the reporting period. Approximately 35 police officers received extensive crime scene training on investigating trafficking and gender-based violence by an NGO, in partnership with the government. Despite this training, police officers’ lack of awareness of the anti-trafficking law, challenges in evidence collection, and poor investigative techniques impeded prosecution efforts. In 2013, the anti-corruption commission indicted 46 officials from the Departments of Foreign Employment and Immigration for issuing fraudulent documents; criminal proceedings were ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The government did not report any newly initiated investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking or related offenses.
The government maintained modest efforts to protect victims. Authorities remained without formal victim identification procedures and did not track the number of victims identified; however, the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare (MWCSW) began developing a mechanism to record this information. NGOs reported increased vigilance by authorities following the April 2015 earthquake, which led to improved identification of potential trafficking victims. Police identified 196 potential victims by the end of June 2015; however, it is unclear how many suffered or imminently faced exploitation. Immigration officials received anti-trafficking training, resulting in an increase in identification and referral of potential labor trafficking victims to police. Nonetheless, many law enforcement officials did not recognize that returning labor migrants who reported exploitation could be victims of trafficking, and the government did not utilize proactive screening measures among this population. Department of Foreign Employment officials frequently urged abused migrant workers returning to Nepal to register complaints under the FEA rather than notify police. Observers reported that government efforts to identify victims of sex trafficking remained inadequate. Police reduced the number of raids conducted on adult entertainment establishments in Kathmandu, resulting in a decrease in arrests of potential sex trafficking victims; this also resulted in decreased identification of victims. When properly identified, victims were not detained, fined, or jailed for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking. Local officials reportedly facilitated the falsification of age documents for child sex trafficking victims.
The national minimum standards for victim care set forth procedures for referring identified victims to services. Referral efforts remained ad hoc and inadequate, although the government began drafting standard procedures for the identification and referral for both domestic and foreign victims of trafficking, as well as repatriation procedures. In the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake, the government and several NGOs focused on providing services to victims in the earthquake-affected areas, increasing services and access to vulnerable populations. MWCSW maintained partial funding of eight rehabilitation homes and emergency shelters for female victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking. During the reporting period, the government opened the first long-term shelter for women referred from emergency shelters. MWCSW revised guidelines to increase funding for victim services, including legal assistance, psychological support, transportation, reunification with families, medical expenses, and other forms of support. The government allocated funds for the protection of adult male trafficking victims but did not fund shelter services. There was one NGO-run shelter for men in Kathmandu. Emergency shelters for vulnerable female workers—some of whom were likely trafficking victims—in Nepali embassies in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates were inadequate to support the high demand for assistance. The government does not have established procedures for alternatives to the deportation of foreign victims. During the reporting period, the Nepali embassy in India assisted in repatriating two Nepali women who were promised jobs in Saudi Arabia, but were instead forcibly held and raped by a Saudi Arabian diplomat posted in India; two of their alleged traffickers were arrested by police in Nepal.
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, which could include trafficking victims. During the fiscal year, the fund was used to repatriate 216 migrant workers and provide financial support to the families of 181 injured and 1,002 deceased workers. A revision to the HTTCA adopted in a gender equality bill in October 2015 ensures victim compensation when the government is unable to collect fines from traffickers. Victim-witness protection mechanisms remained insufficient legally and in practice, and were impeded by a 2015 amendment to the HTTCA that reinstated a provision allowing victims to be fined if they failed to appear in court or criminally liable for providing testimony contradicting their previous statements. The government trained prosecutors on victim protection needs during legal proceedings. Although victim confidentiality improved, identifying information—such as phone numbers and names of relatives—periodically appeared in public documents, increasing victims’ risks of reprisals.
The government demonstrated increased efforts to prevent human trafficking. NCCHT met regularly and issued a third annual report on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government conducted coordination sessions with local officials from all 75 districts to clarify responsibilities in the implementation of the national action plan. NCCHT allocated approximately 250,400 Nepali rupees (NPR) ($2,504) to each of the 75 district committees to support awareness campaigns, meeting expenses, and emergency victim services; this was similar to the 233,000-380,000 NPR ($2,300-$3,750) allocated last fiscal year. Observers reported that while interagency coordination improved, it was still insufficient. The government conducted and participated in public awareness campaigns throughout the country; however, they did not often reach those most vulnerable to trafficking. Following the April 2015 earthquake, the Nepal Police Women’s Cell ran awareness programs in eight districts on the increased risks of trafficking. Following increased reports of parents permitting children to move from earthquake affected areas to the capital for educational opportunities, MWCSW banned the transport of children younger than 16 years of age unaccompanied by a legal guardian to another district without approval from the child welfare board. To prevent sex trafficking in the adult entertainment industry, NCCHT reinstated monitoring committees in nine districts.
The government finalized labor migration guidelines in April 2015, including a policy requiring foreign employers to cover visa and transportation costs for Nepali migrant workers to reduce the financial burden that can make them more susceptible to trafficking. This policy restricts service fees recruitment agencies can charge workers to 10,000 NPR ($100), which is only allowed when employers are unwilling to bear all recruitment costs. Advocates supported the policy but assessed implementation as insufficient and employment agencies remained unwilling to adhere to the policy at the close of the reporting period. The government suspension on all exit permits for domestic work was lifted and the age limit for the ban on migration of females to the Gulf States for domestic work was decreased from 30 years to 24 years. In addition, the new guidelines require domestic worker recruitment to go through licensed recruitment agencies. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for all Nepali peacekeeping forces before deployment and for its diplomatic personnel. Nepal is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.