Return to Transcripts main page
Opium Fueling the Insurgency in Afghanistan; Trafficking of Women and Girls for Sex Thrives
Aired January 3, 2010 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: This week -- Afghanistan, opium and the war. Are drug users around the world funding the Taliban?
Welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And today we explore the way opium fuels the insurgency in Afghanistan and beyond. We'll speak to the top international drug official, and to a journalist who's seen firsthand the Taliban's relationship with drug money.
Plus, we have a searing look at the sale of daughters and wives in India. We talk to women who are struggling to end this multi-billion dollar slave trade.
But first, opium and heroin are fueling the war in Afghanistan, and insurgencies around the world, as well as crime and addiction. Just listen to these statistics. Afghan opium kills more people every year than any other drug. And in NATO countries every year, heroin from the Afghan poppy fields kills five times more users than all the NATO troops who died fighting the Afghan war over the last eight years. The U.N.'s top drug enforcement official told me that the Taliban is much more involved in every aspect of the drug trade than previously thought.
Joining me now, Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations' Office of Drugs and Crime. You wrote the report. Welcome to our program.
ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, UNITED NATIONS OFFICE OF DRUGS AND CRIME: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: What is new?
COSTA: A lot. A lot of new information and above all, the overall picture. You have the information about where the Afghan drug goes, how much goes to Russia, how much goes to Europe, Pakistan, Iran, causing deadly consequences. How much money is accrued to the insurgents in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan. And also of course, how much goes into the pocket of organized crime world wide. Above all, what the report does is it links the dots together and we see the health situation, the crime situation and the organized insurgency's situation all together. This is very new.
AMANPOUR: So in terms of the figures, some $400 million a year going to the Taliban?
COSTA: Yes. This is an estimate which has been produced some time ago which is confirmed in this report, at least regarding the amount of money which is being used by the Taliban thanks to their role in the cultivation but especially in the processing in the labs and in the exports.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's what I wanted to explore with you because before, people thought they were just getting a take, a small take, off the top. But now you're saying that it is much, much more involved than that?
COSTA: Well, we should compare for example the Taliban period now when they are insurgents not in control of the country but in control of parts of the current, to the period when they were a power, when they were in power and therefore running the country in the late '90s.
At that time, the Taliban were tolerating the cultivation because they consider it to be un-Islamic or anti-Islamic but they were taking account of about 10 percent. And at the time, we estimated the revenue to insurgents of about $80 million -- $70 to $90 million, about $80 million. Today they are deeply involved, deeply involved in the processing and deeply involved in protecting the farmers, deeply involved in the exports, deeply involved in all the activities, including the precursors -- chemical precursor which are imported into Afghanistan. In all of that, we estimated in this report amounts of $130 million, $140 million a year. Plus there are other activities they are involved which of course brings up the number significantly.
AMANPOUR: And look, we have a map here of Afghanistan and surrounding countries. You can use this and try to tell us where it's all going since that's part of your new report as well.
COSTA: Basically, the afghan opium leaves the country through three different routes. About 150 tons of heroin reach Pakistan. About 105 -- slightly more than that 100 tons of heroin reach Iran. And the remaining, which is about 50, 55 tons of heroin reach central Asia. Of course this is not to stay in these three countries. A good deal of the Pakistani cargo moves into Iran and a whole lot then goes through Iran, into Turkey, and then eventually into the European Union.
AMANPOUR: And a lot into Russia, right?
COSTA: The segment which I show goes through central Asia -- about 70 tons of it -- reach Russia and then goes on.
AMANPOUR: In your report you have said that the Afghan drug economy generates this several hundred million dollars per year into evil hands, some with black turbans, some with white collars. What do you mean?
COSTA: Well the black turbans are easily identified. You know with whom. White collars -- we intend to refer to, for example, officials in the Afghan administration whether in Kabul or in the provinces or people in the army or people in the police. But also who are around the world involved in recycling the money which is generated by the opium trade. We have estimated that amount to $65 billion. That's a lot of money.
