Human Trafficking in South Asia: Assessing Effectiveness of Interventions

The Asia Pacific region has the highest numbers of both slavery and child labour victims in the world. Although there is a growing body of research and evaluations on specific sub-sectors and interest in the worst forms of labour exploitation, there has not yet been a systematic scoping or synthesis of studies that would help policymakers understand ‘what works’ to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Trafficking in persons is a form of ‘modern slavery’, which is an umbrella term for the variety of situations in which someone is forcibly controlled by an individual or group for the purpose of exploitation. This Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) examines current evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to combat human trafficking in four South Asian countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan).

Addressing the following research question, the aim of this study was to produce a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) to support evidence-informed programming on modern slavery, more specifically human trafficking:

What has been the effect of interventions to combat and/or reduce sexual and labour exploitation in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nepal?

Conclusions include:

  • The evidence was limited in terms of geographic scope, types of trafficking, types of interventions, and disaggregation of results by gender and age group; there was negligible disaggregation by disability. Studies were largely observational and therefore limited conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of interventions.
  • These limitations make it very difficult to draw anything more than indicative conclusions from the REA findings – however  some lessons can be identified from the studies reviewed – including:
    • Community-based groups are effective at improving the identification and referral of trafficking situations and at addressing the risk factors of trafficking
    • Training for law enforcement, government agencies, and NGOs have resulted in participants identifying and referring victims, registering cases, and closing down places of exploitation
    • Interventions led by sex workers in the form of Self-Regulatory Boards (SRBs) resulted in increased identification of victims of trafficking when sex workers were involved in the screening of new brothel workers and when partnerships were created with law enforcement and NGOs

This Rapid Evidence Assessment is part of a wider assignment from the Department for International Development to assess the available evidence on modern slavery interventions, including an evidence map:

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