All cabin restaurants in the Valley have been recommended for closure to the government by a research team which says these places exploit young waitresses to 'entertain' clients. In response, restaurant owners say they are ready to remove all female staff to improve the atmosphere in their businesses.
The government's decision will be far-reaching. Closing down cabin restaurants will only jeopardise the livelihood of these girls who could to end up jobless and penniless. With no alternative, most will be forced into prostitution, exacerbating the situation.
At present, cabin restaurants are registered as eateries and don't fall into any specific category. Around 1,200 restaurants are registered with the government, with 80 percent of the 30,000 waitresses working in cabin restaurants. Owners who run a clean business blame the government for not introducing strict laws to control immoral activities. "It would be irresponsible for the government to close down the restaurants," says a restaurateur who says the NGO Maiti Nepal pressurised the government into taking such an irrational step.
The owners, who have been paying more than Rs 8 million in taxes annually, are willing to bring in improvements that would include a minimum salary of Rs 2,200, uniforms, removal of privacy curtains, bigger cabin rooms and lower dividing walls. They also plan to provide literacy programs for the waitresses and punish those who promote immoral activities.