AMANPOUR: So what's the solution because we've just reported and the U.S. has said that forget eradication, forget the poppy fields, that is simply not going to be enough. So what is the solution?
COSTA: It's very simple. It is going to take a long time but it is very clear what should be done. First of all, all the opium which is listed there, 70 tons going to Russia, 100 tons going to Europe, is of demand. They kill 100,000 people a year. We need much greater effort and commitment by government to prevent drug addiction, to take care of drug addicts, to remedy intensive therapeutic measures to their situations, to reduce demand.
Second of course, the social problem. You mention eradication, namely the destruction of the crop. We need to have farmers to disintoxicate themselves, to switch to other cultivation. It has happened. Opium being so abundant in the country, the price of it declined by 20, 30 percent a year in the past few years and it became competitive to produce something else. We need to nurture this something else.
AMANPOUR: So if it is competitive, why hasn't the nurturing been done? Why isn't more of this alternative --
COSTA: It's very hard to understand because insurgents are in control of the territory which becomes very difficult to bring to farmers basically development. You need to bring refrigeration facilities, to build roads, to take the product to the markets. You need to have the facility to stop --
AMANPOUR: So you sort of need to nation build in order to allow this to happen.
COSTA: We need development, exactly.
AMANPOUR: And are you dealing with the NATO troops as well? NATO has a certain mandate. Many of the NATO countries have been reluctant to have their forces join the U.S. drug eradication or interdiction efforts. Is anything changing there?
COSTA: Yes, a lot. In the report, there is evidence that during the first nine months of this year, about 120 strikes against drug targets were run by NATO. There is even lists of tons of opium, tons of seeds and number of labs destroyed. I think this is happening --
AMANPOUR: Is it making a dent?
COSTA: So far, unfortunately, in terms of the pure number, I would say, not yet. The amount of strikes are impressive. The amount of labs destroyed and opium confiscated is high, but there is so much drugs in Afghanistan -- twice of the consumption of the world -- that for the time being, in percentage terms, NATO operation has not been effective.
AMANPOUR: So what will it take in short?
COSTA: It will take a much greater commitment in terms of effectively looking at the kingpins, those who are, to some extent, involved in insurgency but, above all, involved in trafficking and therefore we don't support insurgents. What in addition to what I mentioned earlier, reduction of demand and therefore, less addiction in Europe, and reduction of supply, namely helping the farmers to switch, we need much harder stance on traffickers, whether they are in Afghanistan, whether they are in Pakistan or whether they are along the routes in Russia or in Europe.
AMANPOUR: You talked about the kingpins. There is a report that the U.S. is now targeting them from the air or from anywhere, targeted killings and also the Pentagon has a list of some 50 drug kingpins to be taken out. Is that one way to go?
COSTA: No. I personally don't believe so, for a very simple reason. We believe in correct application of justice. And I am perplexed about the fact that this is not actually happening. The security council of the United Nations already on two occasions, in 2007 -- 2006 and 2007, passed resolution, invited member states to provide to the security council, the name of the major traffickers involved in Afghan opium and also funding insurgents so their travels could be banned, their assets could be seized, and the procedure for eventual extradition could be launched. So far, much to my dismay, not a single name is provided to the security council. That is a manifestation of a negligence which I consider very serious.
AMANPOUR: Negligence. We'll talk about that, and more, on this issue. Stay with us.
Next we'll have a different perspective on the drugs war from an author and journalist who's met the Taliban. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: One of the world's busiest drug routes run through Iran's rocky mountains and desert plains. For its eastern border lies alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan, which produce 80 percent of the world's heroin and opium, drugs destined for users in the West. They are smuggled through Iran. This is the front line in Iran's war against the drug traffickers. Its frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan, along maybe 2,000 kilometers of borderline, Iran has built concrete walls, dams, canals and earthen barriers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was my report on drug smuggling 11 years ago. So what has changed today? Joining me now, Gretchen Peters, an award-winning journalist who reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than a decade. She interviewed hundreds of villagers, smugglers and the Taliban for her book "Seeds of Terror." And here again with me in the studio, is the U.N.'s Antonio Maria Costa. Welcome back to you both. Welcome Gretchen.
