Technology is ripping open Nepal's traditionally closed society
J B PUN
FROM ISSUE #411 (01 AUG 2008 - 07 AUG 2008)
'Dolma' used to run a souvenir shop on Pokhara's lakeside. A Dutch tourist befriended her last year, and they fell in love. He took her to Goa, gave her $3,000 and proposed to her. 'Dolma', now 30, refused. What she didn't know was that she had been secretly filmed at their hotel room in Goa and that video is now being openly sold in Nepal and through the Internet. Says Dolma: "I was really angry, I am really stressed out and haven't been able to go to my shop."
'Tek' is from Dharan and lives in the UK where he was having an affair with the wife of a friend. They used to meet in hotels and he had filmed themselves making love. On a recent trip to Kathmandu he found out on arrival that the video was in circulation throughout Nepal. He flew right back to London. The woman's father tried to commit suicide after seeing the film. The viedo file was copied and circulated by a repair shop where 'Tek' had given his laptop for repair.
Jibacha Yadav was a math teacher in Banke who was sexually abusing a grade eight student in his school. He blackmailed her with videos he had taken of them in bed taken with his mobile phone. Yadav is now in jail because the girl reported him to the police.
Tej Chand in Kanchanpur tempted an aspiring model with a movie career and filmed them in bed together. Chand's assistant copied the film out of his hard drive and sold it to a video parlour for Rs 5,000, which in turn passed the video on to a mobile store for Rs 10,000. The DVD is for sale for Rs 500, can be loaded into mobile phones for Rs 50, or rented in video parlours across western Nepal and even in India.
As DVD cameras, mobile phones, computers and the Internet become affordable and accessible, more and more Nepalis are using the technology for filming and distributing pornography.
Combined with tourism, the trend has made Nepal one of the points of origin for pornographic films and even paedophilic material on the Web. Many young Nepali women have been unwittingly involved in the trade, some being exploited and blackmailed by their male partners.
With globalisation, increased travel, the Internet and the spread of cable, Nepal's social mores have been transformed within one generation. Nepalis, who used to find Bollywood song sequences "racy", or hide their faces when Nepali actress Rekha Thapa appeared in a swimsuit, are now routinely exposed to sexually-explicit content.
A Himal Khabarpatrika investigation has revealed that "blue films" are more widely available than previously estimated in video parlours, mobile phone shops and even paan kiosks across the country. Pornographic videos that used to be available only to the urban upper class or traders returning from Bangkok now have audiences right through the social strata and even in rural areas.
What is new is that the people seen in sexually explicit acts in these videos are no longer just Thai, Japanese or western women but Nepalis. The DVDs have names like Nepali Lovers Homemade Hardcore or Nepali Rani. Some of the protagonists are young Nepali women who were filmed without their knowledge like 'Dolma'. Personal material like that made its way into the public domain by accident.
But some are sex workers who have willingly serviced foreign customers in their hotel rooms, knowing that the camera was rolling. 'Maya' is a fifth grade dropout from Syangja and works in Thamel with hundreds of other young Nepali women. She sees nothing wrong with being featured in pornographic videos that are circulated worldwide.
"My father is illiterate and lives in the village, he is not going to see me, and what do I care if others do?" asks 'Maya' who says she is paid Rs 70,000 per shoot.
The growing frequency with which Nepali women are featured in Internet porn sites also seems to suggest a surge in sex tourism, especially in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Driven out of their home districts by the conflict and desperate for jobs, young women easily fall prey to cyber pimps.
Cybercaf?s in Kathmandu and district capitals are setting aside private cubicles specially designed for tandem porn viewing either on the net, or through DVDs.
When an increased number of paedophilic material started appearing on the Internet five years ago and were traced back to Nepal, Interpol wrote to Nepal Police to investigate. Some arrests were made, but child sex material from Nepal is still finding its way to the net.
"It is inevitable that when traditional value systems are eroded by the content of new technology, and if new education and culture doesn't replace it, societal mores are altered," says sociologist Suresh Dhakal.
Because of the novelty of the medium and the ease with which mobile phones can be used for video, there are also increasing numbers of cases where women are victimised by ruthless partners. In a way, this seems to be a high-tech extension of the exploitation of young Nepali women trafficked for generations by their husbands, boyfriends or even relatives.
Psychologist Sharmila Manandhar believes that the spread of pornography in Nepal represents just one aspect of rapidly-changing interactions in what was till recently a closed, traditional society.
She adds: "But pornography also reinforces traditional relationships because the videos focus on male satisfaction and reflect the entrenched patriarchal nature of our society."
Some names have been changed.http://www.nepalitimes.com.np/issue/2008/08/5/Nation/15095/print