Storyville - Selling Children
A Storyville documentary. Director Pankaj Johar sets out to understand how, in the world's largest democracy, it is possible for millions of children to be bought and sold.
For middle-class Indian director Pankaj Johar, child slavery was an issue seemingly far removed from his life. Despite seeing children in the marketplace, factories and street corners, Pankaj rarely considered the circumstances which led millions of children to be forced into labour. This changed when Cecilia, a long-serving maid employed by Pankaj's family, suffered a devastating loss: her 14-year-old daughter killed herself following the trauma of being trafficked into sexual slavery.
Pankaj sets out to understand how, in the world's largest democracy, it is possible for children to be bought and sold with such ease. Meeting with Nobel peace prize winner and child rights activist Kailash gives Pankaj a sense of the magnitude of the issue as well as a better understanding of the ways in which poverty, illiteracy and corruption conspire to provide a breeding ground for child trafficking. He travels the country, meeting with both trafficked children and the traffickers, as well as activists, legal experts and the police. Working with activists from the organisations Save the Childhood and Guria, Pankaj gets exclusive access to film rescue operations and speaks with some of the enslaved children, who have been denied a childhood and an education, offering an insight into their lives.
Pankaj discovers how bigoted attitudes and corruption have lead to a state-wide failure to protect those who are most vulnerable. While he struggles to reconcile India's rapid economic development with the poverty and lack of opportunity which defines the lives of so many victims of child trafficking, an uncomfortable truth emerges: India's booming economy and the subsequent rise of the middle class is a major force which fuels the demand for cheap labour in the form of child slaves. Pankaj invites us to take responsibility, as consumers and as passive bystanders, to put an end to the selling of children in India and the world over.