Stories of harassment, violence and discrimination: migrant experiences between India, Nepal and Bangladesh

Fiona Samuels, Sanju Wagle, Tahmina Sultana, Mirza Manbira Sultana, Navneet Kaur and Shantamay Chatterjee | Overseas Development Institute | January 2012


This Project Briefing from the Overseas Development Institute reports on the findings of a study examining the experience of Nepalese and Bangladeshi migrants in India. This vulnerable group of people face marginalisation on many different levels, having been compelled to emigrate in the first place because of economic hardship; and facing job-, wage-, and housing-insecurity on arrival because of their ambiguous legal status. Fear of disclosure or of being identified by their accents prevents migrants not only from taking a stand against exploitation, but also from forming networks within the host communities, thereby compounding the other forms of insecurity. In addition, migrants are often marginalised on their return home: "There is a common belief that women who Migrate to india engage voluntarily in commercial sex work once there," while husbands left behind suffer from the stigma surrounding their wives' supposed profession. The briefing concludes with recommendations for mitigating insecurity experienced by this group, who would otherwise be at permanent risk of violence and exploitation.

Introduction, Fiona Samuels et. al.

There has been a steady flow of people from Nepal and Bangladesh to India in recent decades in search of better work and livelihood opportunities. As they move to and fro, many face harassment, discrimination and violence. Many face these challenges during their journeys – particularly when they cross borders – at their destinations, and when they go home. Their experiences are affected by gender, country of origin and the process of recruitment to migration.

This Project Briefing explores the experiences of these people as they migrate, drawing on findings from a baseline study on their vulnerabilities, particularly to HIV and AIDS, as they move between their communities of origin in Nepal and Bangladesh to India. Although the baseline used quantitative and qualitative approaches, stories of harassment and violence emerge mostly from the qualitative elements. Respondents rarely speak about their own experiences of violence or discrimination, but talk about the experiences and behaviour of others. The term ‘violence’ is used in its broadest sense, ranging from harassment, bribery, threats and name-calling, to discrimination, stigma, exclusion and exploitation, to physical violence including beating, torture and murder, to sexual and gender based violence including sexual exploitation, coercion and rape. After exploring experiences of violence, this briefing concludes with recommendations, many of them already being operationalised in the three countries as a result of findings from this study.


To read the full briefing, click here

Image Source: FriskoDude


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