KATHMANDU: They are barely 16 years old, but it is not difficult to spot Nepali boys expertly luring customers for equally young sex workers on the capital's streets. The demons of poverty, unemployment and the lure of quick money have pushed hundreds of them into a dark trade.
Dressed in simple clothes, these boys look out for foreign tourists visiting Kathmandu's Thamel market - famous for its dance bars, pubs, restaurants, shops and nightlife - especially after dusk.
Their targets typically are men who roam in groups around massage parlours located in every nook and corner of the sprawling market. The five-foot something boys approach them with offers of arranging girls of any and every age.
"We first go and strike a conversation with the customers. We listen to their demands and then quote our price. Sometimes we have to give details about the girls to fix the deal," said 16-year-old Veer Bahadur, a Class 5 dropout.
"We tell them that we can supply a girl of any age and all their other demands would be met without any difficulty."
These young boys quote a meagre sum - sometimes even less than the price of one kilogram of sweets - to supply a girl. The girls can be hired for half-an-hour to one night.
And there is usually a constant flow of tourists. Nepal got 526,705 visitors in 2007.
"If I don't do it, someone else in the market will get the customers and I will lose my commission and earnings. There are at least 70-80 places in the market where girls are easily available for sex," Veer told a visiting IANS correspondent.
He said like him there are many teenaged boys in this trade.
Most of the boys come from the poverty-stricken areas of Bhaktapur in the valley or Salyan, Baglung and Kaski in the west or Dhankuta and Khotang in the east.
In a country, where over 30 percent of the 30 million population is below the poverty line, 42 percent are unemployed and which until 2006 saw an armed struggle by Maoist insurgents, it is hard to resist the money the trade offers.
"I started looking for clients after my elder brother introduced me to the flesh trade last year. I have learnt the tricks of the trade from him. My employer is pleased with me and pays me Nepali Rs.2,000 (nearly $27) every month," said Veer.
"Some money I give to my family and the rest I spend on myself. I drink and like sleeping with the girls for whom I fix deals."
Unlike Veer, Bipin Lama, 16, stepped into the flesh trade after watching his friends make quick money.
"I was envious of my friends who always flaunted good clothes and expensive mobiles. I wanted to live their lives, so I joined them," Lama said.
But what about the police?
"Policemen are not a threat to us as they are heavily bribed. It is the neck-to-neck competition between boys to win clients that is a problem. If the business is slow, then we have to work harder to get more clients."
Bipin explained that once a deal is fixed, they take the client inside a small house that operates in the name of a massage parlour or dance bar. The client is handed over to a senior pimp who further executes the deal.
These boys then go out in the market again, hunting for more customers.
Archana Tamang, who works for the UN body UNIFEM, said though there is no study on boys working as pimps in Nepal, their number could be very high.
"Most of the boys are either street children addicted to drugs or displaced from their villages due to armed conflicts. Poverty is another major factor," Tamang said.
There are approximately 5,000 street children in Nepal, according to the NGO Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre.
6 months ago