Human trafficking is a serious crime globally. However, due to several factors, the crime has widespread especially in the Asian countries. Marginalized people in the society especially the women and children are the main targets of traffickers. High level of poverty is also a major factor which has contributed to trafficking of people (van der Laan, Smit and Busschers 26). Many people opt to sell their body organs for survival. With transplantation becoming an acceptable procedure, the demand for human organs has increased. Human smuggling has also increased and is well executed by people who are out to make a profit by trading fellow human beings. It is estimated that the illegal human trafficking business generates between $9 and $36 billion globally annually (PARLIAMENT of CANADA 32).
This paper focuses on the organ trafficking in Asia with specific attention on kidney trafficking in Nepal and why it is on the rise. In establishing the cause and effect relationship, the study examines how factors such as; a) poverty, b) earthquakes, and c) Increasing number of organ agents have contributed to the increased cases of kidney trafficking in Nepal.
The first factor that has contributed to increased kidney trafficking in Nepal is high poverty level. The majority of the Nepal citizens live below poverty level. The country suffers from a high level of hunger and poverty (CBC News 34). Many families lack shelter, clothing, and food. This presents a good opportunity for the organ brokers/ traffickers to lure the vulnerable citizens into selling a kidney out of desperation to educate, feed and build houses for their families. The people are promised lucrative money which most of them cannot turn down. Uddhav Hamal social worker from Singapur village was quoted saying, “My neighbor (Amak Shivra) was lured into selling her kidney with a promise to be paid 60,000 Indian Rupee. She accepted the offer because it was the only way that she would feed her six children after the death offer husband who was a sole breadwinner two years ago. She was secretly transported to Indian for kidney extraction. However soon after returning home, she developed health complication from the unhealed. Shivra died six months ago”. Just like Shiva, many people have been lured into selling their kidney. However, most of them end up spending the amount earned in treating their wounds. Therefore, high level of poverty and frequent earthquakes also contribute to increased cases of organ trafficking in Nepal.
The increase in medical transplant practices has opened a new avenue for human traffickers. There exists a huge gap between human organ high demand and the scarce supply (Acharya, Ghimire and Silwal 55). In the bid to fill this gap, organ brokers give the poor citizens lucrative but false offers and make a huge profit out of them. Corrupt physicians, doctors, and hospitals with profit motives contribute to kidney trafficking in Nepal in collaboration with brokers. These people target the poor individuals who cannot afford their medical treatment. The vulnerable are lured into selling their kidney so that they can afford the medical expenses. According to Uddhav Hamal, "In the marginalized settlements of Kavre and its neighboring district Sindhupalchok, many people are living with one kidney," (CBC News 45). Faced with such a situation, the poor will sell their kidney. The middlemen and the corrupt medical professionals make a kill out of the needy citizens hence the rise of kidney trafficking cases (Suddath and Altman 57).
To sell their kidney, the victims are promised good payments as well as by mislead about the health consequences of kidney extraction. According to Uddhav Hamal, “Poor people in the society fall to such tricks because, with more money, they will feed and educate families. The landless also see selling their kidney as an opportunity to gain money and buy land for themselves”. (Sunil Neupane 43. The most hit districts in Nepal are Makwanpur, Rautahat, and Bara. The main markets for extracted kidneys from Nepal are India, Hong Kong, Korea and the European countries. In a small village of Hokse situated in the Sindhupalchok district, approximately 100 people sold their kidney to the brokers in 2015 alone. According to Tamang, a resident of this village; "I was lured with money to sell one of my kidneys for 50,000 rupees". The operation left me with a deep scar, long-term health problems and one kidney" (Sunil Neupane 34). Most people in this district live with one kidney (Jafar 1149). According to the Kantipur Daily, the largest Newspaper in Nepal, "kidney trafficking business has grown significantly over the last five years." The newspaper stated that over 100,000 Nepalese had sold their kidney in the past one decade. This has been instigated by the lack of awareness and economic hardship which lures people to sell a kidney to get "easy money" (Sunil Neupane 47).
