Sunday, June 7, 2015



Posted by The Himalayan Voice:
Already a centre of trafficking and exploitation, the quake-hit country's police are looking to protect displaced women and children living in makeshift camps

By Ishwar Rauniyar in Kathmandu and Jason Burke in Delhi

Nepalese police officers conduct a self-defence training session for women and children at a 
shelter for earthquake victims in Kathmandu. Photograph: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images
Police in Nepal have started self-defence lessons for women and girls in camps for people displaced by massive earthquakes earlier this year after concerns about a number of sexual assaults and an increase in reports of sexual harassment.

More than 8,700 people died in the two major quakes that hit Nepal on April 25 and May 12, destroying nearly half a million houses and leaving thousands camping out in the open.

"While visiting different camps in Kathmandu, we realised the need for such training so that women can protect themselves," said Tara Thapa, deputy superintendent of police in Nepal. "Women and children are more vulnerable to sexual violence in this situation. The culprits are looking to take benefits of the situation."

The courses started last week.

"We are teaching them several techniques, including how to kick and punch, as well as various locks. There are some lessons of judo and karate, too," Thapa said. "Even a weak woman can fight against a strong man. This will help them to save themselves."

Bipana Tamang, 24, was one of dozens of women who had gathered at the Boudhanath monastery in Kathmandu for training. From Nuwakot district near Kathmandu, she has been living outside since the earthquake and runs a small restaurant.

"I have faced many cases of harassment while dealing with the customers. These techniques will help me to tackle such problems," she said. "This is the third day and I have learnt how to punch and to kick. Now, I am confident I can fight to save myself."

Narayan Singh Khadka, a Kathmandu metropolitan police spokesman, said the initiative had been launched after several cases of harassment and "drunk people entering camps".

"We are receiving overwhelming response from the people" he said.

The police in Nepal are planning to expand the sessions to several other camps in Kathmandu.

Widespread unemployment, poverty and the impact of a 10-year Maoist insurgency have made Nepali women and children vulnerable to trafficking networks, and campaigners say that the recent disaster has increased the threat.

Police and security agencies have increased vigilance against trafficking in quake-hit areas and along the Nepal-India border.

In an effort to prevent the trafficking of children, the government recently imposed a three-month ban on adoption and made it mandatory for travelling youngsters to carry permission letters if they are not accompanied by parents.

Authorities in India last month rescued more than 20 children from a human trafficking network targeting families who lost their livelihoods in the earthquakes.

The children's parents, from poor villages in northern India, had been working as migrant labourers in Nepal and were laid off after the earthquake. As they crossed into India at the Raxaul border post, they were convinced to allow their children, between the ages of eight and 14, to travel with the traffickers, who promised to give them well-paid jobs in comfortable conditions.

The children were in fact being taken to a bag-manufacturing factory in Mumbai. Four traffickers were detained by the police.

The government of the poor south Asian state has struggled to cope with the magnitude of the disaster. Some analysts estimate rebuilding could cost the country between $10bn to $15bn (£6.5bn-£9.8bn), almost half its annual GDP, with further costs coming from an economic slowdown as a result of the tragedy.

There are already fears that the tourist industry, a major employer, will be hit hard.

Trekking and mountaineering is a huge revenue earner for the impoverished country, home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000 metres, with Everest alone attracting hundreds of climbers during the April-May spring season, when weather conditions are ideal for ascents.

Hundreds of climbers had to abandon their attempts when an avalanche triggered by the earthquake struck Everest base camp, killing 18 people and marking a second year with virtually no summits after the deaths of 16 Nepalese guides in 2014 led to a shutdown of the world's highest peak.

The climbers may be allowed to use their climbing permits, which could cost up to £16,000, next year, an official said last week.

Many aid agencies remain frustrated by bureaucratic and logistic bottlenecks which have slowed delivery of assistance to the most needy.

No comments: