Ending compulsive prostitution and violence against women and children
The underground world of human trafficking has continued to grow turning into the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century. Traffickers make an estimated 150 billion per year by selling and exploiting humans. Whether it starts as a job offer or a relationship with a seemingly caring partner, many men, women, and children are coerced or trapped via fraud into compulsive sex labor. The United Nations Office of Crime and Drugs reported that approximately 1 in 5 of people being exploited today for commercial sex are children.
With almost 20% of forced sexual exploitation being children, that means almost four million children around the world are subjected to abuse that can potentially affect them for decades: STIs, anxiety, psychological development delays, and threats of violence and familial abandonment are just a handful of the negative consequences that these victims may experience due to their abuse. What can also be significantly difficult to overcome, is the social ostracism rescued victims are often subjected to due to cultural and societal stigma –this is especially the case in more developing and rural locations.
Today, there are an estimated 40.3 million individuals trapped in modern slavery—including conditions of forced labor, sexual exploitation, child marriage, and domestic servitude.
Nepal’s public infrastructure offers little resources for aftercare and reintegration of children affected by sever forms of sexual crimes and sex trafficking. Criminal justice processes and lack of child protection rights can often favor traffickers over victims. When cases of victimization, rape, exploitation, and trauma do arise; law enforcement turn to non-governmentally operated shelters and organizations to hand over trafficked and abused children in need of a long and holistic healing and reintegration process. Children in need of rescue and protective services in Nepal are abundant, whereas adequate organizations to take in those children are not.
Raksha Nepal is an international non-profit organization with a vision to live in a world free from commercial sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and modern slavery. We accomplish our mission by preventing human exploitation, rescuing victims, repairing lives, and advocating for policy change.
Raksha Nepal operates a proven multi-disciplinary model based on principles of social justice and gender equity which places our beneficiaries at the center of our programming. Our social impact model is based on the understanding that modern slavery — including commercial sexual exploitation of children – is complex, and thus requires a multidisciplinary approach.
Within our program structure we employ a range of methods and activities to address specific needs of each individual child and woman beneficiary, including, but not limited to: risk assessments, provision of training, outreach, legal and social support, victim aftercare, psychosocial services through counseling, reintegration support, community development, and key stakeholder engagement.
The activities and service lines provided by Raksha Nepal include the following:
Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of sexually exploited children
Transitional programs for women to escape both compulsory and voluntary prostitution
Advocacy, Prevention & Community Outreach
RESCUE, REHABILITATION, AND REINTEGRATION OF SEXUALLY EXPLOITED CHILDREN
Since its inception, Raksha has run a safe shelter to provide residential care to survivors of rape, incest, trafficking, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Through partnerships and collaborations with community stakeholders, Raksha collects intelligence regarding children being exploited for sex, and partners with law enforcement agencies and city authorities to rescue children and place them into Raksha’s protective care. The shelter provides the protection and residential services based on standards set by the government authority.
Children are also referred to us by law enforcement, social welfare officers, justice systems, and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies. Raksha has a developed strong partnership with local police and city authorities as well as community stakeholders who now refer children to Raksha for care and protection.
Upon rescue, Raksha places children into our safe shelter where we provide immediate care and protection for children –providing them a safe place to stay where they can access holistic care as they work to overcome trauma and begin a journey of healing. The Raksha shelter serves to provide a safe home to keep children safe and protected from the dangers of exploitation and slavery.
At the shelter:
We provide catch-up education with the purpose of helping children fulfill academic potential and thereby be able to better integrate into formal education when they are eventually placed back into family-based care
We address their medical needs. Many children enter Raksha with severe gynecological trauma and some as young as 12 have arrived pregnant. Many of the girls will not be able to bear children because of their abuse.
