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New rescue hope for trafficked Nepalese circus girls

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Summary of story from AlJazeerah, September 6, 2011

For decades, Nepali children, mostly girls, have been sought after by Indian circuses for their fair skin and beauty.

Often sold to traffickers by their parents, children as young as five are enticed from their homes by stories of new clothes, a glamorous and exciting life, the chance of an education and a regular wage.

In some cases, they are never seen again – and the families rarely receive the promised wage.

Once in the circuses, these children often live in squalor and are never allowed to leave the circus compound, they are routinely beaten and sexual abuse is commonplace.

In 2002, this scandal was exposed by a Nepalese children’s charity, the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation (EBMF), which runs a children’s refuge in Kathmandu.

And in April 2011, an amendment was made to India’s Juvenile Justice Act, making it strictly illegal for anybody under the age of 18 to work or train within circuses.

Some of the bigger Indian circuses are suspected of having links with other businesses, such as gambling and gun running, and can wield power within the states where they operate, so local government officials protect them from any rescue operation.

With the new amendment in place, the EBMF is now planning a new phase of rescue raids and to target these larger, more powerful circuses.

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