Young boys, barely 16 years are often seen on the streets of Kathmandu luring customers for equally young sex workers. The poverty, unemployment and the lure of quick money have pushed hundreds of young boys into this dark trade
Nepal, where over 30 per cent of the 30 million population is below the poverty line (BPL), 42 per cent are unemployed and which until 2006, saw an armed struggle by Maoist insurgents, it is hard to resist the money the trade offers.
Dressed in simple clothes, these boys look out for foreign tourists visiting Kathmandu’s Thamel market - famous for its dance bars, pubs, restaurants, shops and nightlife - especially after dusk. The poverty, unemployment and the lure of quick money have pushed hundreds of them into this trade. Their targets typically are men who roam in groups around massage parlours located in every nook and corner of the sprawling market. The five-feet something boys approach them with offers of arranging girls of all age.
Veer Bahadur, a class V dropout who is involved in this trade for the last two years said, “We tell them that we can supply a girl of any age and all their other demands would be met without any difficulty. We first go and strike a conversation with the customers. We listen to their demands and then quote our price. Sometimes we have to give details about the girls to fix the deal.”
These young boys quote a meagre sum - sometimes even less than the price of one kilogram of sweets - to supply a girl. The girls can be hired for half-an-hour to one night. And there is usually a constant flow of tourists. Nepal got 526,705 visitors in 2007.
“If I don’t do it, someone else in the market will get the customers and I will lose my commission and earnings. There are at least 70-80 places in the market where girls are easily available for sex,” Bahadur told the media. He said like him there are many teenaged boys in this trade. Most of the boys come from the poverty-stricken areas of Bhaktapur in the valley or Salyan, Baglung and Kaski in the west or Dhankuta and Khotang in the east.
“I started looking for clients after my elder brother introduced me to the flesh trade last year. I have learnt the tricks of the trade from him. My employer is pleased with me and pays me Nepali currency Rs2,000 (nearly $27) every month,” said Bahadur. “Some money I give to my family and the rest I spend on myself. I drink and like sleeping with the girls for whom I fix deals.”
Unlike Bahadur, Bipin Lama, 16, stepped into the flesh trade after watching his friends make quick money.“I was envious of my friends who always flaunted good clothes and expensive mobiles. I wanted to live in their shoes, so I joined them,” Lama said.
The policemen are not a threat to them as they are heavily bribed. There is a neck-to-neck competition between the boys to win clients. If the business
is slow, then we have to work hard to get more clients. Once a deal is fixed, they take the client inside a small house that operates in the name of a massage parlour or dance bar. The client is handed over to a senior pimp who further executes the deal. These boys then go out in the market again, hunting for more customers.
Archana Tamang, who works for the United Nations body United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said though there is no study on boys working as pimps in Nepal, their number could be very high.“Most of the boys are either street children addicted to drugs or displaced from their villages due to armed conflicts. Poverty is another major factor,” Tamang said. There are approximately 5,000 street children in Nepal, according to the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre.