Editor's Note: Anti-trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is the author of “Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia,” providing the first comprehensive overview of bonded labor in South Asia.
In September 2010, I met a young girl named Nirmala in the remote western Terai region of Nepal. Nirmala is one of the thousands of internally trafficked domestic slaves in Nepal, called kamlari, who belong to the outcast Tharu ethnic group.
Agents recruit Tharu girls as young as eight to work as servants in upper-caste homes. Aside from room and board, the children receive little to no payment for up to 10 years of work. Kamlari girls often suffer extreme abuse and maltreatment.
“I did all the work,” Nirmala explained, “cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, washing dishes. I woke each morning at 5 a.m. and went to sleep at 10 p.m. I slept on the floor…I did this work seven days a week. Sometimes the wife would beat me. The husband in the home would rape me. I did not want to be in that home.”
Sara Morales is in her early 20s, but already, she says, she's been to hell and back. The Colombian woman who lives in Bogota says she was forcibly recruited by the main guerrilla group in her country when she was just a young girl.
"When I was only 11 years-old I was raped by FARC guerrillas and for 11 years I was abused and exploited by them," Morales said.
FARC is a Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist guerrilla group that has been at war with the Colombian government for about five decades.
Stories about children kidnapped or forcibly recruited by guerrilla groups came back into focus in 2006 when the Colombian government released a video confiscated during an army raid. The video showed squads of young kids being trained as guerrilla warriors in the middle of the jungle.