KATHMANDU: Manju (name changed) hailing from Dharan has been working as a bar dancer in Thamel, a major tourist destination in Kathmandu, for the last three years. She is paid a salary of Rs 15,000 per month.
After being trained at National Dance Academy for six months, she opted to adopt dance as her profession by showcasing her moves at various dance bars and clubs located in Thamel.
These entertainment centers operating as Lok Dohari, dance bars, Rodhi clubs and others have different realities in disguise, she confided with Khabarhub.
“People like us face hazards in the form of physical threats. So-called suave and sophisticated visitors commit a crime in the night and get away. Businesspersons operating the entertainment industries here earn half a million every month but show less respect to bar dancers,” she laments.
She added that girls and women are brought in here by these businesspersons to employ them in their dance bars.
“Women dancers are paid less and operators of entertainment industries become millionaires in no time. After a time period, women like us are left with no other options except to be pawns in their hands and get exploited because police here are hands in glove with unscrupulous handlers of entertainment business operating in Thamel,” she shared, “Almost all the crimes committed here in dance bars in Thamel are suppressed by the police and the world does not come to know about them.”
She also expressed her helplessness on the plight of her colleagues in the same profession.
“Women dancers working in dance bars during the night are usually exploited by the rich customers — suited and booted ones and arriving in expensive fancy cars,” disclosed Preeti (name changed).
She added, “It is quite disgraceful to watch when the bar owners and operators themselves address us as bar girls or dance girls, hurling insults on us in a degrading manner. The world outside does not get to know anything about what we are going through all due to willful neglect of police and their dereliction of public duty.”
“It is almost a routine affair when young women like us are molested and raped here by both operators of the entertainment business and visitors,” Preeti vents out her pains and frustration.
Similarly, stories of exploitation of working women keep on coming into the light from massage centers, Dohari and restaurants operating in and around in Thamel and Kathmandu as a whole.
“It is actually a sex service in the name of massage. Both Nepali and foreigners line up for a massage, but indulge in sex,” she further said, “If girls resist, they force themselves on masseuses to indulge in forced sex which in reality is a rape.”
Government has no plan and policy for such girls who are working in such entertainment industries during night time. Alternative skills training for uneducated and semi-educated young women trapped in sex trade against their will are urgently needed.
A complete study by involving experts either by NGO or government or both will throw surprising facts full of problems and challenges that these women workers are facing here.
Village women as victims
Women from all the districts of Nepal choose Kathmandu, the capital city, as their destination to work as a sex worker in different restaurants, Dohari, massage centers, cabins, and dance bars, reveals a study conducted by Biswas Nepal.
40 percent of such women workers (in the age group of 18 to 20 years) come from the village and 33% of them are those who are below 18, says the study.
Shaki Samuha, an NGO working for empowering women, points out, these young women just rush to Kathmandu with rosy images of life and join ‘night entertainment business’ to earn a livelihood for their survival.’
This profession has 35% of women from Gurung, Rai and Tamang ethnic groups, Kshetri 27%, Bhramin 13.6% and others 10.6%.
Similarly, 51% of the women workers in the entertainment business are semi-literate, 31% literate and 20% of them are school-dropouts.
According to the above study, Thamel, Balaju, Machhapokhari, Gongabu, Ratnapark and Koteshwor are prominent places in Kathmandu, where sex trades take place.
Change in profession after aging
Organizations and institutions working for the welfare of these women say that they change their profession after signs of aging begin to appear on their body.
Biswas Nepal’s study further says that aging women run the sex trade from a shop that they open for their survival. Bar dancers of yesteryears are now spotted in streets netting their customers.
They book a room in a lodge in nearby localities of Kathmandu Valley to run their sex trade. They are even found running a general store and negotiate a price in the process of offering sex services. Only in Kathmandu, there are 40,000 young women below the age of 20 years on a move to spot customers, reveals the organizations working in this field.
Employment and greed of earning more
Unemployment in Nepal is cited as one of the greatest problems in this field that force young women to join the night entertainment business. Some women join this business out of their choice as they look for easy money. After the 2015 devastating earthquake of Nepal, more women were found to have joined this business.
Night entertainment is the world’s oldest business. It assumed different forms at different times of human civilization. Kathmandu is not new to such entertainment business operated especially in night hours.
Rana rulers picked up young women from villages and brought them in the palace for dance and treated them as sex-slaves. Having said this, the government cannot absolve itself of its responsibility to provide dignity to their life as they are citizens of Nepal as we are with all the fundamental rights given by the Constitution of Nepal.