Nepali girl abduction a common crime
Nepali girl abduction is commonplace – indeed socially accepted – in some rural communities in Nepal. The UK’s Daily Mail reported on this two years ago, describing how it impacted upon Dalit (“untouchable”) girls in remote northwest Nepal. Young men abducted these girls to force them into child marriage while girls’ families offered little resistance. See this article. We’ve come across the same practice further to the east in Tipling, Dhading District, which lies in the mountains bordering Tibet. In the midst of stunning scenery (see picture above) young men commit crimes against girls, robbing them of their childhoods and futures.
Tipling – a tough place for girls
It takes two days’ travel from Kathmandu to reach Tipling, its remoteness contributing to endemic grinding poverty. This is home to the people from the marginalised and historically downtrodden Tamang community. Family incomes are derived from subsistence farming, manual labour and from acting as porters. Women’s lives are particularly difficult with a high incidence of child marriage and early pregnancy. These are major contributing factors towards infant and maternal mortality. Families often can’t afford to educate their children. If they can, they will prioritise their sons’ schooling and send them to private boarding schools in large towns. Girls can only expect to attend local government schools that are chronically under-resourced. Eventually poverty forces many girls to drop out of school early to begin work. Or they may be forced into child marriage even though this is illegal in Nepal.
The thing is that there’s little protection for girls. There is no police post in the area; the nearest one is a day’s walk away. And often parents can be away from home, tending cattle in lowland pastures. So it’s easy for a young man or young men to kidnap a girl and claim her as a wife.
Abduction of two sisters
A young man kidnapped 22 year old Mara when her father was away from home working as a herdsman. Mara ran away from her captor four times before he turned up at her parents’ home. He offered alcohol as a goodwill gesture to the family and to obtain her father’s blessing. The family agreed and Mara’s fate was sealed. Later, another lad and some friends snatched Mara’s younger sister, Nanimaya. She escaped five times but each time her abductor went to her home to retrieve her with the family’s consent. After the sixth escape the young man gave up. But, bizarrely, he claimed £4 equivalent from Nanimaya’s father as “compensation” for the “divorce”.
In our society we’d quite correctly view these practices as kidnap and rape. Not necessarily so in rural Nepal and even if there is a police presence, they turn a blind eye to these crimes for fear of upsetting complicit villagers.
The ChoraChori Tipling Girls Project
Mara and Nanimaya’s youngest sister is one of ten girls who came to Kathmandu last July. ChoraChori responded to a request from a Jesuit priest in Tipling, Fr Norbert, that we give these girls a chance to complete their education in Kathmandu. For they had successfully passed the coveted Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination at their school in Tipling. This was a remarkable achievement in spite of the 2015 earthquakes that had destroyed their homes. There was no option to complete higher secondary education (Grades 11 and 12) in Tipling. Moreover, lawlessness had become much worse after the quakes and these girls were very susceptible to abduction, child marriage or even human trafficking. Tamang girls are physically attractive and therefore highly sought-after for the sex trade.
The Tipling girls are now staying at ChoraChori Operational Director Shailaja’s home. In the mornings they attend college while in the afternoons we have been teaching them handicrafts. Soon we plan to extend their extra-curricular activities to English lessons. These will increase their future employability. And in June we expect a further ten or so girls to join the two year programme. A programme that will give these young women a chance of making something of their lives while providing essential protection from kidnappers.
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