Let me ask you, that figure 11 years ago, and now we're hearing that 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin comes from Afghanistan but only 2 percent is seized there. Most of it going out of the country. What is to be done?
GRETCHEN PETERS, AUTHOR: Well, I think there needs to be a lot more focus on interdiction. I do think there needs to and lot more focus on stopping drug convoys, raiding and dismantling drug labs. That's very difficult because many of them are small and mobile. I think as Mr. Costa said, there has to be tremendous effort on the development side to help bring rule of law to rural areas where poppy is cultivated to try and help villagers, the many different levels of things that have to happen to help villagers move off of the poppy crop. But I also think there is also a lot to be done internationally and I think that gets a lot more focus -- less focus than it should.
AMANPOUR: Well let me just quickly ask you, Mr. Costa when I asked him about the notion of targeting these things, as you said, convoys and other such things, wasn't so keen on it. He said not extrajudicial targeting, killings, yes. But you have said that the Pentagon does have this list of 50 or so people that they're going after. What, to kill?
PETERS: It is kill or capture. Yes, it is a kill or capture list. I think that what they're finding from military officials that I've spoken with who are tracking this issue, is that the drug traffickers and the insurgents in southern Afghanistan are working so closely together that it's almost impossible to separate them.
A recent example was a raid in Marja in Helmand in May when they uncovered a Taliban command and control center in the middle of a poppy market -- an opium market and they found more than 90 tons of drugs, precursor chemicals and poppy seeds there under the Taliban's control. So they really are working very closely together.
I think there has to be more effort to try and interdict the major traffickers who are not -- and the money launders who are not in Afghanistan. Really the major players are in Pakistan, they're in the UAE. Some of them move between Iran and Afghanistan. This is a regional issue and it needs a regional approach.
AMANPOUR: Are you getting, Mr. Costa, any luck trying to get -- we discussed it briefly a little bit ago, but any luck trying to get some international cooperation on this?
COSTA: I think a lot is happening now. Now obviously those are seeds which will bear fruits God only knows when in the future. We have for example promoted what we called a trilateral initiative between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. That is working quite well. There have been joint operation, quite unusual because they are often this -- at least some of these countries have been at odds with one another. They've been running joint operation, joint patrolling, sharing some sort of intelligence. The results again are very small but symbolic in that this is the beginning of a exercise which is far reaching. And the same in central Asia. We are doing the same among these countries.
AMANPOUR: Gretchen, you talked about a DEA success story with Haji Juma Khan. They got him, they lured him, and they managed to bring him back here to prosecute. But then you went after the trail in Pakistan. What did you find there, even after he had been taken off the streets?
PETERS: Well, I went to his house before he was arrested. I tracked him down to Quetta in Pakistan a few months before he was arrested. He wasn't there but I spoke to other members of his team and they freely admitted whose house it was, that he was a major drug trafficker. I consider him to be like the Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan.
And nobody was the slightest bit concerned to have a journalist show up at their house and tell me exactly what they were up to. So it's been my experience that it was actually quite easy to meet with smugglers, truck drivers who smuggle heroin through Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. They were very open about talking about it because there is so little interdiction. I do think that's changing and I think that that is an encouraging sign, but this is a multi-billion dollar -- there is a multi- billion dollar trade going on in this region. It's drugs going out, commodities coming back in, and the insurgents, and corrupt officials on both sides of the border profit off of, and protect that. That gives them a perverse incentive to stabilizing the region. In other words, this entire economy is fueled or is supported by the continuing instability. It is going to be very hard to turn that around, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this and I think I read that you said that even after Haji Khan was taken off the streets, his relatives and lieutenants continued the trade.