Children are provided with daily meals
We provide psychological support in the form of one-to-one and group counseling sessions with the purpose of helping children overcome the trauma of rape, violence, incest, systemic exploitation, and living on the streets and develop trust with their peers and adults. We work with clinical psychologists to provide regular treatment to each child
We run life-skills sessions, teaching about healthy decision making, dance workshops, jewelry making workshops, martial arts training, discuss issues related to self-worth, gender, and discrimination, and life values
Begin the judicial process to ensure predators are brought to justice. This also includes preparing children to testify against their traffickers and abusers. Note that in Nepal children receive no preferential treatment and we have had to help prepare children as young as six years old to speak in court, with their traffickers in the same room, to ensure justice is had on criminals.
With each individual child’s case being unique, our team spends the appropriate time conducting family tracing and assessments regarding their communities of origin and existing conditions and individuals that were instrumental in the exploitation of the child. Raksha staff trace families, conduct pre-visits, assess the family’s situation including their needs and ability to support the child on reintegration. In some cases, it is impossible to reunite each child back to their family of origin. Reasons for this can include immediate family having been complicit in the exploitation, community members angry and vengeful for the incarceration of the criminal (when criminal is a close friend or family), death threats to the child, cultural & religious taboos surrounding rape and sexual conduct, etc. In this instances, children remain in the family-ran environment in the Raksha shelter until they are able to transition into higher education, independent living, be provided with a secure job placement.
It is essential to follow up with children and families after reunification to ensure ongoing success and sustainability of the reintegration process. Raksha’s social workers conduct follow-up visits providing psycho-social support monitoring ensuring the ongoing safety of the child.
Child wellbeing and restoration through our holistic services at the Raksha shelter: enables sustainable reintegration into homes, provides opportunities for children to continue education and/or become financially independent, and enables retention & protection in the home following reunification.
TRANSITIONAL PROGRAMS FOR WOMEN TO ESCAPE BOTH COMPULSORY AND VOLUNTARY PROSTITUTION
Raksha also works to provide vulnerable and exploited women with empowerment and skills development training. Through our community outreach and data census gathering, Raksha develops quality relationships with women working in the informal entertainment sectors and are involved in sex work. These women are sensitized regarding their rights and are offered immediate care, shelter, and resources to participate in one of Raksha’s vocational training programs. Women are able to enroll in various training programs including tailoring, driving school, culinary arts, beauty parlors, production outlets, farming, engineering, and others.
Our economic empowerment programs include facilitating job-skills training including self-employment stills, and skills applicable to both urban and rural areas to meet the varied needs of our target groups. Raksha also has a savings and credit cooperative that has served 3500 women secure seed funding to create and sustain other forms of income generating post-working in the commercial sex industry.
ADVOCACY, PREVENTION AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH
We work to prevent highly vulnerable women and children from being trafficked and exploited in hotspot communities. In our community work currently, we target vulnerable households. Our aim is to improve family resilience among vulnerable households in targeted communities in order to strengthen care and support of children at risk of exploitation, abuse, and slavery, as well as prevent family-child separation.
Raksha’s team regularly performs census of women and girls working in massage parlors, dance bars, cabin and dohoree sanjh (a new kind of nightlife in Nepal’s urban centers, where audiences comprising mostly male patrons eat, drink, and watch stage performances), to understand the scope of the problem and unique needs of women in order to free themselves. We also engage in research and advocacy surrounding compulsive sex work – especially in cases involving minors and conduct research surveys for women in target high-risk locations. These surveys are helpful in identifying the magnitude of abuse and the best way to address it.
In addition, Raksha:
Advocate for changes in law to protect women against sexual exploitation
Advocate for the enforcement of laws and changes in social norms to protect women and girls from sexual exploitation and violence
Lobby for effective implementation of national and international laws involving child labor, child rights, discrimination against women, and the modification of unequal laws currently in place
In coordination with local media, Raksha distributes on local radio, news, and talk shows conversations regarding problems faced by women and children working in high-risk locations for sexual exploitation. In one instance, one girl caught in captivity called the number she heard on the radio. Raksha subsequently rescued her. At the time she was 15 and servicing up to 40 men each day for sex.
