Children from Nepal are trafficked into India and forced to work in circuses, according to an investigation published by Al Jazeera.
The children are often sold to traffickers by their parents who need the money and want them to have a better life in India, where opportunities are plentiful. Children as young as five get sold for as little as 1,000 rupees ($13), sent across the border and sometimes never seen again, the report states. Many end up working in circuses.
“Once in the circuses, these children often live in squalor and are never allowed to leave the circus compound. They are routinely beaten in order to teach them the difficult and dangerous tricks, and sexual abuse is commonplace. In effect, these children have been totally at the mercy of circus management who treat them as they please,” it reports. It states that this is common practice but does not happen in every circus.
The report states that as many as 2,000 Nepalese children are thought to be working in India’s circuses.
The lack of regulation by the Indian government over circuses also makes this practice more common and harder to eradicate, states Al Jazeera. There are more than 100 circuses in India but only 12 are registered with the Indian Circus Federation that monitors and ensures certain standards are followed.
Extreme poverty has also forced many Indian families to sell their children into situations where child labor is common.
Author Sonia Faleiro wrote in the International Herald Tribune that some children are so poor they even choose to sell themselves.
“Poverty has traditionally fed child labor. India has an estimated 17 million child laborers, many of whom are visible in roadside restaurants, bakeries and car repair shops. Urban Indians assume that these children are either locals sent to work by their parents to earn a little extra cash, or runaways,” she writes.
She wrote about meeting children as young as 10 who had offered themselves to traffickers because they were hungry and needed to eat.