PETERS: Oh, yes, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: Let me just read you this. There is a statement by Thomas Schweich, former State Department counter narcotics official in Afghanistan about Colonel General Khodaidad, who is the coordinator of Afghanistan's counter narcotics. What he said was, which we can see on our screen, "I think Karzai," the president, "appointed him because he wouldn't have any influence and I think Karzai felt that the Americans were too stupid to figure that out."
Do you think that's the case?
COSTA: It is a bit harsh. I know Tom well.
AMANPOUR: But there have also been accusations against President Karzai's relatives, his brother, others, who are part of this drugs trade?
COSTA: We are talking about two different subject matters here. General Khodaidad is called in that statement, ineffective. Certainly the minister of counter narcotics in Afghanistan is very weak. It has no ability to enforce the law. It has no equipment, it has nothing. It is sort of a moral role. I guess that is what Tom meant when he says it is ineffective. And certainly he's very clear. I never had one single word against him in terms of him being involved.
Then there is a different element, which you brought up, the question of corruption, corruption in Kabul, corruption in the provinces, corruption in the army, corruption in the military. That's a different issue and I would consider it one of most dangerous ones and most urgent to be dealt with.
AMANPOUR: Gretchen, last word to you. As this re-assessment of Afghan policy goes on, as this crisis in governance in Afghanistan is playing itself out, how is this going to help or hinder, more likely, the effort to control the drugs?
PETERS: Well, I think at the same time that the drug problem creates challenges, it also presents opportunities. My research among the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan finds that on both sides of the border, people are fed up by the drug trafficking and the other criminality that the insurgents and corrupt officials get up to. Their lives are chewed up by this. I think it provides an opportunity for a counterinsurgency campaign to build a more well-governed region from the bottom up, from the village level up.
AMANPOUR: So you support what General McChrystal is basically saying, that the whole process of development and counterinsurgency and really building from the ground up.
PETERS: I believe that that is the best way to go. I have to say, I'm a little skeptical that at this point, the NATO troops that are trained for that kind of mission, I believe that there has to be a lot more focus on law enforcement and I think there is a tremendous challenge to the idea of sending a company of soldiers, say 120 U.S. marines, into a village in Southern Helmand and say, you guys have to enforce the law.
In that case, your soldiers essentially turn into policemen patrolling the streets and your company commander is the mayor. I don't think western troops deployed to Afghanistan are trained to do that kind of work. I don't think we have the type of development forces being deployed alongside them to help these villages transfer themselves onto other types of economies. It is a very, very complex project. In an ideal world, I do think it would work.
AMANPOUR: Thank you, Gretchen. And I saw you nodding when I asked her about the recommendations by General McChrystal.
COSTA: Definitely. The country's crying, Afghanistan is crying, for greater security. Whether it is security on the ground in terms of fighting insurgency, whether it is security in terms of fighting the crime or cultivating, processing and exporting drugs, we need all of this on the ground, whether done by the Afghan army and police, unlikely or by foreign troops, it just has to be done and urgently.
AMANPOUR: The U.N.'s Antonio Maria Costa and Gretchen Peters.
Next, will the United States stay the course in Afghanistan? A rare diplomatic convention when we return.
AMANPOUR: Afghanistan's narco mafia state is a key concern as the United States mulls its new strategy, and the whole region is wondering whether the U.S. will stay the course. This week, we had an unprecedented roundtable on our program with the U.N. ambassadors from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. And during the interview, I asked them what they thought of what the U.S. defense Secretary Robert Gates had told me previously on this program about America's involvement there in the late 1980s.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We turned our backs on Afghanistan. We turned our backs on Pakistan. They were left to deal with a situation in Afghanistan on their own. Their worry is what happens in the future? Will we be there? Will we be a constant presence? Will we be supportive of them over the long term?
