June 22nd, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Saving Nepalese children from a life in slavery

Actress Demi Moore partners with CNN Freedom Project for a compelling documentary. A passionate advocate for victims of human trafficking herself, Moore travels to Nepal to meet 2010 CNN Hero of the Year Anuradha Koirala and some of the thousands of women and girls Koirala’s organization has rescued from forced prostitution. Premieres Sunday, June 26 MORE DETAILS & TIMES

At a busy, exhaust-choked checkpoint along the India-Nepal border, Anuradha Koirala moves briskly among the box trucks, ballast tractors and passenger buses hastily queued up for inspection.

This is Koirala’s best, and possibly only, chance to save stolen Nepalese children from a life in the sex trade.

“Girls are brought from the villages by people who can lure them and tell them they are getting a nice job,” says Koirala, winner of CNN’s 2010 “Hero of the Year” award.

Her organization, Maiti Nepal, intercepts 4 to 5 girls a day. It’s an exhausting, unending endeavor. (More: Get involved: U.S. | Get involved: International)

According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to 15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India and then sexually exploited each year. Roughly half are children.

Since 1993, Maiti Nepal has rescued 12,000 victims from sex slavery, many of them trafficked through help from relatives or acquaintances.

How is it possible so many children can be sold for sex by their own families?

The answer lies partly in both Nepal’s recent past and in its much larger neighbor to the south.

Related: Watch more from CNN's documentary "Nepal's Stolen Children"

International agencies consider Nepal, a small Himalayan country of 30 million people, to be a “source” country for human trafficking. “Source” countries typically share a similar DNA: poverty-stricken nations further weakened by war, corruption, or natural disasters. Over the past decades, Nepal has faced all these burdens, making a large segment of its population vulnerable not just to unemployment, hunger and disease; but also to human trafficking.

“In the West … if someone says I want to make your child they would give them a slap or shoot them,” Koirala says. “But here, families are tricked all the time.”

It’s a scam common in parts of the developing world. A trafficker approaches a poor family struggling to provide basic necessities for their children. He may offer a small amount of money to take one of their daughters to the city, where she could work in a factory and go to school.

The desperate parents may be aware of the risk such a deal involves, but choose to ignore their better judgment in hopes the promises are made in good faith.

Why do so many Nepalese girls end up in India’s red-light districts?

Charity organizations say demand for these girls is created by high profits for the brothel owners and the preference among Indian customers who favor Nepalese girls’ lighter skin tone.

Also, they say, many customers prefer girls to be young and new; probably due to the fear of contracting HIV/AIDS.

"The girls we find are from six years, up to 16 years,” Koirala says.

Back at the border, Koirala carries on her battle to prevent more children from falling prey. She deftly carries out inspections, bounding on to buses and looking for potential victims.

By their own estimates, Maiti Nepal only rescues about 20 percent of trafficking victims leaving the country. And with posts at just 10 of Nepal’s 24 border crossings, it’s certain many more girls are out there, suffering in the shadows.

Ways to help:
Maiti Nepal
Free The Slaves
Shakti Samuha
Saathi Nepal


soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Deb

    Geez people are evil, how some can even face a mirror is beyond me.

    June 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Biots

      They face the mirror and go "Mirror, mirror against the wall, who just made the weirdest comment on CNN amongst us all?" and the Mirror went " Deb just did"

      June 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
      • Chris

        Deb- you are spot on. So sad that this world is filled with so many evil people.
        Blots – Your comment is weird and gives me the creeps.

        June 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
      • Sheila

        Biots: Please grow up and be mature about the situation.

        There are thousands of people in the world who have no choice but to grow up and earn money through such harsh circumstances. Human trafficking is horrible. Prayers go out to those in need.

        June 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
      • Get a Grip

        Boits, really grow up

        June 23, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Hotdog11

      If America wanted to get serious about this problem, they would publicize the names of rich people who have slaves working for them. Embarrass them, bring charges against them and others would stop too. The real criminals are the owners, who are the owners??? CNN, don't tell the tradegy, go after the criminals. Or are you afraid too?

      June 25, 2011 at 6:37 am | Reply
  2. N.J.

    Nepal is situated between India and China. Two countries who notoriously kill their baby girls. Expect human trafficking in that area to only get worse as time goes on.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  3. Jeff

    It's sad to see that there is still slavery in the world

    June 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Reply
    • Bryan

      Read How To Make A Slave by Willie Lynch and you will understand why we still will have slavery if no one starts to stand up for it!!....People always talk but never show any action!

