Yesterday I found myself walking down the alley way of Thamel and as is usual for the narrow and overcrowded street, there was a block in the road which made it difficult to weave my way through people. I initially thought it was just another reason-less jam, but in the thick of the crowd it became clear that people had congregated for a reason.
Standing along the edges, peering out of cluttered shops, the eyes of the bystanders fell on a pick-up truck with a few uniformed men in blue standing over a number of women squatting/sitting in the back. It took all of three seconds for me to guess what happened – a “bar” was raided and the women were crammed into the back of the truck and escorted down one of the most crowded areas of the city.
I watched as men watched them. I watched as they all sat, hoodies up, heads down, covering their faces. I watched them… exposed… I watched them… ashamed.
I watched, and I filled with rage.
I had no desire to allow my gaze to search the faces of the women, I didn’t want to be in the crowd, in fact, I wanted to spit in the face of every man who looked at the truck. I stormed off and wanted to explode. But I didn’t. Instead in unladylike words I expressed my sentiment to my friend:
“You know what’s effed up? These raids happen and it’s always the women who are picked up. None of those women want to be there and yet they’re the ones punished. When they raid these places they never take the men. They never shut down the bar. They never punish the mangers or the effing assholes who own or run the place. If anything, men with money and effing little pricks parade the town like they effing own every effing thing” …. on and on I went.
My friend is calm and collected and though I was seething, he brought how the system runs. “Do you know why they get raided?” he asked and the explanation is seen in any movie that touches corruption, drugs and violence. Some man didn’t pay under the table so in a show of ego, cops arrive to cock-block and take the women away.
I was annoyed that this was what my friend brought to my attention because I know the world is fucked up. I know Nepal is corrupted to the core, what bothers me is that these women are victims. Most of them are uneducated, they come to the city looking for a better life, instead they’re sold/forced/blackmailed into a life with a vile red tinge.
My friend then decided to tell me that not all women were forced. Which is true, there are some women who are willingly in this line of work. There are women who are “fortunate” enough to choose their own clients. They receive more money in one night than months of my pay, and for all I know – they enjoy it.
But of the thousands of women in the sex industry, the minuscule point-something percentage of women who “choose” this weren’t in the back of the truck being sent somewhere to further their shame. And even of the “high class” ladies of the night, I doubt selling their body was their aspiration. I’ve read a few books on geishas, how they were respected, an integral part of Japanese society, how they are iconic and admired. But once you get passed the painted white faces and blood red lips, it’s easy to see that these women opt to be geishas because in assessing their lives, that was their best option. Little girls dream of being princesses, lawyers, doctors, and dancers – no girl wants to be some man’s wet dream.
It angers me that others of my sex are therefore scantily clad, displayed under dim lights, and then transported to jails because they have no choice. It drives me crazy that men, husbands, brothers, uncles, fathers, and lovers offer women to pimps and “madams”. Living sacrifices. And what’s worse, the women who have the upper hand in the business are cut-throat bitches and more heartless than the men.
My friend didn’t seem too bothered. I could tell in his face that he mentally shrugged it off and was okay with knowing that this is how things are. He said it’s because he’s seen so much of it, and maybe he’s seen more of this than I have but I never want to be okay with what I see. I’ve heard too many stories of girls who come to Kathmandu to work, to help their family and instead their bodies are abused and their minds corrupted. They innocence is infected by the sickening perversion of men.
And then they are left to die. Diseased. Alone. Without dignity. No name, just another used body.
This is the point in the rant where I feel helpless. I am angered to the point of wanting to punch every man I see in the balls. I am livid. I understand the fucked up system. I don’t care if a man chooses to pay for sex, I don’t care if people pay each other off under the table, what I care about is the fact that when shit goes down, it’s the broken women who are punished as if they are the ones to blame. This is just a rant because I need to express my anger. I won’t be on the streets picketing, I won’t be going under cover into the “dance bars with shower” and I will probably never speak to a woman who doesn’t own her own body, I just write because for the time being, that’s all I know how to do. It’s all I can do. For now, that’s okay, but very soon it won’t be enough.