KATHMANDU, NEPAL — It was earlymorning when I reached Itahari, a hub for the sex trade in Nepal. I then took a rickshaw to the NGO where I was to interview its president. The warm breeze blew my hair in all directions in the open rickshaw. It was my first time interviewing sex workers. I keenly looked around the sidewalks and corners hoping to get a glimpse of a sex worker: bright clothes, scanty clothes, loud make up. But I found none.
It was my first time in the city, and I was lost. Luckily, I had been given the mobile phone number of a contact at the NGO. I called and spoke to a girl who gave me directions to the office. She was very polite.
Soon, I realized I was still lost and I called her again. The girl patiently spoke to me and again gave directions, this time to both me and the rickshaw driver.
When I finally reached the NGO office, the young girl answered the door. She greeted me and offered a glass of water. She was young, slender and had long hair. She wore an ill-fitting, black kurtha that was too big for her fragile body.
She told me the NGO president was going to be an hour late for our appointment, so I settled down to wait.
The girl came up to me timidly and asked for my help with the computer. She was having problems logging on to her Facebook account. She accessed her account then uploaded a new profile picture. I smiled, thinking how typical this is for a young girl.
Soon, I began my work. I was shocked to meet the sex workers. I knew I was going to interview young sex workers, but to see them in flesh and blood, appearing so young and innocent, was difficult to digest.
One young sex worker broke down in the middle of the interview while recalling the first time she was touched by a man at a very tender age. It was heartbreaking and I felt guilty for making her relive that horrible reality. She sobbed, her thin body shivering under a cotton kurtha and she covered her face with her shawl to hide her tears. I choke up even now when I think about it.
I was exhausted at the end of the day, but I prepared myself to interview one last sex worker. A young girl, wearing an ill-fitting, black kurtha, walked in. I recognized her voice when she said, “What do you want to know about me?”
My last interview was with the lovely, polite young girl I had met that morning! She had come to the NGO seeking help.
These girls are sex workers as a result of the choices they made, I realized. They may be right, they may be wrong. Many of them made this difficult choice at a very young age, when they were supposed to go to school, play with their peers and be supported and protected by their families.