Involving survivors of human rights abuse in the identification and rescue of potential victims

Maiti Nepal works to stop trafficking of women and girls across the Nepal-India border by interviewing those who appear vulnerable. The Maiti interviewers are more likely to recognize others in dangerous situations because many of them are survivors of trafficking too.

Increasing demand for sex workers in Indian brothels and other markets is increasing trafficking in Nepal. One way to combat the problem is to prevent traffickers from crossing the border, but border police often fail to identify potential victims or simply look the other way.

Maiti Nepal works closely with the border guards at 11 transit points along Nepal’s borders to confront suspicious travelers. They stop every car and rickshaw. If there are women or girls traveling with men, the border guards ques­tion the men while Maiti Nepal’s staff questions the women. They ask questions such as “Why are you going to India?” and “How long have you known this man?” and observe the women’s body language, dress and make-up. During the interview, they also tell the women about the sex trade in India.

If the travelers’ stories are inconsistent, the suspected traffickers are apprehended by the police and the women and girls are taken to safe transit homes Maiti Nepal has constructed near the border. Here they receive food, counseling, and, if they wish, medical exams and transportation back to their home villages. In the event that rela­tives are unwilling to take someone back, or are found to have participated in the trafficking, Maiti Nepal provides counseling and job training.

Hundreds of potential victims have been rescued as a result of this tactic and cases have been brought against al­leged traffickers, putting pressure on local administrations to take action against the criminals.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Survivors of human rights abuse have a unique knowledge of the form abuse can take and a unique ability to recognize it. Such information can be used to prevent others from suffering the same fate. The organization Maiti Nepal enlists women who have been trafficked to help save other women and girls.

In situations that involve trafficking, domestic violence, child molestation or forced prostitution, outsiders may not always recognize abuse as easily as survivors do. Potential victims may also be more likely to respond to someone with personal knowledge of what they are going through. The participation of abuse survivors is thus central to the implementation of this tactic. When victims are willing to prevent future abuses, their unique knowledge of how human rights violations are carried out can be invaluable to those working to end such viola­tions. Also crucial in the tactic is Maiti Nepal’s successful collaboration with the border guards and its care not to return girls to families complicit in their trafficking.