Trafficking in Women and Girl Children for Commercial Sexual Exploitation: An Inter State Explorative Study in Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal


This 2015 report, based on a study by the Social Awareness Institution (SAI), Cuttack, was sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The study was conducted in six districts in West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand – Darjeeling and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal, Khurda and Balasore in Odisha, and Palamu and East Singbhum in Jharkhand. These states, the SAI says, have been badly affected by the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. 

The report aims to provide a sense of the enormity of such trafficking of women and children and identify the gaps at the policy level to prevent this practice. It says that 90 per cent of trafficking in India is internal – most of it occurs across states or within a state. However, accurate data on trafficking for sexual exploitation, especially of minor girls, is not available because of the clandestine nature of the trade and so, estimates of its magnitude vary. The report notes that, at present, there is a lack of well-researched databases on and analysis of trafficking in India.


  1. The 2012 global report on human trafficking by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says that, in 2009, women and minor girls constituted 76 per cent of the world’s 12 million detected victims of trafficking for forced labour, bonded labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

  2. India has ratified several international treaties related to human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1999), the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000), and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2002).

  3. The report found that most public prosecutors in the surveyed districts were familiar with laws that address the trafficking of women and children, namely the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, specific Sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. However, they found that these laws did not address trafficking effectively and overlooked victims’ rights to protection and rehabilitation, witness protection, stringent punishment for traffickers and so on. 

  4. Police officers consulted for the study said that they had a formal protocol for conducting raids and rescuing victims of sex trafficking. But they faced difficulties in such cases, such as victims pleading guilty, hostile witnesses, repeated court adjournments, and issues related to victim and witness protection.

  5. In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) launched Ujjawala, a “comprehensive scheme for [the] prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabillitation and re-integration of victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.” Under the scheme, community vigilance groups are formed and victims are safely removed from sites of exploitation. They are also provided shelter, food, clothing, counselling, medical care, legal aid and vocational training, and reunited with family, re-integrated into the community, and repatriated if they are cross-border victims of trafficking.

  6. Other schemes include Swadhar which provides shelter to women and girls "without social and economic support"; the Integrated Child Protection Scheme which tries to reduce the vulnerability of children to harm; One Stop Centres which support women affected by violence; 24-hour toll-free telephone services for children; and Khoya Paya, a platform through which citizens can report missing children, among others. 

  7. In 2015, the government set up the Central Advisory Committee (CAC), a national coordinating and monitoring agency to combat trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. The CAC, under the aegis of the MWCD, meets every quarter to discuss preventive strategies, programmes and policies. 

  8. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also set up Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) at the state level and trained police officers to tackle cases of human trafficking. But the report finds that AHTUs are underfunded and understaffed and lack resources (such as vehicles and finance) to effectively combat trafficking.  

  9. The report identifies poverty as the primary cause of trafficking and says that schemes aimed at the eradication of poverty should focus on benefiting families in which women and children are vulnerable or at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation or commercial purposes. It also says that women and children from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are more vulnerable to being trafficked and that government programmes should eaddress the social and economic empowerment of these communities.

  10. An organised crime, trafficking involves a host of ‘exploiters’, such as recruiters, buyers, sellers, transporters, financiers, pimps and traffickers, and the report recommends that legal action should be taken against all of them.

  11. An important post-rescue practice is rehabilitating survivors. Ideally, this involves psychological, social and economic support, reintegrating them into the community, and preventing re-trafficking. The report recommends that rehabilitation programmes should also include formal and informal education, vocational training, medical care, housing and financial assistance to set up micro enterprises.

  12. The National Informatics Centre has developed a system called Integrated Track Child to track missing and found children, and the report recommends that a similar portal be developed to tackle the trafficking of women as well.

    Focus and Factoids by Sanno Srivastava.


Social Awareness Institution, Cuttack


Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, New Delhi


15 Mar, 2005