AMANPOUR: That's what U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me earlier this month, promising to stay the course. Do your countries want the United States to stay? We have this strategic review going on. Do you want them to ramp up and stay, ambassador?
DR. ZAHIR TANIN, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Our view is very, very clear about that. We supported General McChrystal's suggestions and strategy, including increase of forces. We know this threat. This threat is not only for Afghanistan. This threat is not only limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this threat is not only regional as we know, everywhere. So without stabilizing Afghanistan, any talks about withdrawal or exit from the military activities and dealing with the challenges is just against the interest of the United States and the global world.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. Ambassador Haroon?
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: From Charlie Wilson until now, it's been your game and your terrain. If you pull yourself out of it, it's going to create serious problems naturally. I think that this is not the way to handle it. It has to be handled by putting together or cobbling together a peace that can work with everyone involved, all the neighbors of China, Russia, India, Iran, the works and then I think we have it going on a better scale because just to pull out like that, like you did last time, will have devastating consequences.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI, INDIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: You cannot have a fight against international terrorism which is compartmentalized. The snakes that bite us wherever come from the same pit. You cannot form deals with terrorist groups so I think you need a comprehensive international movement against the terrorists and I hope that all of us who are involved in this will carry this fight through until the end so that all of us are victors in this.
AMANPOUR: Thank you all so very much for being with us. Thank you very much for joining us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: When we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you taking this information? Why are you taking this information?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our reporter in India investigates a shocking story that so many people don't want you to see.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. Happy Sunday to you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Want to check some of the day's top stories for you.
The U.S. embassy in Yemen closed today due to threats of a possible terrorist attack. President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser says that there are indications al Qaeda is planning to target American interests in Yemen. He is John Brennan, saying that the U.S. is not taking any chances, of course, with the lives of our embassy personnel.
Brennan also says the failed terror attack against a U.S. airliner will not change plans to close the Gitmo prison. Lawmakers -- they are calling on the Obama administration right now just to stop sending Yemeni Gitmo detainees back to their home country, citing the terrorist threat there. But Brennan says some will be sent back at the right time under the right conditions.
And you go outside -- yes, brr! Much of the U.S. in a record-breaking deep freeze. Temperatures -- they are plunging, even in south Florida, apparently, where farmers are trying to just protect their crops. Northern Plains states, the Rocky Mountains, all of you guys experiencing record low temperatures.
And those are some of the top stories for this Sunday. AMANPOUR continues in just a moment.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We have a story now about a form of slavery that dates back through the ages and continues to this day in some parts of the world, women and girls used as currency by their impoverished families when there's drought or when times are really hard. They're forced into lives of sexual exploitation and misery.
We're going to talk to some women who are trying to stop this, but first we have a special report from CNN's Sara Sidner in central India.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fields, the cattle, the farm equipment of ancient times -- this is rural India. The harvest determines feast or famine here, and so much more. Drought, debt and desperation have pushed people to extremes in this north central Indian region.
To survive the bad years, some farmers turn to the paisawalla, Hindi for "rich man," who lends money. But the high-interest loans mount up and the lenders demand payment.
(on camera): Because of years of poor harvests in this district, some farmers say they are being forced to pay their debts with whatever the lenders ask for, including their wives.
Do money lenders consider wives possessions to be bought and sold?
(voice-over): "Yes," she says, "it happens sometimes when somebody borrows money."
(on camera): Did the money lender buy you?
(voice-over): "He did buy me. That's why he told me he bought me," she says. For 30 days, she says the rich man forced her to live with him. When she finally did reach police, she told them her husband had sold her. Then her case drew public attention. She retracted her report, and her husband has taken her back.
Social scientist Ranjana Kumari says exploitation of women is common here, and so is the result when a woman gets the nerve to file a case.
DR. RANJANA KUMARI, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH: Nobody's going to support and help them. The family decides not to help them. The system's already not so sensitized towards them, whether it is police, judicially, whether the legal system. So the women themselves tend to withdraw these cases.
