For decades, Nepali girls have been victims of sex trafficking, with thousands of them sold each year to brothels in neighboring India. Acute poverty and illiteracy in rural Nepal deliver a steady stream of girls, some as young as 10 years old, into the hands of the traffickers. According to the U.S. State Department, about 10,000 to 15,000 Nepali girls are trafficked to India every year.
Some Nepali girls spend their lives working in the brothels, a few even starting their own business after years of experience. But many of these girls resist their fate and constantly fight to find their way back home. A few hundred are rescued from the brothels every year, some during police raids, some with the help of men who come for sex, and some with the help of outside organizations.
Shakti Samuha, which means 'a group that empowers,' is one organization in Nepal that helps victims of sex trafficking. Unlike other organizations that try to rescue and rehabilitate these girls, Shakti Samuha is unique in that it was founded by and is run by the victims themselves. Through the stories of some of these victims, Anup Kaphle and Habiba Nosheen's reporting will look at how Shakti Samuha teaches these girls and women to start new lives in their home countries.
Anup and Habiba also examine another form of trafficking Nepal - the sale of children on the international adoption market. Although adopting children from foreign countries has enabled many childless couples to embrace parenthood, the high fees that such adoptions can command have resulted in unscrupulous practices in Nepal and other poor countries. Children who are not orphans and who have not been given up by the parents are illegally placed for adoption. The U.S. government has tried to crack down on this kind of exploitation by halting adoptions from suspect countries. But how do you balance the need to protect children from being trafficked while not depriving abandoned children and adoptive parents of the opportunity to become a family?