Few social systems are as class based as the Hindu caste system. Being born into this society has implied throughout history being predestined to occupy a certain position within society and perform a certain job. In the case of the Badi caste Nepal , that work has been prostitution.
For many generations, being a sex worker has been the fate of women of the Badi caste . That is why one can speak with all property of hereditary prostitution when speaking of this caste.
The word badi , which gives its name to this caste in which hereditary prostitution marks the past and future of women born into it, is a word that comes from the Sanskrit term "vadyabadak", a term that means something like "person who play a musical instrument."
From this it follows that it is very likely that, in the past, the members of the badi caste were a kind of entertainers who engaged in entertaining people of higher castes.
Poverty and displacement were in all probability the cause of the status deteriorating over time until the moment when Badini women were born knowing that, upon reaching puberty, their occupation could be no other than to work as sex workers.
That is to say: they would do what their mothers and grandmothers had done before, both in their own village and in border towns, passing through and even areas of Kathmandu and India.
The Badis, who number around 50,000 people in total, live in areas of western Nepal . For 15 years, there are some other NGOs that have tried to put an end to this situation. The same Nepali government has been prohibiting the women of this social group for ten years now from practicing prostitution.
The Nepalese government, however, did nothing to enforce the law that it itself had enacted. The promised plan to grant study scholarships for girls and boys, provide members and, especially, members of the caste with paid work and facilitate their access to housing has not been implemented, so Many Badini women have had no choice but to continue working as prostitutes in a country that until 2005 had not granted citizenship to members of their tribe.
For their part, in 2007 many Badis activists threatened to march naked through Kathmandu to challenge the government that had not implemented the announced measures. The result of that threat of protest was a new waterfall of promises that remain unfulfilled.
Uma Devi: fighter for the badi caste
Among all the activists who try to improve the situation of Badi prostitutes, Uma Devi Badi must be highlighted.
Uma Badi, as she is popularly known, was born in 1965 in Thapagaun and worked as a prostitute, like all the women of her caste, as soon as she reached the age of puberty. The fact that she married a man from a higher caste was a source of scandal, since the most traditional Hindu thought considers that the untouchables cannot marry people from other castes.
On turning 40, Uma took a step forward in her activist commitment. Leading the organization Community Support Group, she founded a shelter for 25 girls and boys in Tikapur, western Nepal. The children of this shelter have access to education and acquire reading and writing skills as well as arithmetic.
Uma also led a 48-day protest movement in 2007 called the Badi Movement. At the head of said movement, this activist led some 500 activists who, on behalf of their social group, demanded that the government attend to 26 programmatic points that should serve to improve the living conditions of the members of the caste. These points included the following:
- End of hereditary prostitution
- End of untouchability.
- Establishment of a permanent refuge for a traditionally nomadic community.
- Registration of births and citizenship of children based on the name of the mother.
Faced with the indifference of the Nepalese government, which did not seem to want to meet her demands, Uma took off part of her clothes and hung them on the door of the government headquarters. The fact that other women followed her example led to the protest attracting the attention of various foreign media.
It was the attention and monitoring of said media that finally forced the Nepalese government to act and agree, in September of that year 2007, to a working meeting with Uma Devi to introduce the plan of " rescue” of the Badi women of which we have spoken.
To try to promote this plan and get what is moving so slowly to do so faster, Devi ran for member of the National Assembly of the Province in 2017. His final political intention is to reach the government in order to accelerate the execution of the changes that the government of his country promised to promote in 2007.