Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Trafficking victims join the circus

Thomson Reuters Foundation, LONDON

As a little girl, Doli from Nepal found it hard to resist the thrill of the circus, its breathtaking acts, daring performers and dazzling costumes.

When scouts came looking for children to join the big tops in India, she was captivated.

“The circus sounded like a magical place, so I wanted to go, too,” she recalls in a teaser for a documentary about Nepal’s first and only circus, made up of rescued victims of human trafficking.

For decades, Nepalese children have been targeted by circus scouts from India where the spectacle, which has been dying in many other countries, still draws crowds.

Often sold by their parents hoping to give them a better life or to escape poverty, many children in the most exploitative circuses are deprived of schooling, forced to learn punishing routines and beaten if they fail, activists say.

“The trainer ... if we couldn’t do it, would hit us with a twisted wire, even when I fall,” another young woman in the film said.

The feature-length documentary, which is still in production, tells the story of three Nepalese women who met as teenagers after being rescued from circuses in India, and focuses on their attempts to overcome a childhood spent in forced labor.

One of them was so young when she left Nepal that she did not know her real name.

Not only does the film chronicle their efforts to reconcile with the families that sold them, it also shows how they establish Circus Kathmandu with 10 other survivors of human trafficking and the bonds that are forged among the group.

Since 2010, the troupe has performed in Kathmandu Valley and the border towns of southern Nepal’s Terai plains, but also at Britain’s Glastonbury Festival in 2014, enthralling audiences with their acrobatics, aerial skills and storytelling.

The film’s producer, Elhum Shakerifar — who hopes to raise £30,000 (US$43,000) by Thursday to cover the edit and some of the post-production costs — said the title, Even When I Fall, was inspired by the circus performers’ trust in each other.

“If you’re part of a circus and you’re performing with someone, flying through the air, you need to have really strong communication skills, you need to trust that person [and] know they’re going to catch you,” Shakerifar said.

“[The troupe] have really turned around something that enslaved them and made it into a strength and a skill,” she said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top