By Nima Kafle
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Women from the most disadvantaged part of Nepali society say the government raised their hopes four years ago with promises of helping them out of the sex trade. But since then, many have returned to the only livelihood they can find.
Various local governmental and nongovernmental organizations in the Badi-inhabited regions have banned prostitution, which has been openly practiced for the past five decades.
But Nirmala Nepali, a member of both the National Badi Rights Struggle Committee and a government committee formed after the 2007 protest to assess Badi rights, says women get around this by going to other villages without such restrictions.
In the absence of other employment opportunities, Maya Badi says the ban worsens women's lives by making it harder to earn any living.
"The state had agreed to rehabilitate the Badi community and provide employment, but these assurances have been limited to paper alone, and the flesh trade flourishes once more in almost all the Badi-inhabited areas," says C.B. Rana, another member of the National Badi Rights Struggle Committee.
A number of nongovernmental groups have been advocating for Badi rights. One group, Save the Children Norway, a child's rights advocacy and development assistance organization, has been working to carry out the government's free education initiative for Badi children.
Some say that although tuition may be waived, some schools are still making it hard for Badi children to attend school because they charge fees for integral programs such as sports and using the library.
Non-Badi women's rights activists have also spoken up. Both Mira Dhungana, a lawyer, and Mina Sharma, a women's rights activist, urge the government to fulfill its 2007 promise.
Sharma says that if there is no action soon, women's rights activists will get more actively involved.
"No woman joins the flesh trade out of mere choice alone," Sharma says. "If the government does not provide the opportunity for Badi women to lead honorable lives like any other Nepali citizen and make necessary employment arrangements for them, we, all women['s] rights activists, are ready to actively engage in a renewed protest movement for them."
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Nima Kafle joined Global Press Institute's Nepal News Desk in 2010. She is also a television reporter in Nepal.
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