August 22, 2007 / 1:36 PM / 12 years ago

Nepal women strip to protest prostitution tradition

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali police detained 13 women on Wednesday for stripping to their undergarments to protest against a widespread practice of forcing girls from their community into prostitution.

About 400 women from the impoverished Badi community in the plains of southwest Nepal had come to the capital, Kathmandu, to demand the government end the practice by giving them land for farms and houses, as well as free education for their children.

“Meet our demands or we’ll expose the eight political parties,” the women shouted, threatening to name politicians of the parties of the ruling coalition, who they said had paid for sex.

One woman took off her blouse, exposing her bra, and then climbed the large gate of the parliament complex to shout slogans before being forced down and bundled into a police van.

Other women unravelled their saris and protested wearing only their petticoats and blouses. Many office workers and passers-by gathered to watch the protest, some of them gawking.

The women argued if the government helped lift their 32,000-strong community out of poverty, the Badis will be able to give up the tradition of turning homes into brothels, where their daughters or sisters are on offer.

They want the government to help Badi women working as prostitutes — some of whom were involved in Wednesday’s protest — to find other work.

“We have been stripped by society everyday so why should I be ashamed to press for our demands,” said Rukmini Badi, 40, one of the protesters.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and many Nepali women are trafficked for commercial sex to India each year.

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