Other outreach activities include transect walks on the streets to map out where children and women are, risk assessments, interaction with children and women in streets, slums, assessing dangers and exposure as well as highlighting available referral points for protective services
To effectively monitor program outcomes and impact, Raksha uses a mixed evaluation methodology, comprising quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. For children and women accessing services, we record output date related to outreach, investigations, and rescues made, individual interventions completed, reintegrations supported, counseling sessions provided, vocational trainings offered, among an array of other indicators. Outcomes related to individuals accessing resources are measured using wellbeing assessments, focus group discussions, exit interviews, household vulnerability assessments, and the tools to determine the effectiveness of reintegration — considering individual context.
In Raksha’s organizational structure, the General Assembly is the supreme body that provides policy guidelines and directives. It elects an Executive Committee every three years. The Executive Committee implements policies and approves programs and provides guidelines to the Executive Director. The Executive Director is responsible for the day-to-day administration and management. Raksha develops and delivers its services through active participation of its members and staff.
CURRENT MOST URGENT NEED
Our most painful need currently is covering the cost of our Raksha shelter. Thus far, up to 3770 women and adolescents and 900 children have received care and protection services at the Raksha house. Currently, there are a total number of 82 children (80 girls and 2 boys) residing at our shelter.
Up until 2015 we managed to run a small shelter on a rented property in downtown Kathmandu. The quarters were small, and we had 50 children crammed into three rooms. In 2015 Nepal experienced a devastating earthquake which damaged our rented space and was no longer livable. We then faced a big challenge in seeking a safe shelter for the children who were under our residential care.
It was very difficult to find a place for more than 50 children during that disaster period. With a small amount of surplus funds we were able to pull out a bank loan and purchase a property for a new Raksha home. The Raksha now owns a sizable property of 30,118 sq. ft. with residential rooms, dinning rooms, and a conference hall. We now have superb facilities.
This premise can serve more than 200 children each year. However, the monthly loan payment is a heavy burden that keeps us unable to continue to take in children who are in desperate need of a protective home and a staff to review their case and ensure their proper care. The monthly installment is USD $4,500.
(Note: each child receives a new name when they enter the Raksha house. Symbolic of starting a new life. Names have been changed to protect identity of victims)
Sarita had been orphaned for a while when a man in her village promised her a new family in the city. When they arrived he sold her as a sex worker. At the age of 9, she was forced to service many men in one day. She is now 13, rescued, enrolled in school, and is being treated of STIs she contracted while being exploited.
Anjel was conceived by a rape crime committed against her mother, who was disabled and 16 at the time. Unable to be cared for properly, Anjel’s vulnerability eventually led to her kidnapping and rape. Her small body was found unconscious by a river. She is 4 years old and is now safe in Raksha’s protective care.
Jasmin lost both her parents in the recent earthquake. At 12 years old a trafficker brought her into the city promising her employment and sold her into a brothel. Jasmin was rescued during a police raid and brought to Raksha.
Mahima fell pretty to a female trafficker who promised her a job and education in the city. For over a week, she was trapped in a room and repeatedly gang raped as a means to break her into a life of eventually serving clientele. She was eventually identified and rescued. She is 15 years old, suffers from nightmares and is currently receiving psychological help.
Kamana is 17 years old, disabled, and suffers from epilepsy. Due to vulnerability because of her disability, she was a target for ongoing gang rape. She is currently being provided proper medication for her condition.
Susmithat is 14 years old and while attending to work her caregivers’ fields (both her parents are deceased) she was raped by a local man. In an attempt to murder her following the crime, he based her head with a rock leaving her to dia. Susmitha survived the attack but lost one of her eyes and was hospitalized for three weeks. She is now recovering.
At 13, Durga was sexually exploited due to her father and grandfather. Kept locked in a room she managed to escape, pawn off her only pair of earrings, bought poison and attempted to end her life –leaving a note sharing what her father and grandfather had done to her. She was eventually rescued and hospitalized. Durga and the Raksha staff endured multiple death threats while she was at the hospital and at the Raksha center. Durga’s perpetrators are now in prison and she is a vibrant and passionate spokesperson for women and girls.