The second factor that has contributed to increased cases of kidney/ organ trafficking is earthquake eruptions. Experts and government agencies believe that increased number of organic trafficking was as a result of the earthquake that occurred in 2015. Organs brokers and traffickers targeted the citizens who had lost their livelihood and homes. In April 2015, Kathmandu and its surrounds were hit by an earthquake followed by aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 in May. 1100 people were killed as a result. Nationwide, the earthquake killed 8800 people, injured approximately 23,000 others and destroyed thousands of homes. Thousands of people were rendered homeless. Out of desperation, these people turned to organ traffickers as their only home of earning money to reconstruct their homes and livelihood. In 2016, the number of people who sold their kidney rose drastically because of the earthquakes. According to the World Health Organization, “Following the earthquake in 2015, the number of illegal organ trafficker agencies are estimated to be 10,000. At least 7,000 kidneys are sold to illegal traders per annum”. There is a correlation between earthquake, poverty, organ brokers and organ trafficking. For instance, after the 2014 earthquake, many people were left homeless and financially struggling. The earthquakes caused poverty which comes with vulnerability and depression. Such people have to sell their kidney to get money and rebuild their lives. Which results in increased number of organ banks and the black market. After agreeing to sell their kidney, the Nepalese are smuggled into India (Kidney hub) for kidney extraction.
Third, the increasing number of organ agents in Nepal as seen in its Capital City Kathmandu has also increased kidney trafficking. According to the police reports, many active organ agents are located in the Kathmandu especially in the urban parts. The existence of organ agents in Nepal came to light in 2008 when Amit Kumar, an Indian kidney trafficker was arrested near the Indian border (Radio Australia 49). According to the police, "Kumar has connected to 600 illegal kidney trafficking in 2008. The number is estimated to have grown to 1,500 in 2016." With his network, Kumar lured poor people from rural Nepal to sell their kidney. The kidneys would then be sold to needy patients at exorbitant rates. The increased number of trafficking agencies led to the rising cases of kidney trafficking cases (Jafar 1153).
It is evident that kidney trafficking in Asia mostly hits Nepal. The poor and vulnerable are an easy target for the organ traffickers because of their economic burden, illiteracy, lack of awareness and the promise of good pay. The study has established that the factors discussed above have directly contributed to the rising cases of kidney trafficking in Nepal. The government interventions have been ineffective. The government must tighten the interventions and rules if kidney trafficking is to be defeated.
Acharya, Bidhan , Rajendra Ghimire and Rajan Silwal. Kidney Trafficking in Nepal. Kathmandu: The Asia Foundation, 2015.
Adhikari, Bipin. Organ and human trafficking in Nepal. Nepal: The Lancet , 2016.
Bhattarai, Tara. "Illegal Organ Trade on the Rise in Nepal." Global Press Journal (2012).
CBC News. Alleged kidney transplant ringleader arrested in Nepal. News Report. Ottawa, Canada: CBC News , 2008. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/alleged-kidney-transplant-ringleader-arrested-in-nepal-1.757372?ref=rss.
Jafar, Tazeen H. "Organ Trafficking: Global Solutions for a Global Problem." American Journal of Kidney Diseases (2013): 1145-1157.
PARLIAMENT of CANADA. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Ottawa: PARLIAMENT of CANADA, 2001. G.A. res. 55/25, annex II, 55 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 60, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (Vol. I) (2001), Article 3. .
Radio Australia. "Organ trafficking a serious issue in Nepal." 2016. htt://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/onairhighlights/organ-traffiing-a-serious-issue-in-nepal. 2017.
Suddath, Claire and Alex Altman. How Does Kidney-Trafficking Work? 19 July 2009. 26 March 2017.
Sunil Neupane. "The village of the kidneys." 2011. htt://nepalitimes.com/. 2017.
van der Laan, Peter H, et al. Cross-border Trafficking In Humna Beings: Prevention and Intervention Strategies for Reducing Sexual Exploitation. Ottawa: Department of Justice, Canada, 2011. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2011:9.
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