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Nepal’s DPM Bamdev Gautam has declared a crusade against night restaurants in Kathmandu to curb the flourishing “nude dance” culture in the capital.
Sex Work in Nepal*
Debates on prostitution in Nepal have been dominated by the issues of trafficking and the migration of females from Nepal’s middle hills to north Indian brothels but comparatively little research has been done on prostitution in Nepal itself.
The subsistence nature of large parts of the rural economy meant that there was no mass market for commercial sex until comparatively recently. Economic development and urbanization and the increasing integration of Nepal within global consumer cultures has altered this so that there is now an expanding domestic sex market in all parts of the country.
There is also a small but expanding trade catering to sex tourists and expatriates. Sex work sites tend to concentrate in urban areas of the Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and in the cities and towns of the Terai where there are dense sexual networks linking the Indo-Nepal border areas.
There are many sex work sites along the main north-south transport routes and along porterage routes. Sex work sites can also be found in the bazaars of the hills. Usual sex work sites include ‘drinking pubs’, hotels, restaurants and lodges, the worker’s own home, roads, bus parks and jungle areas. Much of the trade is underground and FSW tend to be extremely mobile.
Women of all castes and classes become sex workers, although those who are trafficked or migrate to India come primarily from ethnic minority groups in the hills.
Contrary to popular belief not all females working in the Indian or Nepali sex industries have been trafficked as a result of abduction, drugging or deception. Many young women and girls are sent into sex work because they can earn relatively high wages that can be remitted back home to support families in impoverished villages.
Confusingly prostitution is neither legal nor illegal in Nepal – although sex workers are subject to police harassment and arrest. The estimated number of sex workers is over 25,000 with about 5,000 based in the Kathmandu Valley. Around 5,000 children are thought to be exploited in prostitution and around 35% enter sex work by the time they are fifteen. Around 100,000 Nepali women and girls are believed to work in the Indian sex industry although this figure is open to question with some estimates being significantly higher.
*From the WHO report SEX WORK IN ASIA, 2001
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