“It was a cold and rainy evening and I naturally found myself craving coffee in a coffee-lounge of Nepal. I was shaping my mind for documenting on ‘Night Girls in Nepal’. While I was completely engaged in thought, laughter broke my attention. By the first bit of drum night girls were in hurry to enter into clubs just near my coffee-lounge. Music, light and entertainer all are ready – and the night has begun. Inside these 1000 bars, girls from poverty-stricken corners of Nepal dance away, hoping to fulfill their simple dreams some day. Is it possible to depict the agony of a night girl being sold and/or compromised in club/bar/hotels? Can my photography breathe their voices? Is it possible to take picture of what I want to describe? Answer is NO. But by keeping alive the roots of awakening is a key duty of a photographer like me. So I am here to tell you the story through my third eye.” – GMB AKASH
Strippers and dancers of the popular night scene in Nepal. Located mostly in the tourist area Thamel, hundreds of clubs host both local and tourists to strip shows, dances, and drinks. Each club has on average 30 to 40 girls working for them. There are the dancers, the waitresses, and some call the “date for a night” women. The dancers are young—many of them told me they are 19-22, but to me most of them looked like 16 or younger. At the change of each song (which were mostly Nepali and Hindi pop), usually a new dancer would come out on stage. Some of them danced in a tight t-shirt and short shorts, some in a tiny wrap around her waist and a bikini top, others in long glittery skirts and heels. Their faces were covered with heavy makeup, and they all kept adjusting their hair during their dances. There are also 2 showers on each side of the stage with a little porcelain bath dug out. Apparently “dance with shower” is a big thing in Kathmandu now.
When not dancing, the women came out into the crowd fully dressed to flirt with customers. One girl, named Pari (Most of them has a fake name) said: she is 16, illiterate, has no phone, and makes 7500 Rs per month (about $100) working at the restaurant. She was not drinking alcohol, but seemed a little spacey, so maybe was on some type of drug. She was one of the few dancers, who were not afraid to remove all of her clothes, and she would often touch herself while on stage or dancing on tables and she is an example of many other girls who are willingly working in the restaurant.
Reetu one of the dancers of Thamel dance club said “More than half the money is spent on room rent, makeup, grocery and other necessary items. The rest goes into my education and to my parents. I hardly save anything.”
Fifteen-year-old Rani wants to be a doctor. But to fulfill her dream, she performs at a dance bar every evening – even if it means gyrating around a pole, stripping and giving company to strangers at night. Though dance bars are not illegal in Nepal, stripping is. But in a nation where 30 percent of the 30 million population is below the poverty line, few seem to care. Employment agents went to villages, offering poor Nepali girls like Shanti jobs in Kathmandu as waitresses. Though families are warned of the possibilities of prostitution they often choose to turn a blind eye.
“One month’s money for a waitress can be a whole year’s income for a rural farmer”, states Mahima, waitress of a local club, whose father is a farmer. 80% cases are enforced Women for Prostitution in various circumstances. Many of these poor Nepali girls eventually accept their fate and fall into prostitution. These poor Nepali girls will earn £ 80 per month as a dancer, tips can double this and sex for a night brings rewards of between £30 and £100 per night depending on the desirability of these Nepali girls. Regulating dance and cabin restaurants is a problem. No system is in place to properly monitor the activities that go on inside. It is the poor Nepali girl who working as waitresses are alienated and trapped, unable to re-enter mainstream Nepali culture.
© GMB Akash
“I felt an overabundance of emotions ranging from guilt to despair for not doing enough whenever I faced myself into these situation for documenting lives of these girls – who cannot do more struggle against oppression, cannot protest for inequality and injustice, of lost with their dreams. I do believe, may be one day The Sun will rise to wipe off tears of these Midnight Girls”
– GMB Akash