Friday, July 27, 2007

Children Of The Circus

"Your child will have a better life," the men tell the parents of 8-year-old Maya. "We will take care of her, and give her an education. She will be able to send you money each week... twice as much money as what you live on now. this is the best thing you can do for a child."
And with those words, little Maya is led away by the "kind" men... and sold to the Indian circus.
In places like India and Nepal, child traffickers prey on families in poverty-stricken villages. They offer parents the equivelant of about fifty dollars, in exchange for one of the parents' children. The traffickers promise that the children will have a better life, and that they will send the parents more money on a regular basis. But then, once they have custody of the child, the promises of a better life for the child and the family never materialize.
Children of the circus are forced to live in deporable conditions. They are usually made to work from five a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, and given only enough food... things like rotten vegetables.. to keep them alive. Circus children report being beaten with canes on a regular basis by the adults in charge of them, and also being molested by the adults. If they tro to escape, and they are caught, they are punished especially severely. Children are forced to perform risky circus acts, as well as do maintenance labor at the circus.
Meanwhile, when parents begin to understand that they've been scammed, or when they begin to miss their children, they are unable to get the children out of the circus. Circus managers tell the parents that, because of papers the parents signed, the children are "bonded" to the circus for the next ten yesrs. Of course, the documents "proving" this are false, but parents who are uneducated, illiterate, and desperate, don't often realize this.
The Esther Benjamin's Trust is an organization that attempts to get children out of circuses. They begin by physically removing the children from circuses. Initially, reporters who went to investigate circuses that used children were threatened at gun point by the circus managers... and the children were hidden away. But now, with the cooperation of authorities, workers are usually able to convince circcus managers to hand over the endangered children.
Next, the organization "rehabilitates" the children by offering them health care, safety, and either education or job training, depending on how old they are and what their interests are. The organization makes attempts to locate the children's families and reunite them.
The organization also is working to raise awareness of the fact that children seen performing in these circuses are not their by choice, or because their parents are circus performers, or any other logical reasons. They are there as prisoners, and are being tortured on a daily basis. They are working to create a law against using or abusing children in these circuses.
If you live in an area where Indian circuses perform, please boycott any circuses that participate in the trafficking and abusing of children! You can also help by making a donation to the The Esther Benjamin's Trust.
Circuses are meant to be fun... but they are certainly not fun for the children who are being forced to work there! So, please, help put an end to this situation!

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