Eradicating Sex Trafficking

It is estimated that 16 million women are victims of sex trafficking in India; 40% of them are adolescents and children, some as young as nine years. Over 70% of victims are illiterate and 50% report a family income of less than USD 1 a day. The victims are further plagued by low wages, exploitation by traffickers, customers and society, and reduced life expectancy. Dasra’s report, Zero Traffick, delineates a multifaceted approach to deal with this complex problem, using a 4P framework: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. It also profiles the work of impactful social organizations in this space.
Trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation continues to be a significant issue in India, a crime that denies millions of women and girls their basic rights to liberty and life:
  • Poverty and lack of education: West Bengal, one of the poorest states of India, accounts for 78% of trafficked victims nationally, and nearly 90% of trafficked girls from West Bengal report that they dropped out of primary school, or never attended school, an illustration of the link between victimization and lack of education.
  • Impact on Health: 32% of rescued victims of sex trafficking suffer from health problems, of which 8% have HIV/AIDS, 30% have Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and 17% have gynecological problems. 
  • Impact on adolescent girls: Trafficking can impede efforts to improve health and achieve gender equality, and can pose a threat to the lifetime prospects of the 6 million adolescent girls, who are victims of the issue.
Dasra has identified four key focus areas that need to be addressed to tackle the problem of sex trafficking in the country in a holistic and comprehensive manner:
  • Identify the underlying factors and facts of sex trafficking: Understanding the depth, breadth and scope of trafficking is important to identifying targeted solutions and policies. There is a need to invest in systematic, centralized collection and analysis of data across stakeholder groups and geographical regions.
  • Strengthening institutional capacity and engaging key responders: A key requirement of anti-sex trafficking is to leverage existing government infrastructure and enhance its effectiveness. It is also essential to educate and track performance of key responders across all stages – prevention, protection and prosecution.
  • Focusing anti-sex trafficking efforts on the demand side: Reducing demand focuses on primary prevention, which refers to stopping negative events before they occur. Most efforts to combat sex trafficking have been devoted to rescue and protection after the act of trafficking has occurred, while relatively little investment has been made in primary prevention.
  • Investing in an integrated and holistic human rights approach: A rights-based approach to sex trafficking places an obligation on the state to support anti-trafficking efforts with adequate resources, training and sensitization.
The focus areas are manifested on the ground through the following interventions undertaken by social organizations:
  • Mobilizing communities through vigilance committees to act as watchdog and whistleblower and involve stakeholders when a trafficking instance is identified.
  • Undertaking rescue operations and providing counselling services by way of removing the victim from the direct control of the brothel owner, coupled with the provision of immediate counselling services such as medical, legal and psychological aid.
  • Training and sensitizing of police and judiciary to treat the rescued girl as a victim and not a criminal, and to cooperate with the victim’s family during rescue operations. This is important as police officials usually tend to be first responders to rescued victims.
  • Conducting evidence-based advocacy i.e. advocacy based on proven programmatic interventions, in order to have sustained impact on the sector and its victims.
  • Providing livelihoods or vocational training options to tackle poverty, which is one of the root causes of the sex-trafficking trade.
  • Providing legal support, which includes instituting specialized processes or structures to ensure the efficient progression of cases through a judicial system and improved access to justice. This is beneficial both, in terms of empowering the victim and acting as a deterrent for traffickers.
  • Fund high-impact organizations that have been identified by Dasra after an assessment of 80 organizations. 
  • Contact one of these organizations to explore opportunities to partner.
  • Share this page with people you know to direct more support to this cause.