In the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic growth of massage parlours, dance bars, cabin restaurants, and guesthouses in Kathmandu. Working in this sector is generally hazardous for children, and in addition, many of these workplaces have become a front for commercial sex. At least half of the sector’s workers are under 18, and the vast majority – as many as 68% – entered the sector as children. A 2010 report by the international NGO Terre des Hommes estimated that 13,000 girls and women were working in the sector, while other sources suggest more than double this figure. Yet, till now, very limited resources and coordinated attention have been given to the situation of adolescents in the industry.
Many of the workers are trapped in bondage to employers through loans, lacking the freedom to change where they work. Also, the girls and women are under strong pressure from employers to please the male customers, in order to persuade them to buy more alcohol and food. This often leads to having to provide sexual services. Many of the girls entering the work are unaware of this requirement.
The Freedom Fund hotspot aims to radically reduce the number of minors at risk of or victims of exploitation in the sector. This comprehensive strategy will work to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children, assist minors to leave the sector, and reject the recruitment of minors by employers and use of minors by customers. Further, the hotspot will aim to prove effective approaches that have the potential to massively reduce the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Nepal. Through increased investments over the next 10 years, the hotspot collaboration will aim to at least halve the number of children exploited in the sector.
Over the next 2.5 years, the current program will develop and implement a strategy alongside approximately 10 local NGOs, cooperating with women workers in the sector, and ensuring a deepening, committed partnership with government bodies.