Nepal’s lost circus children
An investigation into the trafficking of Nepalese children that are sold to work in Indian circuses.
People and Power Last Modified: 06 Sep 2011 14:27
In the border district of Hetauda, in southern Nepal, child trafficking is rife and the lack of border controls makes India an easy destination. For decades, Nepali children, mostly girls, have been sought by Indian circuses for their fair skin and beauty.
Often sold to traffickers by their parents, the children are enticed with stories of beautiful new clothes, a glamorous and exciting life, the chance of an education and a regular wage. Children, sometimes as young as five years old, have been taken and, in some cases, never seen again. Sold for as little as 1,000 rupees ($13), the families rarely receive the promised wage.
Once in the circuses, these children often live in squalor and are never allowed to leave the circus compound. They are routinely beaten in order to teach them the difficult and dangerous tricks, and sexual abuse is commonplace. In effect, these children have been totally at the mercy of circus management who treat them as they please.*
In 2002, this scandal was exposed by a Nepalese children’s charity, the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation (EBMF), which runs a children’s refuge in Kathmandu. With police support, the EBMF started carrying out surprise raids on circuses to rescue these highly vulnerable and at risk children.
To date more than 300 Nepalese children have been rescued by the EBMF and, where possible, returned to their families. Those at risk of being re-trafficked or whose families are too poor to support them are given a place to live at the trusts’ refuge in Kathmandu.
The refuge is run by Shailaja CM and is home to 122 children, half of whom are from circuses. Shailaja heads the rescue operations and also tracks down the Nepalese traffickers who sell the children to the circuses. Many of these traffickers are now serving long jail sentences.
Through this relentless work, conditions in circuses are improving. But there are thought to be more than 100 circuses operating in India and only 12 of these are registered with the Indian Circus Federation – a non-governmental body that ensure standards and good practice. This lack of regulation CLICK HERE TO READ REST OF ARTICLE … AND TO SEE VIDEO