Charity sues Kenya over treatment of trafficked Indian, Nepali women

by Nita Bhalla | @nitabhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 9 December 2019 16:42 GMT

A young Nepali woman, who was rescued by police from a dance bar in a suspected human trafficking case, stands by a window in a safe house near Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa in July 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nita Bhalla

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The complaint says the women were made to stay in Kenya for months and testify against their traffickers, causing them psychological harm

By Nita Bhalla

NAIROBI, Dec 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A charity said on Monday it is suing the Kenyan government over a failure to provide five women trafficked from India and Nepal for sexual exploitation with appropriate care after they were rescued.

HAART Kenya said a decision to make the three Nepali and two Indian women rescued from a Nairobi bar in August stay and testify against their alleged traffickers had caused them psychological harm.

"After four months, the victims just want to go home. They have become deeply traumatised and suicidal ... some have been hospitalised," said Sophie Otiende, programme consultant for HAART Kenya, which has rented a safe house for the victims.

"So we have filed a complaint against the government so that all victims of trafficking are not compelled to testify, and the government pays for their speedy and safe repatriation."

The government has said it hopes to repatriate the five women, aged in their early to mid-twenties, in the coming days.

The petition, due to be heard on Tuesday, states that Kenya's attorney general, inspector general of police and director of public prosecutions violated an anti-trafficking law that says victims have a right to privacy and safe repatriation.

It also calls on authorities to pay expenses of more than 1.3 million Kenyan shillings ($12,830) incurred by the charity for the care of the victims, which the law says is the state's responsibility.

Kenyan government officials denied a lack of care and said no request for funds had been received.

"We have received requests from other charities which are being considered. If HAART approached us, we would of course consider providing funds for these victims," said Elizabeth Mbuka, Head of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.

Mbuka said a court order for the repatriation of the five women had now been given.

BOLLYWOOD BARS

A rising number of women and girls are leaving South Asian nations such as Nepal, India and Pakistan to work in Bollywood-style dance bars in Kenya's adult entertainment industry - many illegally - according to anti-trafficking activists and police.

There is no official data, but the results of police raids combined with figures on repatriation of rescued women suggest scores of women and underage girls are victims of organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya.

Common in India, so-called mujra dance bars - where young women dance to Bollywood music for money from male patrons - have mushroomed in cities including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, where large numbers of Kenyans of South Asian descent live.

Police and anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that some of these private clubs are used as a front to ensnare women and girls, some in sex slavery, with women forced to pay off loans by erotic dancing or having sex with clients.

An official from the Indian High Commission in Nairobi said there had been "a few" cases involving the trafficking of Indian women to Kenyan dance bars.

"Whenever there is a case, we request consular access and provide whatever support we can to the victims," said the official, who did not want to be named.

"We try to ensure that all Indian nationals go back as soon as possible, but we can only do this when the court orders this in the host country."

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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