      June 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  4. Frank

    @Jeff
    Naive little wankstains like you should just stay inside and continue ignoring reality so that you can remain in your state of bliss.
    Slavery, and other assorted ills such as murder, war, disease and poverty, will never cease to exist. Earth will never be without them, Mankind will never be free of them. They have always existed. That you think otherwise is because you exist in a realm of fantasy.
    "It's sad to see that slavery still exists in the world today."
    Gawd, what a stupid, bleeding heart statement. It hurts me that it could come out the mouth of a member of the male species (but hey, it's 2011, right? Gotta act like an emasculated crybaby like a true Modern Man!)

    June 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      So it's not sad that slavery still exists today? What exactly is your point? And "male" is not a species you jerk. It's a sex and you're a homo sapien.
      A real man stands for what is right in the world, defends those that cannot defend themselves, and does not hide behind the idea that they cannot change things for the better because things have always been a certain way and always will.

      June 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Reply
      • marshall

        could not agree more than what you said....

        June 23, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Gary

      LOL – WHAT?!

      He was just saying that it's unfortunate that things like this still occur. Your comment is completely moronic, but nice try. Why is it a bleeding heart statement? Are you so jaded and beaten down that you just assume all is as it will be forever without the ability to change?

      June 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
    • Jon

      @ Frank

      If you like wankstains, I'd be my pleasure to give you some...on your face ;)

      June 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • Mary

      Ummm...what?

      June 23, 2011 at 1:06 am | Reply
  5. turntechGodhead

    @ Frank

    Mankind will never be free of these ills until someone like you takes the first step and stops snarking away in your little corner of nihilism and says "I won't stand for this stuff in the world and I will fight against it."

    Good luck buddy. We're counting on you.

    June 22, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  6. Mike H.

    In a lt of ways...people exhibit more animal behaviors than do animals. The poor are here for the entertainment and leisure of the wealthy.

    June 23, 2011 at 1:20 am | Reply
  7. Mike Distance

    The only real way to ensure these kids never have any kind of slave life is to have them be adopted by some wealthy American families. The wealthy whose wealth is becoming concentrated exponentially will soon control just about everything and seeing as employment is becoming more and more scarce, modern day slavery will be the only alternative to incarceration. The only positive to modern day slavery is that, one doesn't know they are a slave.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
  8. Tony Anthony

    My sister gave up her job as a Financial Analyst in a large Financial company to work full time helping the kids in Cambodia who are experiencing a similar plight.
    I have attached a link http://www2.crossroads.ca/fullcircle/
    I think the men who prey on these innocent children should be photographed and their photos posted on a website. Also photos of these people should be placed on billboards in these poor communities. Their needs to be a deterrent.

    June 25, 2011 at 10:59 am | Reply
  9. Patson Mwiinga

    Its really painful to see such vices being present in parts of the world. Our country Zambia is also at risk especially that it has porous borders, the economy is biting and AIDS is leaving so many OVCs, its time for us all to rise up and fight this vice in our communities.

    June 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  10. prodigale

    "CNN, don't tell the tradegy, go after the criminals. Or are you afraid too?" That's the question that most of us would like to have answered. CNN advertises its show all day. It wreaks of sensationalism, yet is a momentous step in the right direction, and has the potential to help people connect to make positive change. Still, the power lies in the elites – like the media moguls/corporations, and in (as most of us expats living in developing nations know) in local police and government leaders, who unfortunately often benefit indirectly or directly from trafficking and slavery (particularly prostitution.) So if CNN could show some courage and 'push' some arrests of criminals – and actually Follow Through on what happens to them – then So Many More People would feel compelled to join the effort. Does anyone think those enslaved and trafficked are benefitting from well-off CNN-fans posting photos of themselves on the web holding papers that read whatever. Rather than following those who are putting themselves at risk around with a camera and making money off the sensationalism, I DARE YOU TO RESCUE EVEN ONE WOMAN OR CHILD, CNN! I dare you.

    June 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  11. buttercup

    Even though the Prime Minister of Nepal did not deliver on his promise for the interview of the trafficker in prison, his comment is so right on about the patriarchial society in Nepal. Mandatory education and laws to protect children and women is a key to stopping this horrible tragedy of Nepalese women. Kudos to CNN, Maiti Nepal, and Demi Moore for keeping this terrible practice in the world's eye.

    June 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
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