Varanasi is famous throughout India as a focus for pilgrims and tourists alike. Indeed, with its 2,000 temples it is known as the spiritual capital of India. But the ChoraChori-Nepal field team has just been there for another reason; to bring a girl trafficking victim home.
Sixteen year old Kamala (name changed) arrived at our Kathmandu refuge at midnight three days ago. It was the end of a long journey that began at the start of last year. At that time she was living at home in Rautahat, a District in south-central Nepal. She and a number of girls had been in touch by mobile with a boy who was encouraging them to join him in Kathmandu. Only Kamala decided to run away and join him, enticed by his proposal of marriage.
But once in Kathmandu the boy locked her in a room while he went to work in a bag factory. Soon afterwards they travelled to Nawalparasi, another border District, where again the boy locked her up while he sold ice lollipops on the street. From there they crossed the border in Uttar Pradesh and ended up in Varanasi. At this point Kamala begged to return home but the boy beat her and left saying he would return with a bus ticket. He never came back. The local Child Welfare Committee found out about Kamala’s predicament and admitted her to a girls’ hostel. Then they contacted ChoraChori-Nepal asking for our help with repatriation.
We managed to trace Kamala’s family without too much difficulty and her father and uncle travelled with our staff member Pratap Titung to secure her release. At our Kathmandu refuge we have conducted health checks and counselled the family. Initially Kamala’s parents were saying that they would not accept her back home. Instead she would stay with an uncle pending marriage as soon as possible. However they have now come around to accepting her back with them, recognising that the girl has been a victim rather than a delinquent. Our next step is to find the boy and bring him to justice as this has been a case of trafficking.
Sadly, this is a story we hear all to often, with vulnerable girls being tempted by false promises. ChoraChori-Nepal is the only Nepal-based organisation that goes into India to retrieve and reintegrate them, giving girls like Kamala a second chance.