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What the majority of people may not know - and what you can do to change that
A bright, amicable woman stood out in the hallway and waved excitedly to us.
“Are you here for the documentary screening?” she asked eagerly, and when Tim and I nodded, she introduced herself as Jaime Saul, executive producer of the film we were about to watch. Inside what is normally a full-fledged committee hearing room, the film’s director, Grant Knisely, welcomed us warmly and thanked us for coming. As the House had passed a package of trafficking bills (our HTPA bill included) just days before, and given the anticipation of the UN’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, the timing of this film could not have not been better.
As we took our seats next to staffers and congressional members, Grant introduced the project by sharing his personal journey of encountering survivors of the sex trafficking industry while living in Nepal. Imbued with a sense of urgency to tell others of these girls’ unspeakable trauma yet inspiring recovery, he worked in collaboration with Jaime and various artists and musicians over two years to produce an independent film (not yet released) uncovering the sex trafficking industry within Nepal and India. The film, titled Untouchable: Children of God*, is uniquely centered on two Nepali girls of the lowest and most severely marginalized caste and recounts the darkness and deception they endured in being trafficked to Indian brothels. Since their rescue, they have been flourishing in a safe home in Nepal, where the director had first heard their stories.
After unveiling two thirds of the film and promising that the latter third gives great hope for the problem of slavery (it certainly does – I watched the rest), Grant and Jaime held a Q&A session with members of the audience.
In response to many questions, Grant and Jaime offered that one of the largest hindrances to real mobilization is a lack of awareness. “Based on my conversations and experience over the past two years,” Grant said, “the majority of people still have little to no knowledge that slavery exists in the modern world.”
There may even be members of Congress who belong in this camp. On our drive over from IJM Headquarters, Tim revealed that he had been pleasantly surprised: he had never attended, much less heard of, a film on modern day slavery making a pre-release debut in Congress. The screening was hosted by Congressman Ed Royce – long-time representative of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – who has given renewed attention to anti-trafficking legislation in the U.S. The screening event was held for the purpose of informing congressional offices and foreign affairs committee members on the issue of slavery today.
In fact, the film’s screening in Congress may show a deeper connection between civil society and its growing voice on human trafficking. And Washington seems to have started paying attention. Grant remarked that the Congressman had been a “strong advocate” for the film, noting that “the invitation was a strong indicator that the subject matter is gaining momentum and interest on Capitol Hill.”
Will you help spread the word about the existence of modern day slavery – and ask your members of Congress to do something about it?
This blog post was written by Nahrie Chung, who spent the summer of 2014 interning with IJM’s Government Relations & Advocacy team.
*For more information about the film, please visit the website: http://coderedfilms.com/untouchable/.