By Jackie Cannon, News Editor
On Wednesday, March 29, Holy Cross hosted a showing of a shortened version of the film “Sold,” as well as a discussion with the producer, Jane Charles. The movie is the story of Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old nepalese girl who is sold into sex slavery in India. By hosting screenings of “Sold” around the country, Charles hopes to raise awareness of human trafficking as it exists across the globe.
The movie begins by portraying Lakshmi’s fairly normal childhood but quickly turns much darker, as Lakshmi is trafficked to India to earn money for her family and ends up at a brothel. When she refuses to prostitute herself, the woman who runs the brothel drugs her and a man then rapes her. Although she is then forced to sleep with men every night, she survives by befriending the young son of one of the other women in the brothel and by detaching herself from her emotions. At the end of the movie, she manages to run away and find her way to an American shelter, and the police raid the brothel and rescue the other women there.
While “Sold” is fictional, based on the bestselling book by Patricia McCormack, it represents the struggles of the 5.5 million children worldwide who are trafficked. In her talk after the movie showing, Charles stated that in some of the villages in Nepal where she researched, there were no girls over the age of ten because they had all been trafficked, and that 80% of the world’s slaves are in southeast Asia. Globally, the human trafficking industry is worth $150 billion, second only to drug trafficking.
“Making this film was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life,” expressed Charles when the movie had finished. “Once you know about this issue, it stays with you.” Charles, who has over twenty years’ experience in film and co-founded stolenyouth.org to help trafficked children in America, has done a significant amount of research on the subject and dedicated her time to bringing awareness to the prevalence of human trafficking.
While living in Seattle, Charles revealed that she has seen children—boys as much as girls, and as young as eleven—that have been trafficked. Furthermore, she explained that human trafficking is present in “every city in the world and every country in the world,” and the matter is often further complicated when children are trafficked across national borders, , as in Lakshmi’s case.
Charles also spoke about the many ways in which she and other activists are combatting human trafficking internationally. “Sold” is partnered with the Taught, Not Trafficked campaign, which, according to their website, seeks to help girls stay in school until the age of sixteen because this dramatically decreases their risk of being trafficked.
Additionally, Charles mentioned her own approach, which is to tackle the issue from a “grassroots” perspective in individual cities, with a focus on creating more discussion and awareness about the issue. She also mentioned programs to help with the rehabilitation of former victims through counseling, helping them finding a job, and bringing in artisans to teach them a skill that they can develop into a business.
After the movie and discussion, one student, when interviewed, said that “the idea that [kids] can go missing and get into such a business that’s protected by people of authority is such a terrifying concept. I think we need to shed more light on the issue and […] to start a conversation, and I think that’s what we did today.” Even on the Holy Cross campus, where this issue may seem distant, students can help by telling others about the problems associated with human trafficking.
“Kids are out there and they need us,” expressed Charles, as she encouraged audience members to be mindful of the issue in their daily lives. Because the issue is so common around the world, it can happen to anyone and anywhere, but it can also be prevented by anyone who is aware of the issue and the signs of human trafficking. “We have to be the ones holding that guiding light,” Charles said. “We need all of you to become activists.”
For more information on “Sold,” visit http://www.soldthemovie.com