We are a number of women who have worked in Nepal and are very
concerned about the mass trafficking of girls and women into
sexual slavery. All the big organisations we have approached,
because they fight sex tourism, deal only with the victimisation
of children. We are also concerned about adult women. Our friends
and contacts in Nepal are very glad of our concern.
We became aware that countries that permit their own women-folk to
be treated as expendable commodities see no "harm" in permitting
serial rapists and other sex offenders, with a proven record of
abusing women tourists, to continue to operate as high-profile
travel agents catering for safety-conscious lone women!
We promote petitions and raise the issue of fully comprehensive
warnings with the Foreign Office. How often do you see a travel
warning of specific crimes against women?
Our petition for Nepal already has many thousands of signatures.
Organisations working in Taiwan and Pakistan have asked if they
can copy and adapt it. We are very glad of such requests.
But we find we always have an enormous amount of work to do! We
are very new and haven't yet uploaded all our information and
areas of concern. We would like to know about other conferences
where we can raise these issues and other ways of publicising them
Thanks for your interest.
Thanks to everyone who gave us such a brilliant response only 12
hours after uploading an introductory message.
Re child prostitution. Our background information came from an
organisation in Kathmandu, CWIN. We also met people who were
specifically working in NGO's dealing with these issues and
journalists and others in Kathmandu well-informed in social issues
Our efforts consist of petitions, [very popular with the general
public] plus the desire to publicise the information in an effort
to put some pressure on the Nepalese authorities. We have had
contact with various organisations in Britain, where we are based.
We operate our two petitions under the auspices of the British
section of WILPF.
The reason we exist as a separate organisation from others that
oppose the trafficking of children is because we are also
concerned about the sexual exploitation of the tourists themselves
by men who make a habit of such things and are permitted to
We posted some info on this into gn.announcements. I will include
the posting that went into gn.alerts, to maximise our chances of a
big enough response for a documentary exposing the situation to be
made. It is very short, so I hope no one is upset if they download
" Has anyone been sexually assaulted in Asia by a travel agent who
apparently had all the right credentials, so she had been
encouraged to believe she could entrust him with her safety?
Especially if you were put in his care by a travel agent
advertising in your own country.
A television producer is interested in producing a documentary to
expose the situation.
If you would like to e-mail us, any information will be treated in
> Thanks to everyone who has responded to our concerns about rape
in Nepal. We are especially grateful for offers of further
publicity. Thank you very much indeed!
> There is so much interest that it is easiest if we post the
answers to questions into the conference. Also, as we know from
our own experience to date, a lot of women read topics and
remember them, but do not have time to respond to every point of
interest, so this is for them too.
> >> Please tell us what we can do and where we can get more
We'll upload a list of suggestions and also the petition and the
fact sheets that circulate with it.
Since we began this campaign in 1993, the most noticeable change
has been an improvement in attitudes towards sex tourism as more
Western countries introduce legislation to control the problem and
awareness of the trafficking of children increases. We have been
in contact with the Home office about the impact of new
legislation, which also prohibits the organisation of tours abroad
for the purpose of raping adult women as well as children.
However, Western law has by no means stamped out western
involvement in sex tourism, yet.
For some years we have noticed the following pattern in our
The rape of tourists seems to be a politically sensitive issue. We
will, in the future, discuss the apparent reasons for this.
Meanwhile, being understaffed and over worked, we plug away,
writing letters, making more organisations aware of us and our
concerns, and the very occasional rude answer doesn't deter us in
the slightest. We just make a stern request for an apology and
generally receive it.
It appears to be politically correct for women concerned about
rape to disappear into counselling centres and anywhere else where
their existence can be overlooked, and not to question the
attitudes of a society that permits these offences to happen by
failing to take adequate measures to check them. Without decrying
the work undertaken by counsellors, we think there is just as much
need to make it more difficult for rapists to catch out
unsuspected victims in the first place. But it is going to take a
long time and a lot of work to shift various organisations, from
the Foreign Office downwards, from their present denial of the
In fact it is probably more effective simply to present an
alternative point of view that makes people think...
But take a petition on the streets and just see how the signatures
mount up! Whenever we challenge authority, we always know that the
overwhelming majority of the public are behind us.
Because of the need for increased public awareness, we mostly
publicise information about the victimisation of tourists. As for
the children, since our greatest successes are with street
campaigning, we find we only have to mention the rape of children
and people fall over themselves to sign! But offer them a fact
sheet about the trafficking of children ... This is just TOO much
for most people to stomach when they are out for the day...
When considering children and tourists we know the children
attract most sympathy. However countries such as Nepal prize the
income they earn from tourism, but the authorities fail to respect
women's human rights except in name. If we can put some pressure
on them to operate a tourist industry that is as clean and healthy
in reality as it appears on the surface, this is at least a start
in safeguarding the well-being of women and girls. Attempting to
put pressure on areas where Western money is not so directly
involved is rather more difficult. Any suggestions, please?
