Nepal’s Lost Circus Children: AL JAZEERA

In the border district of Hetauda, in southern Nepal, child trafficking is rife and the lack of border controls makes India an easy destination. For decades, Nepali children, mostly girls, have been sought by Indian circuses for their fair skin and beauty.


A film by Sky Neal and Anson Hartford, produced by Banyak Films.

Producer and Director: Sky Neal

Producer and Editor: Anson Hartford

Play time

25 minutes


Often sold to traffickers by their parents, the children are enticed with stories of beautiful new clothes, a glamorous and exciting life, the chance of an education and a regular wage. Children, sometimes as young as five years old, have been taken and, in some cases, never seen again. Sold for as little as 1,000 rupees ($13), the families rarely receive the promised wage.

But in April 2011, an amendment was made to the Juvenile Justice Act, making it strictly illegal for anybody under the age of 18 to work or train within circuses. With this amendment in place, the Esther Benjamin Memorial Foundation, a charity that rescues children from human trafficking,  is now planning a new phase of raids that will target these larger, more powerful circuses first.

This film follows Shailaja and the EBMF team on their first rescue operation since this amendment was passed. They set off from Nepal to raid a large circus operating in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India which is suspected of using child performers, but as filmmaker Sky Neal finds out there is still a very long way to go before child labour and trafficking into Indian circuses is brought to an end.

* This statement does not apply to all circuses in India.