Thousands of girls work in Kathmandu’s dance bars and hotels, where many of them are sexually exploited on a daily basis.
In an effort to tackle this systemic crime against children, the Freedom Fund is now launching a new hotspot project in central Nepal, squarely focussed on addressing this abuse and its causal factors.
This launch coincides with a major milestone for the country: Nepal finally adopted a constitution that enshrines the right of every person to be protected against slavery. It also provides measures for compensation by the government if their citizens become enslaved – a very rare and welcome constitutional provision.
This is an important development, but the real challenge is to translate these constitutional commitments into real and positive change for those thousands of young adolescent girls working in dance bars and hotels.
These girls enter the adult entertainment sector through fraud and deception, and often are unaware of the requirement to perform sex acts. Once there, they may become bonded to their “employers” through the provision of loans, and are unable to leave if they want to.
Our Central Nepal program has three priorities: to offer realistic pathways out of exploitation for adolescent workers (shelter, counselling, health, education and livelihoods); intensive prevention work in known source areas of child trafficking (now even more affected due to the earthquake); and elimination of the market for minor girls within the adult entertainment industry by positively changing social values and behaviours, and increasing state enforcement.
We’re currently working with six local partners (with several more being assessed), and will be in a position to scale as new funders join this collaboration. The outstanding NGOs we’re partnering with have deep experience in this work, close rapport with workers in the sector, and a willingness to work together to influence those in power. We’ll also explore how innovative media and legal strategies can accelerate progress. The impact of this work will be a lifeline for adolescents currently denied their right to freedom.
In other Freedom Fund news, I am delighted to be at the Clinton Global Initiative this week and will be part of a panel discussion today discussing the nexus between slavery and environmental destruction. This is timely given the Freedom Fund is looking to launch its Brazil hotspot in 2016, working in areas where there is a high concentration of both slave labour and illegal deforestation.
Photo: Girls work at a “dancing club” in the Tamel neighbourhood of Kathmandu, Nepal. Credit: Katie Orlinsky © Legatum Limited 2015