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.

red line

NEVER MISS A STORY

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

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...

Books

by Graham Hoyland• William Collins • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Dr Lucy Jones• Doubleday Books • £19.99 (hardback)

Books

by Daniel Pinchbeck• Watkins • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jasper Winn • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Nathan H Lents • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £16.99…

Films

This hard-hitting marine conservation film – part of the Ocean…

Films

Here are the newest non-fiction offerings to satisfy that craving…

Exhibitions

The Society’s Earth Photo exhibition captures the planet’s natural riches…

Books

by Alanna Mitchell • Oneworld • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Christopher J Preston • The MIT Press • £20.95…

Books

by Jamal Mahjoub • Bloomsbury • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Joanna Kafarowski • Dundurn Press • 15.99 (hardback)

Books

by Peter Dauvergne • Polity Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Mary Beard and David Olusoga • Profile Books •…

Exhibitions

It’s hard to imagine life without the visual world upfront…

Books

by Patrick Winn • Icon Books • £14.99 (paperback)

Books

by Mark Nelson • UA Press • £21.99 (paperback)

Books

by Ed Douglas and John Beatty • Vertebrate Publishing •…

Books

by Tristan Gooley • Sceptre Books • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Adam Weymouth • Particular Books • £16.99 (hardback)