Trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, purchase, sale, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons: by threat or use of violence, abduction, force, fraud, deception or coercion (including the abuse of authority) or debt bondage, for the purpose of placing or holding such person, whether for pay or not, in forced labour or slavery-like practices, in a community other than the one in which such person lived at the time of the original act.
Ms. Radhika Commaraswamy, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
The trafficking of women and children within Nepal, as well as from Nepal to other countries, such as India and the Gulf States, is a serious violation of human rights. While the exact extent of the problem is difficult to measure and statistics are rather unreliable, the numerous NGOs that work around this issue have identified trafficking as a serious problem affecting thousands of Nepali women and children. Whether 2,000 Nepali persons are trafficked each year or 5,000 or 12,000 is less important than the recognition that trafficking is a fundamental violation of numerous human rights, including the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom from mental and physical violence, and the right to freedom of movement that impacts the social, mental, physical and emotional health of thousands of individuals, and has a profoundly negative impact on the development and well-being of numerous families, communities and the country as a whole.
Although it usually is assumed that people are always trafficked for commercial sex work and that it is predominantly young girls who are at risk, there is an increasing recognition of the multidimensional and changing nature of the problem. Trafficking may affect girls, boys, women, and even men and may occur for a variety of purposes, including varying forms of physical labour, commercial sex work, domestic labour, mail order brides, etc. However, women and girls are at an increased risk for exploitation because of the entrenched gender discrimination that is prevalent in Nepali society, compelling them to escape the inequities that they face within the family, community and society. While men's migration has long been accepted, women's mobility has always been a matter of public scrutiny and social stigmatisation. This has also led to an increase in trafficking when women are forced to resort to clandestine means where legal and formal channels of migration are not open to them.
Caste-based discrimination is also an underlying cause of trafficking, as is rampant poverty, declining socio-economic opportunities and lack of means of sustainable livelihoods which compels individuals to leave their homes in search of better opportunities, or simply a means of survival. Although individuals may migrate by choice, they are often deceived or lured into exploitative circumstances because of lack of knowledge about or lack of access to safe mobility, desperation, false promises of traffickers, etc. It is against this backdrop that individuals, communities, NGOs and the government must work together to prevent this ongoing abuse of human rights as well as to assist in the recovery and support of persons who were formerly trafficked.
The link between trafficking and migration is a topic of great debate. While the vast majority of trafficking starts after migration or movement from one place to another, discussions around trafficking and migration are imbued with many confusions and ambiguities. While migration may be defined as the movement of people from one place to another in order to take up an employment or establish, residence, or to seek refuge from persecution, trafficking is defined as the movement (either internally or internationally) of a person under a situation of deceit, force, threat, debt bondage, etc. involving exploitation and violation of human rights of the person. In this way, trafficking may be seen as a subset of the broader notion of migration, though the two must be seen as conceptually distinct. However, empirically it is often very difficult to distinguish between trafficking and migration. A process that may have initially began as voluntary migration can become a form of trafficking when the person is deceived into a situation that s/he originally believed s/he was entering into. Moreover, a person who was initially trafficked may choose to remain in the work situation that s/he was initially trafficked into. It is vital that distinctions be made because of the dangers that anti-trafficking initiatives and policies will in practice work to limit the right to mobility and migration, particularly of women. All anti-trafficking interventions must therefore consider direct and indirect impact on a person's right to mobility.