Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) conducted an undercover survey of all circuses in India to discover the magnitude of child labor and trafficking in the circus industry. There is a serious problem of trafficking of young girls between Nepal and India (both countries are on the Tier 2 Watch list in U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report). The girls are trafficked for the purposes of slavery, including sexual slavery and prostitution.
Due to the socio–political situation in Nepal, coupled with illiteracy and ignorance, a large number of children (especially girls) are trafficked into India. Within India, the unorganized sectors like the entertainment industry, circuses, agriculture, brothels, etc., play a willing host to these victims, as a lot of industrial laws are not applicable in these sectors. There is little or no significant effort on the part of the government to prevent these practices. Thus, a pro-active initiative by the civil society sector was imperative in the prevention of abuse and exploitation in these sectors.
The BBA in India came across a number of complaints by parents in Nepal who had been duped into sending their children across the border to work in Circuses and who had no idea of their children's whereabouts. The BBA conducted an undercover survey of all circuses in India to find out more about the magnitude of the problem in 2002.
After understanding that children are present in large numbers in all circuses and there are no industrial laws governing the circuses, an advocacy campaign was launched focusing on the sources of trafficking of children in Hetauda, Makwanpur in Nepal and Bihar and West Bengal in India. Simultaneously, negotiations with the industry resulted in a multi-faceted approach targeting potential victims as well as the victims already being exploited.
In January 2004, as a result of the constant pressure being applied on the Indian Circus Federation, a declaration was signed between the BBA and the ICF stating that there shall be no further use of children in Indian Circuses. Subsequently, more than 80 children and young women have been liberated from circuses through voluntary releases and raid and rescue operations. Trafficking of children is a global problem and requires a combined effort. A replication of a successful strategy and sharing of first hand experience, the problems faced in creating a solution and application of a multi-faceted approach to end exploitation and abuse would enable others to try and apply the such tactics in their respective geographic areas.
For information on a related tactic to address chiild labor and trafficking read our in-depth case study.
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