Teenaged girls strip every
night at Kathmandu dance bars
Nov 11 (IANS) Sixteen-year-old Hema wants to be a nurse. But
to fulfil her dream, she performs at a dance bar every evening
- even if it means gyrating around a pole, stripping and giving
company to strangers at night.
a dimly lit dance bar in Thamel in the heart of Kathmandu,
she performs to foot-tapping Bollywood numbers in front of
customers seated on chairs around an elevated dance floor.
(name changed) hardly receives any attention from the customers
who are busy sharing drinks and intimate moments with other
teenaged girls - also called "comfort girls" - till
she sheds some more clothes. Semi-clad Hema finishes her act
without any applause.
another teenaged girl replaces her. Hema retires to the green
room, gets dressed and returns - this time to sit with the
aap kaise hai (hello, how are you)," Hema tells this
IANS correspondent in Hindi with a tired smile. "Why
are you sitting without a drink? Buy one for yourself. I will
take pineapple juice," she says.
knows the tricks of the trade well. The dance bar makes money
every time a customer places an order for himself or the comfort
where in India do you hail?" she asks. But when questioned
about her own private life, she is on her guard.
you from a news channel? Why are you asking these questions?"
she asks, visibly uneasy. Once she is told that she is talking
to an Indian student and her doubts are laid to rest, she
proceeds with the answer.
was in Class 8 when I joined this place last year. My father,
who works in India, stopped sending us money. But I wanted
to continue my studies and become a nurse. My elder sister
left me here," she said.
estimates suggest there could be more than 1,000 dance bars
in Kathmandu - and each has around 10-15 girls who take turns
to perform. These bars open at 6 p.m. and don't close until
midnight, attracting a constant flow of visitors - in 2007
Nepal got over 500,000 tourists.
the bars, girls from poverty-stricken corners of Nepal dance
away, hoping to fulfil their simple dreams some day. The parents
of some are never told about their profession, others let
their daughters go on as long as the money keeps coming.
there is no other job opportunity, everyone lands up here.
My employer pays me Nepali Rs.3,000 ($40) per month. Clients
usually give a good tip to all comfort girls just for sitting
with them. Sometimes I am paid handsomely for going out with
them," says Hema, who joined the dance bar last year
and hopes her run there will end in another six-seven months.
than half the money is spent on room rent, makeup, grocery
and other necessary items. The rest goes into my education
and to my sister. I hardly save anything."
when does she study? She said girls like her work at dance
bars for a few months. "When we have enough savings,
we quit and our employers cooperate with us," Hema says
before leaving for her next dance performance.
quitting is never easy, given the fast money the profession
18, had similar dreams. She wanted to become an airhostess
but lack of money brought her here two years ago. She is still
struggling. "I think once you are into a dance bar, it
is impossible to shake off its lure," she explains.
dance bars are not illegal in Nepal, stripping is. But in
a nation where 30 percent of the 30 million population is
below the poverty line, few seem to care.
Kala Thapa, chairperson of the Nepal Women Commission, says
it is the lure of fast money that brings many girls here.
have a somewhat open culture here in Nepal. Parents don't
mind sending their girls to dance bars because they are poor.
Unemployment is another major reason and here most of the
inexperienced girls and minor ones come to seek job,"
Thapa told IANS.
Mathema, a member of the Nepal Human Rights Commission, said
this industry employs a large number of people; so the government
cannot afford to put a ban on it till enough job opportunities