Earlier this month, thanks to our supporter Annie Ugurlayan, we screened the new trafficking film SOLD. The film, based on Patricia McCormick's novel with the same title, follows the journey of Lakshmi, a 13-year-old rural Nepali girl who is trafficked to a Kolkata brothel after accepting a phony position as a domestic worker. While Lakshmi’s story is shocking, the film presents many real life scenarios that trafficked children experience around the world. Here are five truths from the film:
MOVIE: Lakshmi is lured into trafficking under false pretenses. She believes she is going to the city for domestic work and hopes to send money to her family back home.
TRUTH: Many victims of trafficking believe they are signing up for something else, such as regular domestic work, a job in shop or restaurant, or the promise of a great opportunity. Sometimes victims believe they are in a loving relationship with their trafficker.
MOVIE: The men who come to the brothel are from all walks of life. They are young, old, rich and poor.
TRUTH: Sex buyers do come from all walks of life. They are rich and poor, young and old. They are married, in a relationship or single.
MOVIE: In SOLD, Lakshmi’s friend Monica eventually pays off her debt to the brothel owner, Mumtaz, and returns home to her family. After a short time at home, Monica returns to the brothel.
TRUTH: Many children who are trafficked end up going back to their former captors. Why? Sometimes, like Monica, they are rejected by their families after returning home. Often they are shamed and ostracized by their communities, facing a stigma so great that they are unable to secure regular work. Many victims of trafficking are unaware of their rights and fear further punishment and abuse if freed.
MOVIE: Girls at Happiness House dream of freedom, but are afraid to leave the brothel. They are uncertain who to trust. Even individuals that offer help are met with skepticism. When a police unit raids the brothel, the girls hide, fearful of being arrested or beaten by the police.
TRUTH: In many cases, victims of trafficking fear arrest or imprisonment, whether these fears are well-founded or not. In the United States, while children and victims of trafficking are protected under the law, victims may be unaware of their rights. Unbelievably to this day, some countries charge trafficking victims, and even children, with prostitution.
MOVIE: Sophia, a photographer and traveller played by Gillian Anderson, notices Lakshmi in the window of the brothel as she’s taking photos from the street. She immediately recognizes that something isn’t right and reports her suspicions to the authorities. She sets in motion the chain of events that lead to Lakshmi’s freedom.
TRUTH: You can help. Learn the signs of trafficking so you can report suspicious behavior and set in motion the chain of events that leads to someone’s freedom. Here are 11 signs of trafficking to look out for as you travel:
• Minimal luggage/clothing
• Lack of access to travel documents and money
• Victim seems disoriented and lost
• Victim lacks physical and verbal autonomy
• Lack of adequate language skills for foreign victims
• Trafficker is seen with many young children
• Trafficker insists on paying solely in cash
• Victim and trafficker have minimal interaction and eye contact with others, especially with staff
• No evidence of return ticket; may have tickets to multiple destinations
• Victim has indications of physical and emotional abuse
• Evidence of branding on victims indicating ownership i.e. “Daddy’s girl”
If you have any information about the sexual exploitation of a child in the U.S. or abroad, CALL the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888