It's a dreadful scene. Young Nepali girls perform risky tricks in skimpy outfits. In this circus they jump without a safety net, walk on tightropes, stand on a beer bottle, ride a uni-cycle and balance three other girls on their shoulders. The Nepali audience is mesmerised as they watch the girls, some as young as three. The audience doesn't seem bothered by the fact that the girls are all exploited by the Indian circus.
For the past several weeks in Jhapa, the Asia Circus from Banaras has put on daily shows with performances by Nepali girls who are from Makwanpur and adjoining districts. Instead of raising their voices against the exploitation of Nepali girls who are usually sold to the circus by impoverished families, the local government authorities and others watch them without any guilt. Abdul Gaffar, the circus manager, says his circus runs in Nepal with the help of local Kamesh Shaha from Hetauda.
Anita Chapagain, 18, from Hetauda says she was "supplied" by her parents to an agent and then taken to India via Birganj and sold to a circus company. "I have no idea of where my family is now," says Anita, tears in her eyes. She has worked as an entertainer for the past eight years.
Gita Gurung from Butwal has been part of the circus for six years. She was recruited when she was just eight-years-old. Six of her sisters also worked in the circus but left to get married. Now her mother, Kalawati, wants her daughter to marry too.
The circus forces the girls to work in both Nepal and India. No one in either country is doing anything to stop them.