Anuradha Koirala Rescues Girls & Women From Sex Slavery
Susan notes: please go to the CNN heroes page here and vote for your favourite hero for 2010 - the voting is open until November 18, 2010, and you may vote as many times as you like. Even better, cast your vote(s) for Anuradha Koirala, who rescues Nepalese girls from brothels. She is amazing and her story is amazing too....
Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until 2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day.
"I used to be really sad and frustrated with what was happening in my life," she said.
The daughter of Nepalese peasant farmers, Geeta -- now 26 -- had been sold to a brothel in India by a member of her extended family. The family member had duped Geeta's visually impaired mother into believing her daughter would get work at a clothing company in Nepal.
"The brothel where I was ... there [were] many customers coming in every day. The owner used to verbally abuse us, and if we didn't comply, [she] would start beating us with wires, rods and hot spoons."
It was not until Geeta was 14 that a police officer rescued her and brought her to a safe house compound run by Anuradha Koirala. The 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal, have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of Nepal's sex trafficking victims.
"Families are tricked all the time," said Koirala. "The trafficking of the girls is done by people who are basically known to the girls, who can lure them from the village by telling them they are getting a nice job. It's a lucrative business."
By raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and providing safe shelter and support services, Koirala and Maiti Nepal have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993.
According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to 15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India and then sexually exploited each year.
Koirala's own history in an abusive relationship led her to her crusade. For most of her young adulthood, she taught primary school English in Nepal. But when her relationship took a violent turn, her life's "purpose and responsibility completely changed," she said.
"Every day, there was battering. And then I had three miscarriages that I think [were] from the beating. It was very difficult because I didn't know in those days where to go and report [it], who to ... talk to."
After the relationship ended, Koirala used a portion of her $100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence.
By the early 1990s, an increasing demand for help and persistent cases of violence against women compelled Koirala to do more. Maiti Nepal was her brainchild for giving voice, legal defense and rehabilitation to victims of sex trafficking.
Roughly translated, Maiti means "Mother's Home." The group has facilities throughout Nepal and India, but most of the rehabilitation work takes place at its main campus in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Koirala said girls from the brothels arrive empty-handed, sick, in many cases pregnant or with small children, and "psychologically broken."
"When the girl first comes to Maiti Nepal, we never, never ask them a question. We just let them [be] for as long as they need. We let them play, dance, walk, talk to a friend," Koirala said. "They are afraid at first, but eventually they will talk to us on their own."
The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children.
"I cannot say no to anybody," Koirala said. "Everybody comes to Maiti Nepal."
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By Ebonne Ruffins
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