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The trafficking of Nepalis to neighbouring India for exploitation – including for labour, sex, or even kidney transplantation – is widely reported. But cases of trafficking in human skin tissue are unheard of.
An investigation by Indian news website, Youth Ki Awaaz (Voice of the Youth) has changed that.
The investigation reports that traffickers target fair-skinned women from villages in Nepal, to fuel ‘huge demand’ in India. After skin tissue is obtained, the investigation reports that it’s sold to various small pathological labs, where it’s then resold to bigger labs with licenses to export biological derivatives to the USA. Derivatives are developed into products to be used in a variety of aesthetic surgical procedures.
The investigation quotes Jean-Paul Pirnay in the paper, Human Cells and Tissues: The Need For A Global Ethical Framework:
‘In comparison to the well-known trafficking in solid organs (such as kidneys)’, says Jean-Paul, ‘the poorest countries are the ones most likely to sell human cells and tissues to profiteers, who distribute them in high-income countries or in private clinics in emerging countries.’
Sano Paila, working with victims of trafficking
Kanchan Jha is the Founder and CEO of Nepalese non-profit Sano Paila, and works with victims of child trafficking.
‘We have seen so many bad things happening in recent years in our country’, Kanchan tells us, ‘that it sometimes really amazes us. It makes my heart heavy to talk of these things. We’ve seen some of our children suffer so much. It would not surprise me if the claims in the investigation are substantiated’.
‘This is such a beautiful country. The majority of our people are so innocent and so welcoming – it’s just this small group of people who take advantage of situations. These people do the best they can do to extrapolate wealth for themselves, particularly after the earthquake in 2015 when there was an upsurge in trafficking crime.
‘The period after the earthquake is a time that traffickers referred to as the ‘best season’.
The suppliers are from Nepal, but the demand is from the rest of the world. That’s the tragedy.
‘Trafficking is all about demand and supply. The suppliers are from Nepal, but the demand is from the rest of the world. That’s the tragedy. If there was no demand, there’d be no need for supply.’