Part of what makes human trafficking so challenging to combat is the fact that it’s perpetrated behind closed doors. Authorities struggle to identify the criminals and the general public is left in the dark about a devastating issue they might otherwise more actively protest.
A new film hopes to address that problem by putting a face to the issue.
"Sold," based off of the bestselling novel of the same title by Patricia McCormick, takes into account the typical horrors human trafficking victims face and folds them into the story about Lakshmi, a 13-year-old unwittingly sold into prostitution.
The Nepalese girl is told that she’s going to work as a domestic servant in Kolkata, India, a job she’s eager to take on in order to help her struggling family, and buy them a tin roof. But once she arrives to the bustling city, Lakshmi learns that she’s been sold to a brothel, Happiness House, and will remain there until she works off her father’s debt.
Lakshmi’s story is representative of how human trafficking incidents often take hold.
Across the globe, about 20 million people are bought, sold and exploited into the sex trade and forced labor, according to Equality Now.
Traffickers often prey on vulnerable families who are desperate to find a way out of their oppressive poverty.
The issue is of particular concern in Nepal where about 7,000 to 15,000 girls and young women are trafficked each year into Indian brothels, Gordon Brown, former U.K. Prime Minister, wrote in a HuffPost blog post last year. Experts feared that those already-concerning figures would spike last year after the Nepal earthquake, which left 950,000 children living in tents.
Traffickers were slated to make $570 off each child they supplied.
In addition to informing the public about the realities of human trafficking, the film also hopes to foment viewers into taking action.
"Sold" has partnered with a number of nonprofits, including ECPAT, Save the Children, World Vision and United Way, and is raising funds for a number of initiatives. It’s supporting Hope House and other safe houses for children of sex workers and sex trafficking survivors. It’s working to build schools in Nepal and promote healing programs. And it’s urging supporters to get involved by sharing information about the film on social media.
“I really wanted to do something with film where real children could be affected and helped,” director Jeffrey D. Brown told TakePart.