Lured by dreams, Nepali women land in Africa dance bars
Lured by job opportunities in the US and Europe, many young Nepali women are being taken to African countries by their devious agents and forced to work there as bar dancers , and in some cases, as sex workers.
African nations like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have become a booming hub for dance bars run by migrant Indians these days.
Such bars showcase the Indian dance form of Mujra performed by young women, who are mostly of Nepali descent and some from India.
As Kenya and Tanzania offer visa-on-arrival for Nepali citizens, these innocuous women are brought to these countries on falsified documents and put to work in the bars. As these women are exported to Africa, agents from Nepal, India and Pakistan contribute to their journey. It is the duty of these agents to make the journey look seamless and risk-free. Caught in a double bind, far away from home in an unknown land and their planned journey cut abruptly short, these women are compelled to take up the job in these bars. And their trouble begins when authorities find out that they have either overstayed their visa or entered the country on fake documents.
Fourteen Nepali women were held from a Mujra bar at a place called Park Lane in Kenya recently. These women did not have work permits and were put behind bars.
“A bar owner, an Indian émigré, posted a bail of Rs 250,000 to free the women. These women could be jailed again if they continue to work there,” said Kul Bahadur Karki, a representative of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) in Kenya.
Nepali women are working in Mujra bars in Tanzania as well. It is learnt that the city of Dar es Salaam alone has six Mujra bars, where around 90 Nepali women are employed.
“We hear that these women, too, are without work permits and that they could get arrested anytime,” Bharat Rijal of the NRNA said. “It is learnt that these women are avoiding arrest by visiting neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda after their visa duration expires.”
Another NRNA representative based in Dar es Salaam said some Nepali women are also involved in the sex trade. Bar owners and dancers make extra income from the service. These women neither want to divulge their identity nor talk about their plight. The Kenyan police arrested three Nepali men—Subas Gurung, Umananda Giri and Tulachan Pun—with fake visa this week. The three, too, are victims of the same racket that supply young Nepali and Indian women to Africa.
“The court has fined them Rs 500,000 each. They could face a jail term of up to 18 months if they fail to pay the fine by this Friday,” NRNA representative Karki said.
There is a small presence of Nepalis staying legally in Africa, but the number of them landing in African nations as transit destinations and being left in the lurch at the hands of their unscrupulous agents is increasing by the day, according to Hikmat Thapa, a Nigeria-based Nepali and the African region coordinator of the NRNA. “The network of these human traffickers has extended to countries like Madagascar that has no diplomatic ties with Nepal and Congo, which has the least number of Nepali migrants.”
Nepali Ambassador to South Africa Arun Prasad Dhital agrees with Thapa’s observation. The situation calls for putting an immediate measure in place to curb such incidents, he said. “These agents are selling the pipe dream of better paying jobs in the US and Europe to the unskilled and uneducated Nepalis and abandoning them in African nations. It is a serious and pressing situation. To address this crisis we are planning to partner with the NRNA and hold a meeting to form a mechanism to help such victims.”