It doesn't take long for Lakshmi to realise, when she arrives in Calcutta, that she has been sold into prostitution like thousands of Nepali girls every year. Lakshmi is forced to work under a cruel madam named Mumtaz.
Lakshmi's idyllic life in the mountains turns into a nightmare of sexual torture and despair. Her mother used to tell her: "Simply to endure is to triumph" and she survives in Calcutta's netherworld out of sheer willpower. She makes friends with other Nepali girls in identical predicaments with similar stories of being sold by relatives and friends.
This is an unconventional book on the trafficking of Nepali women to India, written in a series of stark, individual vignettes. Although it is a novel, Lakshmi's story is repeated every day with the exploitation and oppression of young Nepali women not just in India, but also by ruthless middlemen who dupe or dump them in Gulf states like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Patricia McCormick travelled the trafficking routes between India and Nepal to research the book. She is the author of the acclaimed novels Cut and My Brother's Keeper.
Redemption: recovery from a life of misery and despair
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When intervention works
Some of the best practices of interventions that worked from across South Asia are presented in a new UNICEF report, South Asia in Action: Preventing and Responding To Child Rights and Trafficking. Wherever interventions have worked to stop trafficking, the approach has involved awareness-building, community mobilisation, political and social commitment, networking and cross-border cooperation.
The first case study looks at para-legal committees in Nepal that work at the local level to address the push factors that lead to trafficking. The committees started with girls and women being trafficked to the cities and to India, but later addressed the bigger problem of violence and abuse and exploitation of children and women. The committees work on prevention, detection and early follow-up.
An 11-year-old girl is quoted in the report: "I approached the para-legal committee in my village and convinced my father about the hazards of marrying off my sister at such a young age?after much consideration, my father understood the risks and promised not to marry her off before 18."
The report also looks at a regional anti-trafficking network in Andhra Pradesh and the Bangladeshi children who used to be sold as jockeys for camel races in the UAE.
South Asia in Action: Preventing and Responding To Child Rights and Trafficking UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, August 2008