KATHMANDU, Sept 16: At first, she identified herself as Sumnima Sharma from Dharan. But the very next moment she said she is not Sumnima but Sanjita and her house is in West Bengal of India. Upon further insistence to remember her exact identity, tears welled up in her eyes and she went totally mute.
Her passport identifies her as Sanchita Dawadi and she seemed to be hardly 16 years of age.
The only thing she vividly remembered and eagerly narrated was the torment she went through in Saudi Arabia, where she was severely beaten, thrashed and her arms slashed by knife for a minor fault. She even showed her wounds to prove her points.
"It seems that she has been a victim of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. The torture, evidently, was beyond what she could tolerate as she is very young," states Dr P P Sharma, a psychiatrist with Maiti Nepal who has been treating such victims for a decade now. "It will take at least 2 months to treat such patients. But even then it is difficult to guarantee a full recovery of her mental health," he added.
Dawadi is just one among nine such victims handed over to Maiti Nepal by the immigration at the airport last month. Most of them seemed to have lost their memory and ability to reason. According to Dr Sharma, three of the nine girls, including Dawadi, have shown severe mental disorder.
"Severe means when a victim cannot remember or tell about their past. In some cases they do not even tell about the torments they went through."
According to Anuradha Koirala, founder and executive director of Maiti Nepal, her organization receives at least six mentally disturb women every month. Paurakhi, an organization of migrant women workers, reports that on an average it handles 2 such cases per month.
"The women under our care are in critical condition. They need enough time to recover," said Satra Kumari Gurung, secretary at Paurakhi.
In view of rising number of such incidents, the government recently decided to ban Nepali women under 30 from going to the Gulf countries for work. Not everybody, however, thinks that the government decision will put a stop to such abuses.
According to Saru Joshi, regional program coordinator of UN Women-Nepal, the government´s decision is likely to increase the number of such cases rather than curb them. "When the government enforced a ban on women going to certain countries in the past, they still managed to land there illegally," Joshi said.
Widespread poverty and lack of employment in the country make people, irrespective of their gender, desperate for jobs outside the country, Joshi argued.
"Women cannot wait till they reach 30 to work and earn. So, they will try to find illegal ways to sneak out. Such a circumstance will compel women to seek traffickers´ help and more of them will end up at places where they will suffer abuses," Joshi asserts. According to her, the government should rather come up with programs to keep women better informed and prepared to deal with possible adversities.