This multicultural love and family saga set in New York City, Nepal, and Mumbai, India, takes the reader on a journey into and out of the nightmarish world of international sex trafficking. Beyond revealing the horrors of sex slavery as others have done in documentary style, I have endeavored, through fiction, to render the fate suffered by four sisters and how their lives in a Mumbai brothel transforms them in dramatically different and unpredictable ways.
About Little Sisters — Author’s Preface
For more than twenty years I lived, studied and traveled in Nepal and India as an integral part of my learning, ongoing research, and deep interest in the ancient art and religions of South Asia’s respective cultures.
In 1992, my distinguished colleague, Kristina Carlson Jones moved to Kathmandu to open a meditation center. She contacted me in New York and told me about children being abducted and trafficked into sexual slavery. She had met a Nepalese doctor, Aruna Uprety, who detailed the horror of how girls between 10 and 14 years were being bought by sex traffickers in the hinterlands of Nepal for transport to brothels on Falkland Road in Bombay (Mumbai).
In an instant I understood.
“That’s horrible, ” I said to her. “This has to be our work. We must find a way to protect these children. ”
Thus the Bahini (“Little Sister” in Nepalese) Foundation was born, one of the first organizations of its kind in Nepal.
Within a few months, we set up a safe house to provide shelter for the children. We worked closely with Dr. Uprety to identify young girls who were prime targets for sex traders. We went to families in poverty stricken villages and showed them there was an alternative to Falkland Road brothels. At that time, the income of these families was about $15.00 to $20.00 a year. A girl could easily bring $200.00 from a trafficker — and more if she was a virgin. The family would no longer have to worry about raising money for her dowry. She would go to Bombay, Delhi or Calcutta to “work”. No one in the village knew exactly what kind of work, but they all hoped she would send money home to help the family survive.
In a matter of weeks, it became clear — the plight of these prepubescent children was heartbreaking. After many difficult months spent looking for and identifying girls who were potential targets for sex traders, we convinced a few families to forgo the money they could make selling their children and entrust them to the Foundation’s care, and hopefully a dignified future.
It wasn’t easy to do and often we weren’t successful, but a number of girls came to live in a large house the Foundation had rented in Kathmandu. We enrolled them in school, fed and sheltered them. Even in the safety of the Bahini House, we had to remain vigilant to keep them from the clutches of sex traffickers. We also welcomed women and their children who had escaped from brothels in Mumbai.
On one occasion, at the risk of her life, Kristina Carlson Jones outfitted as a nurse, went into the Falkland Road hellhole of brothels in Mumbai to document the dismal condition of young girls who were sold to traffickers. Had the brothel owners known what Kristina was really up to, most likely they would have killed her.
The Nepalese Government kept the sex trafficking business under wraps. It was an embarrassment, something no one in Nepal would speak about. Occasionally, a high-ranked politician would furtively show up with tears in his eyes and thank us for helping his people. By and large, the world has until today remained indifferent to the plight of these Nepalese girls and has essentially ignored the most despicable criminal horror ever inflicted on innocent children.
One of the Foundation’s goals was to school the brightest of these children in the West. It was our hope that through education, they would return to Nepal as doctors, teachers, economists, mathematicians and scientists, and thus help to raise the economic and social conditions of the Nepalese people and eliminate the sex trade.
In time, the Bahini Foundation became part of R. H. E. S. T. (Rural Health and Education Service Trust of Nepal) — a Nepalese NGO headed by Dr. Uprety. It is run under that name until this day. Dr. Uprety recently told us that the creation of the Bahini Foundation has helped to save at least 8,500 innocent girls from sexual slavery.
Today, the Internet, mass media, and inexpensive jet travel have shrunk the size of our planet to a global village. We now know that the sex slavery network is as prevalent in the West as it is in South Asia. The subject of sex trafficking has emerged from the back pages of newspapers and has been included in a few public-awareness audiovisual programs. International organizations are taking stock of the situation and will hopefully intervene with some degree of efficiency.
When children (no matter what their nationality, ethnicity or religion) are forced to become sex slaves or are kidnapped so that their kidneys can be surgically removed and sold on the black market, the entire world must take responsibility.
Little Sisters arises from my direct experience and awareness of the pain and redemptive passion felt by real people concerned with these issues. I want the reader to become graphically aware of what life is like in the Mumbai red-light district. Beyond revealing the horrors of sex slavery as others have in documentary style, I have endeavored, through fiction, to render the intolerable fate suffered by four sisters at the hands of sex merchants and how each of them is transformed by life in a Mumbai brothel in dramatically different and unpredictable ways.
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