Selbon Tamang is 52, and for most of his adult life he has been searching for a bride in his village of Sisipu of Nuwakot. But there aren't any. This village 90km north of Kathmandu has no young women left: they have all been trafficked to brothels in India.
Selbon is not alone. There are hundreds of young men here in northern Nuwakot who can't find brides. It is estimated that more than 5,000 of the women from this remote mountain region are in brothels in Mumbai and other cities in India.
"I have been searching for a bride for the last 11 years, but only underaged girls are left in the village," says Kanchha Tamang, 37, of Sisipu. Ghangphedi's population growth
has gone down to below replacement rate fertility.
Even married women are being tricked and sold, sometimes by relatives in India. "My wife was sold by her own relatives to a brothel in Kolkata," says Lal Bahadur Tamang of Shikharbesi. The trafficking ringleader, Chhopa, alias Kale Tamang, was finally caught last month (see box). Chhopa sold another woman, Kumari, just 37 days after she married Mangale Tamang, tricking her with promise of a job. Asmita Thapa of the anti-trafficking organisation, Shakti Samuha, says Kumari was sold to a brothel in Kolkata run by her own aunt.
There are those who return to tell horrific stories of abuse and exploitation. Among them is Thulimaya (name changed) who has returned after working in brothels in Mumbai for 25 years. As seems to be often the case, after five years of working in a brothel, Thulimaya started running her own.
Eighteen-year-old Selmendo Tamang's (pictured, left, centre) own uncle took her to Rasuwa to sell her off. "It was only when police arrived that I realised I was about to be sold," Selmendo recalls. Her marriage to Aitaman Tamang last year was been the only marriage in Sisiphu in the last eight years.
Ask any parent here about their missing daughters and the standard answer is: "She is in college in the city". Bishnu Prasad Acharya, the principal of a primary school in Simtang says more than 15 girls from his school have been trafficked.
Government apathy, political protection of recruiters and lack of opportunities mean that the social structure of villages here is falling apart. But local communities are now working to spread awareness, and Shakti Shamuha is carrying out rescue and rehabilitation.
Get out of jail
Kale Tamang alias Chhopa, 41, who has been responsible for many of the cases of trafficking from Nuwakot, was finally caught by police last month. In a career spanning 16 years since 1996, Chhopa is estimated to have trafficked at least 400 women. Police here say there are another 30 people who are still at large. However, anti-trafficking activists are worried that middlemen are trying to get Chhopa out of jail by posting a Rs 6 million bail.
Back with HIV
Kanchimaya Tamang is 49. She was sold to a brothel in India by her relatives when she was a teenager. When she got infected with HIV, she was sent back to Nepal. In the last three years, seventeen people have died due to HIV/AIDS in Shikharbesi alone. There are many women like Kanchimaya with HIV in Shikharbesi, and many have married because of the shortage of brides.
A far-away rescue, RUBEENA MAHATO in COIMBATORE, INDIA
Young girls from the remote mountains of northwestern Nepal who were trafficked to the southern tip of India are rescued this week