Gaps in knowledge and risk perception on the child trafficking (CT) and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are among some of the key drivers for the continued exploitation of children in West Bengal, India, a new study shows.
The study, “Understanding Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in West Bengal India”, was commissioned by Seefar and My Choices Foundation and conducted by Sattva Consulting from August to December 2020. The study was conducted in three vulnerable districts in West Bengal, namely Bankura, Bardhaman and Birbhum.
Out of the 15 million victims of sex trafficking in India each year, up to 40% are adolescents and children, some as young as nine years old. West Bengal is among India’s most vulnerable states, with the highest number of children trafficked in India in 2016. The study found that individual factors such as chronic poverty, unemployment and the lure of a better life make children more vulnerable to child marriage, child labour and unsafe migration that could lead to CT and CSEC. Additionally, COVID-19 has fuelled cases of child marriage and school dropouts, triggered by financial pressures and increased harmful online practices, as children spend more time on the Internet.
If knowledge and risk perception gaps among children, families, and the wider community are addressed, CT and CSEC can be prevented. Seefar and My Choices Foundation have utilised findings from the report to inform their integrated campaign “Surokhito Gram Karyakrom” (Safe Village Program) launched in three districts of West Bengal in February 2021. The campaign aims to promote the role that children, families and the wider community, including teachers, health workers, police and Panchayat leaders, can play in ending CT and CSEC.
Surokhito Gram Karyakrom, which means Safe Village Programme in Bengali, will test the relative efficacy of varying breadth and depth of the intervention. This will be done through a spectrum of activities, such as school-based events, community-based events and one-to-one counselling. The interventions will take place over six months.
Surokhito Gram Karyakrom is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.
Seefar is a social enterprise that provides opportunities to vulnerable populations to advance and enhance themselves and specialises in justice, migration and social inclusion.
About My Choices Foundation (MCF)
MCF is a locally rooted campaign and services network, dedicated to eliminating sex trafficking in India, with vast experience in programming with the local context in West Bengal.