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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 13:23 GMT
South Asia pressed on sex trade
Sex workers
More than 20,000 women are smuggled into India each year
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

A senior UN official has called for effective regional co-operation to stop the trafficking of women in South Asia.

The UN special rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said a proposed regional convention against the trafficking of women and children could significantly help in fighting the problem.

She said the problem was very serious and required urgent action.

Ms Coomaraswamy, who is currently in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, said South Asian nations could not fight this problem individually.

She said that they must work in collaboration with each other to stop the cross-border trafficking of women.

Alarming numbers

Ms Coomaraswamy is on the second leg of a three-nation South Asian tour to assess the problem in the region.

She has already visited Bangladesh and heads for India later this week.

It is estimated that traffickers annually lure more than 20,000 women from Nepal and Bangladesh to India where they are sold to brothels.

Their total number is said to be in millions, though there are no official data.

Ms Coomaraswamy said that compared to other parts of the world the problem in the South Asia region was very serious.

Convention

She called for the early adoption of the South Asian regional forum's proposed convention to combat the problem.

The convention was to be signed during the summit meeting of the seven-nation South Asian regional organisation (Saarc) in Kathmandu last year.

But the summit was postponed indefinitely following the military coup in Pakistan.

There is no indication of an early resumption of the aborted summit meeting.

But the secretary general of Saarc, Nihal Rodrigues, said that efforts were underway to have all the member countries sign the convention without a summit.

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sex workers fight for their rights
14 Mar 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh says prostitution legal
08 Feb 00 | South Asia
Refugees smuggled to Pakistan
13 Jul 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh prostitutes up in arms
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