Tuesday, October 7, 2008

War on Sex and Liquor

Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam has declared a "War on Sex & Liquor" in Kathmandu.

Apparently, there is a robust sex industry extending out from the dance bars in Thamel - the tourist district next to my neighborhood. I didn't stumble upon any such places while I was there, but I was rarely out late at night either. Who knew?

For last Spring semester's American Grand Strategy course I did my policy paper on Trafficing in Persons so I DID know that many Nepali women are trafficked to India for sex work, but there is very little research done on prostitution in Nepal itself.

The subsistence nature of large parts of the rural economy meant that there was no mass market for commercial sex until comparatively recently. Economic development and urbanization and the increasing integration of Nepal within global consumer cultures has altered this. Also, the 10 years of the rural violence associated with the Maoist insurgency forced migration to Kathmandu and women into the sex trade in order to survive.

Critics compare Gautam’s move as another populist measure like Maoist’s resistance to Miss Nepal Pageant. But, Gautam comes from a moderate communist party UML which advocates a form of democratic socialist ideals. Some hotel entrepreneurs, too, criticized Gautam’s strict orders to the police to shut down all bars and discos by 11 in the evening as dictatorial, fearing such actions would be detrimental to tourism industry. However, the Thamel shopkeepers have issues a press statement in favor of the ban.


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