SIDNER: In another village, another farmer, another money lender. "I sold my water engine and land and gave back his 30,000 rupees." This farmer says the lender then asked that he send his wife to help with chores while the lender's wife was sick. He sent her, and his children went, too, but the mother never returned. He says she was stolen from him. State authorities say their new investigation found the mother does not want to return and left on her own to be with her lover.
But the daughter who says she lived with the lender and her mother had a different story.
(on camera): Why did the money lender take your mom away? What did he tell you?
(voice-over): "He said there was still some money owed and took my mom." The daughter also says she and her dad were told to keep quiet by some of the village leaders.
While we visited, officials with the state magistrate's office pushed open the door of the farmer's house and started videotaping our interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your name?
SIDNER (on camera): Sara.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sara. Journal (ph)?
SIDNER: And why are you taking this information?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Journal, journal, journal.
SIDNER: Why are you taking this information?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know.
SIDNER (voice-over): That case aside, this government report says the region is prone to what it calls atrocities against women, including buying and selling them.
(on camera): Social workers say this isn't just about poverty. This also says a lot about the low social status of women in these parts.
KUMARI: Those women are very vulnerable to all kinds of physical and sexual exploitation. And also, there is much higher level of violence in that area.
SIDNER: The government and charities have been trying to help, but the status of women and girls, often illiterate and seen as a financial burden, remains low.
Fourteen years ago, this woman says she was sold to her husband by her own parents for the equivalent of $200.
"My mother and father got 10,000 rupees. That's why they sold me," she says.
She was just 12 and never considered going to authorities because she says she had nowhere else to go. She accepted it as her destiny.
With another severe drought this year, activists say more women and families may be traded off for their labor as they struggle to pay back the paisawalla.
We talked to dozens of villagers. We talked to people from the government, as well as sociologists, and no one knows exactly how prevalent this might be, but certainly it is not unheard of here -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Sara, thank you so much for that report.
And in a moment, a glimpse of the terrible fate of women who are sold into sexual slavery and an earlier conversation I had with two women who are fighting to end this multi-billion-dollar global sex trade. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): How much money do you want for your daughter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A hundred and fifty thousand rupees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You're joking! Did you say hundreds of thousands? You must mean thousands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, 1,500.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): OK. We'll give you the money. Now, can we take her to Bombay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Will you be able to do whatever is asked of you, any job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Do you want to go to Bombay?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Do you know what to expect in Bombay?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I haven't seen it so I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was a scene filmed in Nepal in the startling documentary "Selling of Innocents." It shows that the problem of human trafficking extends across borders. And joining me now here in the studio, the filmmaker behind the documentary, Ruchira Gupta. She's founder of Apne Aap, an organization that helps victims. And also here, Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now. She's pushing for much tougher anti- trafficking laws. So welcome, both of you, to the program.
Let me ask you, Ruchira, you were posing as a trafficker in that scene.
RUCHIRA GUPTA, FILMMAKER: That's right. I wanted to show how easy it was and how anyone could go into a village in Nepal or India and look around to buy a girl and somebody would show up to sell the girl. And the girl had no idea about her rights, and for as little at $50 could buy her and do whatever they wanted with her.
AMANPOUR: And it was making that film that turned you into an activist for these -- against this situation.
GUPTA: It was a life-changing experience for me because as a journalist, I've covered war, famine, conflict, hunger, but I had never seen the deliberate exploitation of one human being by another as I saw in a brothel in Bombay when I walked into a little room, which was 4-by-4, and saw the 10-year-olds and the 12-year-olds sitting on the bed.
AMANPOUR: Ten and twelve?
GUPTA: Yes. And 10 or 15 customers a night.
AMANPOUR: With 10 or 15 customers for 10-year-old girls?
GUPTA: Raped repeatedly every night.
AMANPOUR: How many girls and women does this affect?
