The 22nd of July was a special day for Reshma Singh, or at least she thought it was, until something happened.
A happy and excited Reshma reached Tribhuwan International Airport at 5:30 AM on Saturday. It was her very first time traveling to a foreign country. She was going to Denmark with her boyfriend to attend his brother’s wedding. “This was my very first flight to a foreign country and I intended to make it a memorable one. So, my excitement was boundless”, she remembers the day.
It was at the immigration officer’s desk where all of her excitement seemed to vanish at once. As soon as she presented her passport and told the officer the reason for her travels, she was asked to show him the actual invitation card which she didn’t have because she only had a soft copy of the invitation that was on her laptop. To which, the officer had a harsh response and she was asked to wait in the corner. After waiting for over 45 minutes, she was then referred to two other immigration officers who she recalls to be “worse than the previous one”.
And then started a series of questions which didn’t exactly seem to be relevant or necessary, but ridiculous. Questions like “being a girl, how she dared traveling alone?”; “why she is traveling with a foreigner”; “why didn’t she marry him before traveling with him”; “what if he is a kidnapper”; and even “how can her parents be so shameless to let her travel alone with a foreigner” were asked.
“I was repeatedly mocked and asked demeaning questions”, she says. “They were enjoying watching how uncomfortable I was feeling. My boyfriend requested me to keep calm because he knew if I snapped at them, they wouldn’t let me travel with him.”
“Three immigration officers made me feel naked, exposed, vulnerable and weak just because I was a young, single girl traveling with a foreign boyfriend. I felt abused by their intimidating and condescending behavior and felt betrayed by the trusted authorities. For me they were not immigration officers, they were verbal and psychological abusers.”
“Before eventually letting me go, one of the officers accusingly mentioned that my parents had failed to teach me how to respect the elders.”
Reshma had a valid visa, and had every right to travel to the destination without being humiliated by the immigration officers who acted more like moral police and were more interested in schooling her on how she should live her life.
She later wrote about her experience that got published on Setopati.
Cover Photo Courtesy: Aviation Nepal