Rescued from slavery, Nepali performers rediscover magic of the circus

Fri Apr 1, 2016 7:01am EDT
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By Katie Nguyen

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - 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, Nepali 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," says another young woman in the film, "Even when I fall".

The feature-length documentary, which is still in production, tells the story of three Nepali 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.   Continued...