My name is Anita* and I am from Eastern Nepal. I am 18 years old. We are a family of five, and my elder brother is disabled. My father is a farmer and we have cattle at home. I left school after class 11 due to my family’s poor economic condition. I came to Kathmandu with one of my village bahini [non-relative] and stayed here for a month with the bahini’s relative. Later, due to lockdown, I went back to the village, but after the lockdown, I again came back with a didi [non-relative] from the village. This is almost a year ago.
The didi had promised to get me a job in Kathmandu. When I got to Kathmandu the didi told me that we had to be with mama [non-related ‘uncle’] and she took me to a guesthouse. I didn’t have any money and the didi told me that we had to go to the mama to get some money. But I wasn’t aware then that we would get money only after having physical relations with him. And I couldn’t decide if it was right or wrong, but stayed there with that mama that night. The next day, that didi collected Rs.25,000.00 from the mama and we came to Kathmandu and started living over here.
I didn’t get any money from that didi. After coming to Kathmandu, that didi didn’t find any job for me though she was frequently assuring me that she would find me one soon. That continued for some time. Later, another didi from a neighboring house helped me to get a job as a waitress in a café. While working as a waitress, the employer used to shout at me if I made any mistakes but also used to teach me how to do the work. My salary was Rs.9,000.00. One day, I didn’t go to work due to my health, and after that day, they already replaced me with someone else and I had to leave the job. I worked there for a month and a half. My duties were to take orders from guests and do the cleaning.
The happy moments of my life were outings with friends during my school and college days. When I think about my mother, I feel very sad. My mother used to do melapat [agricultural labour] for income. My mother has faced lots of troubles for as long as I can remember. She became very ill when I was a child, and my father was in India at that time. Her body was swollen and we didn’t have money for her treatment. At that time, I realised that if you don’t have money, you cannot say no to others even if they ask you to do wrong things.
I was raped when I was six or seven years old. I was playing and there was one uncle [non-relative] nearby our house. He called me over and gave me chocolates and he raped me. And when I told my parents about that incident, my father shouted at me and shouted at my mother saying ‘your daughter is like this!’ That matter was over then. In my neighbourhood, people used to tease me saying that I had gone with the old man.
I used to have a boyfriend. He was an addict. He used to have marijuana and tablets and search for me everywhere in the village. One day, he came searching for me at my home and my mother persuaded him to go away. Later, when I came back home, I went to get water from a tap nearby my house, and my boyfriend came there with his friends and verbally abused me. Later, he sent his friends back and I was raped there by him. I was only 16 at that time and he was 20 years old. After that incident, he tried calling and sending messages on Facebook but I blocked him and distanced myself.
My father had three wives and I have half-brothers also. My mother is the youngest wife. His second wife is already dead. Sometimes, my half-brothers come home and give us some money for household expenses. They live in a different place in Eastern Nepal, not with us. The children from the eldest wife all live in Kathmandu. But I don’t care much. No one is like my mother.
After coming to Kathmandu and going out with the didi, I came to know so many didis and they made me do sex work. They used to manipulate me. They took advantage of my weakness. At that time, I was working as a waitress in the café. They used to take me from the halfway point while coming back from work to guesthouses and used to make me sleep with guests. They used to call the guests before and fix my price as well. I was helpless then because one of them was looking after my food and accommodation.
I haven’t called my parents since I came back to Kathmandu after lockdown because of some mobile phone issues. In life, I have done lots of things and faced things that I never had thought of before. I was compelled to do them because of poverty and obligations at home.
Right now, I live alone and I am working in a dance bar as a dancer. [She shifted from working in the guesthouses to working at the dance bar after meeting a contact she knew while she was a waitress at the café. This contact also helped her to find a place to live, and she started living on her own, independently. The dance bar is in a different location from the café].
I have close friends and didi’s at the dance bar, who I met since working there. My salary is not fixed there but the environment is fine. But the man at the counter keeps looking at me closely and also complaining. Sometimes, he makes nasty comments about my clothing: he would say how my breasts have become bigger within a day. He talks in a bad way.
I meet both nice and bad guests at work, at the bar. Some guests advise me not to work there and to find another good job. I feel ashamed of myself, but I cannot do anything about it as I have obligations. Some guests offer to go out with me and pay me for a night. These kinds of offers make me sad as I have no wish to work in this type of place, but I don’t have a choice.
It’s difficult to survive in Kathmandu without money, but while working in the bar I learned many things and I don’t feel bad about my work because guests have money, so they come to spend their money and I go there to earn. That’s what I think, and don’t feel bad. These days, tips from the bar cover my household expenses. [Since working at the dance bar, she is no longer involved with meeting clients at guest houses].
There was one didi who I lived with, which was fine until we had an argument and I had to leave. After I left, that didi accused me of talking with her husband, which I didn’t do. My Facebook account was logged in from her mobile and she sent messages to our mutual friends about me that made me look bad, and then she accused me of sending messages to her friends. After leaving her place, I started working on my own and living with another didi.
That didi who I was living with at the time and the didi who I stayed with before came together and ganged up on me. They verbally abused and threatened me saying they would tell everyone that I work in a bar. Last week, both of them and one other didi, who I know, visited my workplace along with one of their male friends and abused me physically, and also insulted me. I had a fight with them and one of my colleagues at work helped me and later the bar owner kicked them out. They came to my workplace that day and took a video of me dancing on the stage. They sent that video to two of my half-brothers. Through them, my fupu [paternal aunt] came to know about it and she called me to ask about it, but I made the excuse to her that it wasn’t me, because the face was not very clear in that video.
Now, I think, I will continue my work at the same place for a while and will go back home to get my citizenship card and passport and will go abroad to work. If my family comes to know that I work in a bar they will kill me. I want to advise young children that before making any decisions, they should take some time, and only then should they decide, as no one should go through what I have been through.
*All names have been changed