Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The Trap: trafficking of women in Nepal

The Trap: trafficking of women in Nepal Lizzie Sadin for Fondation Carmignac
16 May
2018
New exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery by photojournalist Lizzie Sadin, winner of the 2018 Carmignac Photojournalism Award, focuses on the trafficking of women and girls within and out of Nepal

In a country often heralded for spectacular scenery and rich culture, the dark underbelly of human trafficking and domestic violence reveals a different picture of Nepal. Most importantly, these two issues often combine to create a desperate and horrifying situation for young women in the country. Denied an education, punished for menstruating, refused even basic citizen rights purely because of their gender in this patriarchal society, it is perhaps no surprise that many are tempted by the offer of a new life in Kathmandu, or maybe outside Nepal, where there are supposedly opportunities to make high salaries and wear only the finest clothes.

These offers are never what they promise. There are now an estimated 20,000 young girls employed in Kathmandu’s sex industry – a third of whom are minors – which could take the form of dance clubs, massage parlours, dohori bars and ‘cabin restaurants’ (brothels). In addition, over 300,000 women are transported annually to Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries, often without the knowledge of their families, to start new lives as domestic and/or sex workers. Assuming they reach their new lives, it often means long, hard days consisting of low pay, malnourishment and exhaustion. Denied the freedom to leave, these women often face rape and even death. 186 disappearances were reported to Nepali police in 2015 – the actual figure could easily be many times larger.

Credit. Lizzie Sadin for Fondation Carmignac 2A ‘Cabin restaurant’ in Kathmandu, March 2017. A young woman waits for her client (Image: Lizzie Sadin for Fondation Carmignac)

French photojournalist Lizzie Sadin focused on this trafficking of women and girls in Nepal for the eighth Carmignac Photojournalism Award which this year revolved specifically around the theme of ‘slavery and trafficking of women’. Sadin spent 100 days in Nepal between February and May 2017, travelling the country to capture words and images from those trapped in this abusive way of life. From going undercover in Kathmandu’s dance clubs, to following NGOs such as KI Nepal and Maiti working with police on the 2,000-mile India-Nepal border (across which an estimated 15,000 women and girls are taken illegally every year), she shines a spotlight on this grim and deeply-engrained aspect of Nepal’s highly gender-unequal society.

Sadin’s photographs include significant numbers discretely taken using a hidden camera showing small wooden booths in cabin restaurants where male clients take their chosen girls. She also dips into the colourful, yet murky insides of garish dance clubs, where bosses simulate rape with dancers in order to ‘excite’ their male audiences. It’s a dark and disturbing glimpse into a world of abuse and powerlessness.

Perhaps most fascinating are those photos Sadin was given permission to take by establishment bosses (sometimes by women as well) who dug their heads in the sand and refused to think of their business as anything to do with gender-based human trafficking, eventually relenting to her polite requests to document the activities occurring at what they claimed to be reputable business establishments.

Credit. Lizzie Sadin for Fondation Carmignac 1Bhairahawa, Sunauli, May 2017. A police officer is called upon to decide the fate of this young woman (Image: Lizzie Sadin for Fondation Carmignac)

Sadin’s work on the Indian border, showing the quizzing of potential traffickers (and the potentially trafficked girls themselves, travelling unescorted but convinced that they are on their way to a better life) is the only glimmer of hope in the exhibition’s narrative. Suspects are asked separately about their relationship and travel plans to determine whether or not trafficking is occurring, while phone calls are made to relatives to confirm these details.

The central role of former trafficked women in these questionings is crucial since they intimately understand the way the trade operates and are often driven to keep other young women from the experiences they had to endure. Unfortunately, they will usually have only a few minutes to determine whether the relationship is genuine or not. Recording the details of the young girls in question will at least help with the search for them if their family later reports their disappearance.

The awarding of this year’s €50,000 Carmignac Photojournalism Award to Sadin follows the art organisation’s aim of funding the investigative photo reportage on human rights violations around the world, which in previous years included Libya and French Guiana. While the results may be shocking and the scale of the problem truly horrifying, the more light is shone on these issues, the more chance of stopping the abuses suffered by these women and girls.

The 2018 Carmignac Photojournalism Award, Lizzie Sadin’s ‘The Trap: trafficking of women in Nepal’, will be at the Saatchi Gallery in London until 15 June. The exhibition is open from 10am to 6pm, admission free. For more information visit saatchigallery.com.

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Exhibitions

From 12 July through to 10 November, the Fondation Cartier…

Reviews

A relaxed podcast, in which actor David Oakes interviews professionals…

Exhibitions

Exploring ideas of identity, heritage and life after trauma, Bahith…

Books

by Alex Rogers • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Films

An ‘environmental thriller’ focusing on the lives of campaigners working…

Exhibitions

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is open to visitors…

Films

In this moving, sometimes harrowing film from director Anthony Woodley,…

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches

Books

by Peter Martell • Hurst • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Dan Richards • Canongate • £19.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jeremy Purseglove • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Peter Hessler • Profile Books • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard • Little, Brown • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Robert Macfarlane • Hamish Hamilton • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Exhibitions

An exhibition at the V&A brings together innovations from across…

Books

Dead in the Water edited by Bruce Shoemakers and William…

Films

A brutally realistic film about a cruel and pointless confrontation

Books

by Mike Berners-Lee • Cambridge University Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Films

In our attempt to control the natural world, humans have…

Books

by Sudipta Sen • Yale University Press • £20 (hardback)