By Whitney Gomes
Liesl Messerschmidt is a University of Oregon alumna and author of Girl Trafficking in Nepal: a gripping feature story that reveals the brutal world of sex trafficking among young women in Nepal. Messerschmidt paints a picture of this world for her readers through the story of Geeta, a young Nepalese girl taken from her village and forced into prostitution. The initial anecdote uses imagery to place the reader in the fields of Melamchi where a man bought Geeta for several thousand rupees to “work in India.” The reader has no idea what to expect next but Messerschmidt assures us that “Geeta’s life changed forever.”
The subject matter of this story is dark and disturbing, which makes it difficult to read. However, Messerschmidt’s tone complements the issue at hand. She explains that Geeta is one of hundreds of thousands of girls forced into the sex trade in South Asia – and blames poverty, prohibited education, political corruption, and ignorance as key players in this growing problem.
In between paragraphs of statistical evidence and details of girl trafficking, Messerschmidt uses Geeta’s experience to reveal the immense suffering these girls endure:
“While girls in other parts of the world were experiencing their first kisses, Geeta was learning how to survive servicing 20 to 30 clients a day” (Page 40).
By relating Geeta’s life to that of other young women, Messerschmidt provides a place that evokes emotion and hooks the reader. While reading this story for the first time, I was both disheartened and appalled; I had heard of sex trafficking in poverty-stricken countries, but hearing the reality that Geeta was living every day sunk my heart.
Messerschmidt explains that “sick” prostitutes were returned like defected sex objects – left in the streets to die. Geeta became one of these returning prostitutes. At 64 pounds and dying of AIDS, no one would tend to her. The ignorance of the public and the lack of AIDS education lead to the belief that AIDS was a sickness from the devil.
By the last page of the story, readers are already emotionally invested in Geeta’s story and they are yearning to find out what happens next.
Messerschmidt introduces the anecdote:
“A year after her return, in a display of strength and determination, Geeta marched into the office of ABC/Nepal and informed them that they were going to help her tell her story. They did.”
Geeta lived on to become a leading spokeswoman on girl trafficking and AIDS issues. She inspired other returning prostitutes to tell their story and to educate the public. Her goal was to turn an ignorant society into a society that condemns illegal sex trade and provides resources for the young women who have experience the atrocities firsthand – the ones that survived at least.
Messerschmidt was able to take a tear-jerking, jaw-dropping topic readable. She hooks the readers to the point that they can’t turn away, and she concludes with the accomplishments of Geeta. However, she reminds us all that sex trafficking remains a serious issue. She uses Geeta’s story to educate her readers and motivate them to pass on the word. The atrocities are unmasked; what can we do to help?
To read Liesl Messerschmidt’s article Girl Trafficking in Nepal, go to www.fluxstories.com, click on archives, and download the Spring 1994 issue. The story is featured on Pages 38 to 43.