Exiting Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Understanding the Phenomenon in India From the Perspective of Service Providers
Methods: Thirty organizations providing varied services, such as advocating for the rights of women in prostitution, health care and HIV prevention, rescue and shelter-based services, non-residential and community-based rehabilitation, and therapeutic services, across five different cities in India – Bangalore, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata and Delhi – were contacted, and nine agreed to participate in the study. In-depth interviewing method was used to collect data from 43 service providers at various levels – founder members, program coordinators, counselors, case managers, and outreach workers. The data was coded, and categories and themes were derived through grounded theory. Variations of thematic and content analysis were used to sort and sift through the material and identify important phrases, patterns, and themes arising from the data.
Results: There is a difference in the understanding of the exit process between organizations that provide harm reduction services and those that provide exit-specific services. In some cases, variations are also observed between service providers at the higher and lower levels within organizations. Exit is often viewed as a cyclical process where the victim makes numerous efforts to leave the trade. Factors such as the environment of exploitation (controlled vs. freedom of mobility), current age of the victim, period of stay in the trade, needs of the victim, barriers encountered while exiting and support system available to the victims, were identified as influencing the exit phenomenon. Although having alternative livelihood options was identified as a key determinant of exit from CSE, very few organizations offered concrete economic rehabilitation programs for victims to exit.
Conclusions and Implications: This research highlights that (i) exit relies on an individual’s skill, interest, support, connections and situation, (ii) services offered by organizations are highly contingent upon their understanding of the exit process, needs of victims and barriers faced, and (iii) further research is needed to better understand the exit phenomenon from the victims’ perspective – which would result in training, education and sensitization of service providers, along with developing interventions that are appropriate in different phases of the victims’ recovery process.