Child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitaton of children may be prevented if knowledge and risk perception gaps among children, families, and the wider community are addressed, according to new study.
The study “Understanding Child Trafficking (CT) and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in West Bengal India” was commissioned by GFEMs and executed by Seefar and surveyed 909 randomly-selected households and 232 community leaders in three vulnerable districts in West Bengal from January to February 2021.
West Bengal is among India’s most vulnerable states, with the highest number of children trafficked from 2016 to 2018, with over 8000 children reported missing annually. The study found that 90 percent of children surveyed faced moderate to high levels of risk to trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. In particular, younger girls aged 12 to 14 were found to be most at risk of being trafficked.
Key findings reveal that raising awareness alone is not sufficient to prevent child trafficking, and prevention strategies must be skilfully integrated into the local community.The study found a substantial gap between the knowledge of the risks of child trafficking and its actual practice. Children’s knowledge levels were found to be significantly higher than their reported attitudes and practices. Over 50 percent of children knew the risks of unsafe online practices but were much less likely to practice safe behaviors. Similarly, 95 percent of community leaders had high levels of knowledge about the risks children in their communities face but were less likely to practice safe behaviours.
The study assessed the relationship between the knowledge levels and practice of child trafficking and sought to explore the reasons behind the low KAP levels of children. The study found that gender differences, parental education levels and employment status were the most influential factors in preventing the risk of exploitation and trafficking. Children were found to be less at risk of child trafficking if their parents had higher levels of education and socioeconomic status than children from lower income backgrounds. Female community leaders also were found to be more willing to invest time and energy discussing the risks of trafficking and drive change within their communities. Strengthening knowledge and risk perception gaps among parents and the wider community is therefore instrumental in reducing the risks of child trafficking.
The study forms part of a wider project implemented by Seefar and My Choices Foundation on strengthening prevention of CT and CSEC in three target districts of Bankura, Bardhamann and Birbhum in West Bengal. The project sought to test interventions that equip children and their parents with information to allow them to recognise vulnerabilities that lead to CSEC and adopt behaviours to drive prevention of CT. The study will support longer term evaluation needs and contribute to wider understanding of the best practices to reduce vulnerabilities for children in West Bengal.
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.
Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS)
GFEMS is an international fund working to end modern slavery. Our purpose is to raise new resources, unify global partners and efforts, and improve the available data and evidence needed to make anti-slavery work more effective.
Sanghamitra Mazumdar and Ritwika Mukherjee