Trap of trafficking: How women and girls are lured into trafficking by their own relatives

According to police, a significant number of girls sold into brothels are trafficked by their own family members or acquaintances.

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Sushmita Aryal

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Kathmandu: A 15-year-old girl, whose parents’ separation forced her to leave school, fell victim to the cruel deception of her own relative. Struggling to make ends meet, the girl was lured by her aunt, who had been living in India for some time, with promises of a better life. Upon arriving in India, she was sold into a brothel in Pune.

Last year, a teenager from Banke district, who was sold in India by her own uncle, was rescued after a decade. The uncle had ‘stolen’ the girl, when she was just six years old, when no one was at home and took her to India. The uncle, who sold his niece in India and even tried to sexually abuse her, has already been arrested by the police. 

These are just two representative cases of how relatives are involved in trafficking young girls.

According to police, a significant number of girls sold into brothels are trafficked by their own family members or acquaintances. “The traffickers, who often target girls from impoverished families, promise them to provide employment or other incentives to lure their victims. They then transport the girls to India with the consent of their parents, and force them into the sex trade,” say police.

According to senior constable Sikandar Yadav, the cases of human trafficking have increased lately. “Three cases of trafficking were registered at the Parsa District Police in January,” he said.

Last year, a total of 30 girls were rescued from different parts of India by Maiti Nepal, a non-profit organization. According to the report by the Senior Inspector Indra Prasad Rai, a total of 280 women have been rescued from 2018 to 2021, while 11 were rescued in 2022. But the number is still increasing and it is a cause of concern, he further added.

“Many women and girls are trafficked by those they know, including close relatives and friends, either directly or indirectly. They are often too afraid to speak out, being unaware of repercussions, and many who initially agree to testify later back down,” said Sikandar Yadav. “This is often because the traffickers are themselves family members, making it difficult for the victims to take legal action.”

As traffickers especially target economically-backward people by promising them jobs, it is obvious that such people are prone to trafficking, according to him. “The main reason why women trafficking is increasing is definitely because of the lack of education. The basic need of any human being is to survive and for that they need money. Because such families do not have jobs to earn money, there is no choice other than relying on family members,” said Madhu Regmi, a communication officer working at Maiti Nepal. 

Maiti Nepal has been actively working to prevent women trafficking in villages by raising awareness campaigns, spreading messages in digital platforms and by publishing reading materials, according to Regmi. “Our team has been rigorously following up to reach out to a policy level. But making education accessible is a key,” said Regmi.