42% of victims of sex trafficking in Bengal are minors, says study

A third of the victims are foreigners; State remains a hub of missing children

An analysis of 50 convictions in cases of sex trafficking in West Bengal points out that one in every three survivors of the crime is a foreign national and 42% are minors, reveals a study.

The publication “Umeed: An analysis of 50 convictions in Sex Trafficking Cases” was released here on Monday by the International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organisation that works for rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked victims. The IJM has analysed the profile of 111 survivors of sex trafficking in 23 cases with 50 convictions.

The study, compiled on the basis of cases analysed between 2007 and 2016, says 36% of the survivors are from foreign countries which include 21% from Nepal and 15% from Bangladesh.

“The remaining 64% who were Indians had been procured from villages from different districts of West Bengal and other States. The highest number of victims from West Bengal belonged to the district of North 24 Parganas (23%) followed by South 24 Paraganas (17%),” the report says. In terms of the age of the 111 victims or survivors, while 42% of the rescued victims are minors, aged between 13 to 17 years, the remaining 58% are majors, aged between 18 to 26 years.

“In majority of cases involving human trafficking, the victims are destitute and young women and girls belonging to lower income backgrounds,” the publication said, adding that 79% of survivors were promised better occupation and livelihood in bigger cities.

“Only 5% of victims were swayed by promise of marriage while 4% were conned by other deceptive means,” the IJM report says. In terms of places of rescue, 61% of survivors were rescued from Kolkata alone. While 60% of the rescue operations were carried out in private network outlets, only 40% operations were in “red light areas”, the study says.

When it comes to the offenders — 91 persons in these 23 cases — 69% were male and 31% female and 88 of them were charged under different Sections of law.

What has emerged as a major concern in the study for the policy makers and also the NGOs working in the area is that 38 of those arrested and charged with different Sections were acquitted after trial. This puts the number of acquittals at 43%.

The report cites lack of sufficient evidence, non-appearance of witnesses or witnesses turning hostile and failure of prosecuting agencies to establish a case as prominent reasons for these acquittals. Of the remaining 47% convicted, almost 86% were sentenced to seven years or more. The other important factors that have come out from the study are that 70% cases were transferred to fast-track courts and in 26% cases special public prosecutors were appointed. In 70% cases, the courts have ordered victim compensations.

The results of the study are significant as West Bengal remains a hub of missing children and the report of the National Crime Records Bureau ( NCRB) “Crime in India 2017” released in October says 1,19,013 children went missing in the country, of whom 19,671 (16.5%), which means one in every six, were from West Bengal alone.

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