GUPTA: According to the government of India, just recently, in May, they said 1.3 million children are sold into prostitution in India right now. And there are 1.3 million prostituted children in our country right this second.
AMANPOUR: What does Apne Aap, your organization, do? What does it stand for, first of all?
GUPTA: Apne Aap means "self-help" in Hindi, and we believe in organizing women and girls to rescue each other. So we work in (INAUDIBLE) areas and slums. We form small groups of women to help them find other livelihood options. And we also get the daughters into school by helping the women empower themselves inside these small groups.
AMANPOUR: Taina, it sounds easy, get the girls, reeducate, liberate from this bondage. Is it easy?
TAINA BIEN-AIME, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EQUALITY NOW: It's never easy. Actually, on all the issues on which Equality Now works, which is all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world, we believe that sex trafficking will get worse before it gets better. Ruchira's highlighting the case in India, but this is a worldwide problem. There is not one country in the world that's not either a source, transit or destination country for human trafficking.
AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE) even people as prominent as Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, are talking against it. People as powerful as Oprah Winfrey takes up this cause. And yet is anything really being done? Let me just play what Hillary Clinton has said on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it can be easy to dismiss it as something that it's something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that's not the case. Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So if it's a crime, who are the main criminals?
BIEN-AIME: It could be anyone. It could be organized networks. It could be a mom and pop, trafficking women and girls on Craigslist. And we really value the words of Hillary Clinton. However, it's not really something that happens in the shadows. There's government corruption involved. There's lack of law enforcement. There's lack of political will to really address the issue of human trafficking.
AMANPOUR: Go ahead.
GUPTA: ... also, the main criminals, I think, are the end users, the buyers of prostituted sex, who want the little girls, and because of which the traffickers and the organized criminal networks see that there's profit in it and they're going to poor villages to find these girls either in eastern Europe or India. So the real criminals are those who create a demand for these little girls.
AMANPOUR: This is something that law enforcement seems not to have got a grip with because they always prosecute the prostitutes.
GUPTA: That's right.
AMANPOUR: How to get them to prosecute the users, the buyers, the traffickers?
GUPTA: Two ways. Apne Aap has been campaigning to change the Indian law to punish buyers of prostituted sex more severely, and also traffickers who are making a profit off the sale and purchase of girls, women, men and boys. And we are also trying to get the law changed so it does not punish women for a crime they never committed. They were the victims and now they're survivors.
AMANPOUR: Has any progress been made in India?
GUPTA: We've been lobbying for the change in law for three years, and the biggest obstacle we are facing is from some of the AIDS management agencies, who want the brothels to exist so that they can distribute condoms inside. And I've been facing this -- and they want to protect buyers of prostituted sex from disease, rather than protecting the women and girls from buyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laksmi (ph) is now too ill to entertain customers. She has been told she has TB. She thinks she has AIDS. Laksmi trusts that her old friend, Vimla (ph), will help her, but Vimla knows that soon, she, too, will be too tired and too old to attract customers. After 15 years in the brothels, Laksmi is dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: On this issue, has AIDS made younger girls more vulnerable, as men seem to think that younger girls will not infect them?
GUPTA: Absolutely. It's created a new demand because now men are saying that they want disease-free young virgin girls. And so traffickers are on the prowl in the villages, looking for new girls to kidnap, seduce, trick, force, coerce.
AMANPOUR: We've got this map of India up, and I just want to show this highlighted area here, which is where this story that Sara Sidner, our reporter, told us that farmers who are desperate are now basically handing over their daughters. Describe for me a little bit of the inherent problem right here.
GUPTA: This is an area of India which is agricultural and it's -- the agriculture there is based on the monsoon, and when the rains come, then they have a good bumper crop and they can live off that. When there are no rains, there's drought, and farmers then get into debt by taking money from money lenders to go over the season of drought. This time around, money lenders are saying, If you don't have money, give us your daughters or your mothers or your wives or your sisters.
