EVERY 26.28 minutes a girl in Nepal is trafficked across the border into India for the average price of $104.63. This equates to more than 20,000 Nepali girls every year.
It’s sickening to write those words from behind this desk and I wonder, had I been born in a different country, or had my daughter been born in another country, how different would our lives be?
In March, I travelled to Nepal with three Novocastrians to film a documentary about the plight of the Nepali people. I became involved in this project through a friend, Robyn Raymond, who had devoted so much time to this gut-wrenching problem and knew that we could make a real difference by telling the story.
When we flew into Nepal we knew the story that needed to be told, but what we didn’t anticipate was the lasting effect putting human faces to this story would have on us.
Not only is the Nepali-Indian border more than 1600 kilometres long, but India surrounds the nation on three sides with its only other border shared with China to the north. It’s a distance greater than travelling by car from Sydney to Adelaide and is policed by 14 checkpoints. Each day, 54 Nepali girls that we know of, some only eight, disappear across this border, destined for brothels in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Siliguri and Kolkata.
If two school classrooms went missing, or were sold into slavery each day in the Western world, the retribution against the traffickers would be swift and fierce.
Sadly, many of the women and children targeted by the sex traffickers are from poor, rural regions of Nepal. Because of this, their families allow them to be taken away on the false pretence of wealthy marriages, or well-paid jobs in the cities to help support their families. Many more are simply drugged and abducted.
Through the work of 3 Angels Nepal, we have found that interception is the most effective form of rescue for these girls. Unfortunately, the cases of girls being rescued once they are across the border are few and far between.
Over the past few years, the 3 Angels’ border patrol booths have stopped about 12 girls each day from this horrifying fate.
For Australians, the notion of being sold for sex, prostitution or slavery from the age of eight is most confronting, but meeting these people while filming against the backdrop of one of the most picturesque countries in the world was just nonsensical, personally challenging and gut-wrenching.
On one of our first days in Nepal, we visited a Badi community. The Badi are considered a low caste or ‘‘untouchable’’ group in Nepal’s orthodox Hindu caste system. We witnessed a single mother boiling leaves to feed her five children.
Our photographer, Melissa Histon, found it confronting to think that she would return home to our beautiful city on the Australian coast where government support and welfare systems protect our children from prostitution and sale. In the 10 days we were in Nepal, it is highly likely that 500 girls were taken from their families. Many won’t return.
‘‘The people of Nepal have every right to live as you and I,’’ says Dr Rajendra Gautam, 3 Angels Nepal founder.
‘‘We talk about human rights, social justice, political stability, but where is it when it comes to our children? Just because they are poor their voices cannot be heard?’’
Giving the Nepali a voice is what we hope to achieve through Latitude. We hope to raise awareness of the work of 3 Angels Nepal, and reduce the occurrence of trafficking and child prostitution.
Our cinematographer, Daniel Bracken, said something extraordinarily powerful as we returned home; that he was amazed at the strength of the human spirit.
After witnessing the horrific actions human beings can commit on each other, they found hope that they can heal and feel human again. We want people to act against this deplorable exploitation.
Find out more at http://www.3angelsnepal.com/
Belinda Bow is an Australian ambassador for 3 Angels Nepal. With Daniel Bracken, Melissa Histon and Robyn Raymond, she produced the documentary Latitude about child trafficking in Nepal. It will premiere on Tuesday, November 18, at 7pm, Watt Street Art Theatre, Newcastle. Tickets at Sticky Tickets are $25.