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.
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.
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.