I was traveling to China in 2017 with my business partner on some business. At the Tribhuvan International Airport, the immigration officials took my passport for around 30 minutes during which they spoke to their seniors on the phone several times, interrogated me in length and were all set to send me back home just because I was an unmarried woman, traveling with an unrelated man.
Last week, while traveling to Thailand with my friend (this time a woman), the same officers took my passport, started asking me embarrassing questions and said it was risky for two women to travel unchaperoned so they would not be able to issue us travel permissions. Then they demanded to speak to my parents. But I vehemently protested the idea, and they finally relented.
After traveling to a few countries, I can say that this kind of awkward things happens nowhere on the planet other than in Nepal. I don’t know if the officials here abuse their power out of their frustrations or there is something else behind such behavior, but this must change!
I even thought about writing about it on my Facebook wall. Shockingly, I found a lot of other similar stories and some of them were unbelievable. Once a friend of mine while traveling to Thailand was interrogated in length by immigration officials at Kathmandu airport and the reason for the interrogation was “when you dress up like this, you will obviously be questioned!”
Some people tried to convince me that it was part of the immigration officials’ job because Nepali girls and women are trafficked to various countries, hence the lengthy interrogations. I understand their concern. However, by looking at my travel history they could easily figure out that I have been travelling on my own and my case is different. This was not my first visit to Thailand. Also, I returned to Nepal in March after a month-long Europe visit.
Last year also, I traveled to a few other countries. And even after all these, they demanded my business registration documents (who would carry their company’s VAT registration documents while traveling to Thailand?), and they wanted our academic certificates including the bachelor’s and master’s degree certificates. We produced whatever we had, but they continued to ask many questions, which I found pointless. Then they started to ask me about my friend who was travelling outside the country for the first time. And then they said only I could fly but not my friend. But after a few minutes of argument they finally allowed her to fly.
These incidents speak more about the way our immigration officials have been treating single and young women over years. We have to do something to stop this!
(The writer is the CEO/Co-founder of Urban Girl/ UG Cakes)