AMANPOUR: This is a disaster. I mean, just the way you're describing it is absolutely incredible, almost unbelievable. What can be done, really, beyond raising awareness? I mean, awareness is being raised. You've got the secretary of state of the United States, one of the most powerful diplomats in the world, saying that this needs to be controlled. How, really, can it be done? Are the people that you're engaging with serious about doing something?
BIEN-AIME: Well, there are a number of things. As Ruchira said, one, we need strong laws. I mean, even here in New York state, we have the strongest state anti-trafficking legislation, but again, no political will to enforce it.
Number two, we really need to address the commercial sex trade. The availability of women for purchase is something that we need to address nationally and internationally. Women are not for sale. They're not for sale in brothels. They're not for sale at the Mayflower Hotel. They're not for sale on the streets.
Number three is we really need to build an international network of survivors' voices. They're the ones who are going to come forth and give us the best solutions.
AMANPOUR: Let's be brutally frank. Prostitution has been around since the beginning of time. What is the major difference now? Is it the fact that the girls are younger and younger? Is it the fact that girls are being sold off? What part of this prostitution or trafficking can you really try to grab and make a difference with?
GUPTA: First of all, prostitution has not been around for -- from time immemorial. Pimping has. The exploitation of women for profit has existed from the beginning of time. The commercial sex trade and the exploitation is a form of gender-based violence and discrimination. And again, I think it's a collective effort.
AMANPOUR: In India -- again, I'm trying to see whether in this huge global problem that is prostitution, is it possible to maybe have a bigger impact by focusing just on the youngest kids first as a way to start this?
GUPTA: Of course. You know, anyone's heart bleeds when they know a 7-year-old is in a brothel. But what I've noticed is that because we sort of accepted the prostitution of adult women, slowly a threshold changed, and from adults it went down to the 17-year-old, the 15-year-old, the 13 and now the 7. So in fact, the acceptance of the prostitution of anyone who is female affects us all.
So I think, really, we really have to focus on to turn this thing around where prostitution has become so normalized that it's leading to trafficking and transport of girls from one place to another just for this purpose, is that we have to really go for laws where we can go after the demand for prostitution. And once we start dismantling that and spread the message that cool men don't buy sex, then maybe we can start turning things around.
AMANPOUR: Is there one memory, one incident, one discovery that you made that stands out amongst all others?
GUPTA: Yes. There's a little girl called Naina (ph) that we rescued from a brothel a couple of years ago. And she was born in the brothel. She was prostituted when she was 12 or 13, raped repeatedly, deprived of food, forced to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. And today, after the rescue, she knows two languages, how to read and write in two languages, is studying to be a videographer and is changing her life around.
And the one thing she asked me after she began to study is that, As long as there are buyers, you know, there will be other little girls like me at risk. So is there nothing that we can do to go after the buyers?
AMANPOUR: And one last question for you. Are there young girls who are fighting against this and winning this battle on -- case by case?
GUPTA: Absolutely. I mean, Equality Now has been working with grass roots organizations around the world, who are amazing human rights activists, who are raising hell about this issue. And I think these are the voices that we really need to pay attention to and give support to.
AMANPOUR: Taina, Ruchira, thank you for raising hell.
BIEN-AIME: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we'll continue to watch this and monitor it closely.
And next, a very different look at India. It really is a unique perspective on the joy of dancing.
AMANPOUR: Now for our "Post Script." Tonight we have another edition of our "Global Dispatch," a short film from our friends at the Pangea Film Festival. It's also about India but from a very different angle. It's about dancing the tango, and it's shot with a cell phone camera.
(VIDEO CLIP, "DANCING QUEEN")
AMANPOUR: That's director Sumit Roy's film.
We'd love to hear from you, so please send us your videos. You can find out more about how on our Web site, CNN.com/amanpour in our "Global Dispatch" section.
And that's it for now. From all of us here, good-bye from New York.