In any case, how can you put a value on a human being? If we only
succeeded in averting one single rape, so one single person is
spared near-suicidal trauma, then we have achieved something
We were told at the beginning we need only expect a few hundred
signatures in total, but now we will not consider submitting a
petition with less than 50,000 names to it. Few as we are, we
could easily achieve that target even if we had not joined the
Internet. So with the co-operation of the people in Cyberspace who
share our concern we could aim for 100,000, half a million, a
million... And more similar petitions for other countries with
Our petition has the blessing of the National Women's Network for
International Solidarity and the British Section of the Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom, and was worded for us
by Helen Harris, the representative WILPF sent to Beijing.
Caution against rape abroad.
A reader of vs.onlinestrat expressed a most fundamental point
regarding women's safety. Letting down your guard because you feel
We hear questions about why are we raising issues of the treatment
of women tourists in Nepal, and not another Asian country?
Precisely because it is a country where women feel relatively
safe, so that is where the problem is most likely to arise!
Going to and fro when I worked in Nepal, I have flown many
thousands of miles over the countries of the middle east. I never
lost an opportunity to look out of the window, studying these
lands from the sky.
Why? Because these lands are beautiful, but down there so many
women are receiving such inhuman treatment that the closest I ever
intend to get to visiting those countries is 35,000 feet up in
their air-space! [Now we do support those women at every
opportunity but do not feel able to actively promote campaigns for
countries of which we have no first-hand knowledge, because sooner
or later we are asked in-depth questions.]
But thousands of miles to the east is one land with gentle
obliging people, in the midst of countries with bad human rights
records such as China, Burma, Bhutan, and so on. We are encouraged
to see Nepal as a haven of peace and friendliness. Who has
travelled between India and Nepal and not felt more relaxed in
Nepal? I personally cannot last out the duration of a tourist visa
in India, because of a sizeable percentage of hostile males, but I
was desperate to work in Nepal, because I wanted to help those
delightful people. So it is a country where people are more likely
to lower their guard and where it is consequently relatively easy
for them to be exploited by knowing con-men.
Then you discover that trekking in Nepal is not always so safe
after all. There are reported to be armed robbers in some of the
forests on trek routes. Nepalese trekking agents enter the
Now we must emphasise that there is no way we would cast
aspersions on all these agents. After what I have just said about
Nepalese people, they are just as likely to be sincere as anyone
else. The point is that the system does not effectively remove
offenders from their midst, so you are totally dependent on the
sincerity and honesty of the person whom this system has
encouraged you to trust. And that because charm, good manners and
the willingness to tell you exactly what you want to hear are an
ingrained aspect of Nepalese culture, anyone who really sets out
with the intention to deceive, automatically has the background to
make the perfect con-man...
The sort of rapist we have heard about doesn't even give his
victims a creepy feeling in advance. This guy not only graduated
from charm school, he gained a first-class honours degree...
The fact that hidden dangers pose a greater than obvious ones is a
point that we raise with the Foreign Office. Unsuccessfully so
far. Apart from civil unrest which is so obvious if you happen to
visit that country that it could hardly pass unnoticed, their idea
of a typical travel warning is something along the lines of: "Do
not frequent lonely places after dark because of muggings!" Or, in
countries where poverty obliges people to use vehicles that we
would have consigned to the scrap yard about thirty years ago: "Do
not trust public transport. It is likely to break down!"
I mean, we wouldn't realise that if they didn't bother to tell us,
To give them their due, they know about bandits in the forests and
bogus unregistered guides and travel agents. But: "Do not trust
every registered travel agent, the authorities see no reason why
known rapists should not be entrusted with our safety?" That is
not obvious and it is not acknowledged to be happening.
Don't we belong to cultures where a woman who never relaxes her
guard at all can never have sufficient contact with men to find
any chance of relationships or marriage? So once we feel safe,
coming off guard to a certain point is ingrained into us. If women
think relaxing to this degree is irrelevant, once you are in
Kathmandu you learn that some Nepalese travel agents do in fact
have Western wives.
Women may consider this beside the point because they are not THAT
interested in Nepalese men. Be that as it may, if a man
representing the travel agency that arranged your holiday has
driven you safely from the airport to your hotel, around
Kathmandu, then to the starting point for transport for your trek
and collected you on your return, you might consider it somewhat
neurotic to refuse to get in his car one more time if he proffered
a sufficiently sound reason for the journey...
We know that papers regarding a main-stream travel agent proved
guilty of the serial sexual abuse of tourists are held secretly in
the office of the Nepalese Prime Minister. The Foreign Office is
ignoring requests to oblige the Nepalese to release these papers
as it regards jeopardising our safety as being a minor matter
compared with embarrassing a shaky little government that usually
only lasts a year or so before the next all-change.
Only one travel agent, you may say! Well, firstly this one man
alone is responsible for traumatising a considerable number of
women. Secondly, how DO you get such a case to the Nepalese Prime
Minister himself? Didn't we do well to pick up on the existence of
even ONE such set of papers?
The scale of the hidden problem could be horrific. But it is an
issue that is kept very quiet indeed. Too many people think
silence, and denial of the problem, is politically expedient.
We could write a lot more on this.