Despite being a poor nation, ironically,Nepal has witnessed a rising number of entertainment and leisure industries to entertain people from different walks of life. When one establishes a link between pleasure that the leisure industry caters to and the widespread poverty prevalent in the country, many unpleasant facts come to light. The entertainment industry generally refers to the dance bars, dohori restaurants, cabin restaurants, massage parlours, spas, eateries and guest houses. They have been big sources of entertainment to the visitors but the stakeholders cry foul as the sectoris increasingly becoming unsafe,undignified and undisciplined.Improper activities have become the norm with the shoddy and sleazy deals taking place surreptitiously in the entertainment market. According to a news report, published in this daily, this industry has grown as an informal sector. As a result, both the government and workers are being cheated by their owners. There has been a tendency not to register the dance bars, dohori restaurants and massage parlours so as to avoid taxes and fleece the employees.The official data put the number of entertainment businesses at 25,000 across the country. Of them, 12,000 operate in the capital city alone. According to a study, the owners mostly use children and under-aged girls to run their businesses without providing legal documents to them. Many of them do not possess even citizenship certificates and appointment letters. Thousands of girls work as waiters and dancers to eke out a living.
It is common knowledge that girls and women from the poor families fill the dance bars, massage parlours and restaurants. The fairer sex working there faces multiple whammies. The family and society often look down on them. In the absence of essential documents, they are prone to the highhandedness of their owners as well as customers. Even cops harass and treat them as ignoble creatures. In the absence of necessary laws and regulations, they work and live at the mercy of their masters, who themselves set the rules and regulations defining their job and salary. Under the cover of glitter and glamour, the entertainment industry has become a safe route for human trafficking and the flesh trade. An insecure job, mistreatment by the owners, abandonment by the parents and penury haveforced many young girls into prostitution. They are also becoming victims of human traffickers and callous pimps that go to hunt them in the dance bars and restaurants. It is estimated that around 12,000 women and girls are trafficked to foreign countries annually, most of them land in Indian brothels. Poverty, joblessness, family and social disruption have largely contributed to the human trafficking and sex trade.
Ensuring dignity, recognition and job security for the women and girls working in the entertainment sector appears to be highly challenging owing to the entrenched negative attitude towards the leisure and show business. The government needs to frame stringent laws to address the problems of this sector. It should put strong mechanisms in place to monitor the bad and illegal deeds. The onus is also on the women organisations, NGOs and media to fight the anomalies besetting the sector. First and foremost, the girls and women should be provided education, training and employment before they find their way into the entertainment industry. The root of the problems lies in the backwardness, ignorance and poverty. Once these issues are sorted out, there will be minimal cases of exploitation and sufferings of the girls and women that make up more than half the total population.