When Tragedy Feeds Atrocity

Nepalese people line up to board buses go to their villages in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Thousands of people are lining up at bus stations in Kathmandu where the government is providing free transportation for people hoping to travel to their hometowns and villages. The government has even deployed school buses to supplement the overstretched service. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) (The Associated Press)

“The 7.8-magnitude quake killed more than 5,000 people. Many survivors are in desperate need of food and water...More than eight million people have been affected by the quake, the UN says. About 10,000 people have been injured.” (Nepal earthquake: Relief starts reaching remote villages - BBC)

The damage to infrastructure in one of Asia’s poorest countries as a result of this massive earthquake will take millions of dollars and years to repair. However, the damage done to families and the livelihood of 8,000,000 people may never be repaired. The death of over 5,000 people in a matter of hours has directly and indirectly touched billions.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the pain, loss and chaos, procurers, well aware of the vulnerabilities this situation presents, are on the lookout.

When I speak to groups and individuals about sexual exploitation and/or sex trafficking, it’s essential that we understand girls and women in vulnerable situations are easy prey for the procurers/perpetrators/predators. Vulnerabilities range from poverty, societal attitudes towards females, famine, and war to lack of support from friends and family, a perceived need, and insecurity.

Ranked as one of the most impoverished nations of the world, 157th out of 187 countries listed in the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report 2013 (Ref.) Nepal’s girls already fall prey to the demand for sex workers in India. Open borders with its more prosperous neighbor, India, mean that “illegal movement of goods and people is a common feature on both sides of the India-Nepal border. (Ref.) And Indian brothel districts that are “home” to thousands, sometimes tens of thousands provide the demand needed to fuel this growing industry.

When a natural disaster, like this earthquake, strikes an already vulnerable people, families that were already struggling to keep food on the table may have lost jobs or even parents which will devastate them financially. The procurers see this happening and swoop in. They may act as aid workers providing much needed assistance, they may promise a better life in another city, they may offer romance and an escape. Parents and children alike hope beyond hope that the promises are true as they search for a solution to the current difficulties.

The number of girls serving as sex slaves in India is unknown. While visiting a safe house in India in 2012 that was home to 60 girls between the ages of 13 and 16, our group was informed that ⅓ of the girls had been trafficked from Nepal. Whether it’s ⅔, ⅓ or 3, it’s too many, and I fear the numbers in the next several months will increase.  

Let’s do what we can to provide aid and support. The sooner the physical needs are taken care of the sooner girls will be more protected from these additional vulnerabilities.

Some options for providing resources:

Text $10 to UNICEF: "NEPAL" to 864233

Online with Red Cross

Online with Samaritan's Purse