Article on the rape and sexual harassment of tourists in Nepal
Published in The Independent, Kathmandu.
In Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, there is a travel agent of good manners and reputation. He organises mountaineering expeditions and package treks as well as tailor-made treks for travellers with individual requirements, especially safety-conscious lone women.
This is no backstreet operator. With his charisma and precise attention to detail, he wins the confidence of an international clientele. Registered, main-stream, immaculate, he gains the trust of women who look to him for security and he capitalises on this trust. Sexual harassment is an understatement. He prefers rape, in fact serial rape.
So at this point you wonder which travel agents rape tourists and how they get away with it. As main-stream tour operators, with income from the Western world, they are prosperous men in an extremely poor, corruption-ridden country, where officials and police are underpaid and the human rights of women are scarcely understood. Police may opt not to make enemies of wealthy powerful men, preferring, at the least, to be invited to parties with plenty of alcohol. And the victims are often threatened with retaliation if they mention the incident or try to press charges.
In one of the poorest countries on earth, tourists are a major source of foreign income. So the Nepalese government aims to increase tourism and to encourage tourists to deal with registered companies. Although these men bring foreign exchange into the country, tourists return home with horror stories of having put their trust in a "reputable" company and then having suffered severe abuse. In the long term this behaviour, as more and more women are exploited, will damage the reputation of tourism in Nepal.
In Asia, independent women are far too easily confused with immoral women, (no matter how carefully they dress). The myth that victims are to be blamed for being raped needs to be challenged. Clearly these men deceive innocent women into believing they are safe so they can be easily victimised.
We must ask what actions are taken to prevent such offences, both for the safety of women travellers and to protect the image of Nepal and innocent Nepalis involved in tourism. Do the owners of all travel companies and hotels in Kathmandu realise it is in their own financial interests to put pressure on these offenders, if they know who they are?
The author was anonymous, possibly to protect her identity as a victim. Although this article was published 3rd February 1993, nothing has changed. Bearing in mind that travel is the world's No 1 growth industry, this is an issue that need to be addressed.
For more information on the campaign to stop sexual harassment of tourists in Nepal please email comments, ideas and suggestions to: For more information on the campaign to stop sexual harassment of tourists in Nepal please email comments, ideas and suggestions to: