Sexual exploitation and trafficking

Problem | Our approach | Case studies | Other useful resources



It is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year and exploited through debt bondage as domestic servants, forced begging, forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriage or pornography.

Poverty, lack of education, limited opportunities at home, economic disparities, unstable social and political climates, and conflict are some of the key contributors of vulnerability to trafficking. Studies show that unsupervised children are more vulnerable to abuse and trafficking for sexual exploitation as they are more easily targeted by traffickers who offer food and false friendship to draw them into exploitation.

Children living on the margins of society are particularly vulnerable to poor shelter, lack of health care and low emotional support due to their families’ disadvantaged background. Economic and social need, increase risk of children being trafficked to the big cities as parents fearing lack of opportunities send the young girls and boys to work in the cities or are lured into believing they are sending their child to foreign employment where they will have better life chances.

The extent of the problem:

  • 5.5 million children (26% of all trafficked persons) under the age of 18 are victims of trafficking.
  • Only 1% of modern day slaves are ever rescued
  • Cambodia ranks third worst in the world for modern slavery.
  • Each year thousands of children, particularly girls, are trafficked from Nepal to India: the estimated number ranging from 5,000 to 20,000. In many cases, relatives or acquaintances facilitated the trafficking of women and young girls into sexual exploitation. (U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009)
  • In the UK, of the 3,805 potential victims of trafficking identified in 2016, 1,278 were children.

Much work needs to be done in raising awareness about the dangers of trafficking and how to prevent exploitation of children.


Our approach

Viva is working particularly with marginalised families in areas where the threat of trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation are prevalent. We are working to develop city-wide solutions to trafficking and exploitation to create cities where children live in a safe home environment with awareness of child protection needs and communities where families and children are supported and care for each other.

Changes that will need to occur in cities to prevent trafficking include family support schemes, children in full-time school attendance, business upholding legal duties and responsibilities, equality and a cultural norm of preventing trafficking and abuse, economic robustness, trafficking supply chains broken, strong reporting mechanisms, safer and more integrated border controls to name but a few…

These will require networks to work with actors across the city including media to educate parents, churches, schools, communities, government, services, and business on dangers of trafficking and how to prevent it whilst working to ensure that measures are put in place to systematically protect against trafficking and close loopholes and blind-spots that are currently exploited. A strong, networked approach is the only way to coordinate a response that will reach into all these areas.

As network members are churches and organisations built and populated by their communities, they are in a strong position to be aware of children at increased risk of trafficking and to work with families in their communities to increase understanding of risks and how to safeguard against them.

Following situational mapping and pilot programmes, three key programme objectives and the activities needed to achieve them have been identified to begin to work towards a city solution for children to be protected against trafficking and exploitation.

The three programme objectives are:

1. Prevention: targeting families and city authorities through activities including:

  • Educating children, churches and schools on child protection, grooming child rights, dangers of child pornography, good treatment of children
  • Keep children safe coalitions with child protection committees and Safe Clubs after school for children who would otherwise be at home unattended
  • Developing reporting systems for children and by children
  • Family mentors working with families at risk of being targeted by traffickers
  • Working with government and officials to establish monitoring, disclosure and reporting systems
  • Advocacy campaigns including the Good Treatment Campaign, World Weekend of Prayer and media promotions to increase understanding of risks and how to prevent trafficking and exploitation

2. Rescuing children that have been separated or exposed to danger through sexual exploitation and trafficking through activities including:

  • Physically remove children from danger to temporary safe homes
  • Health assessments and counselling of rescued children
  • Legal enforcement of access prohibition
  • Joined up work with police, social and health services to prosecute and convict perpetrators

3. Restoring children and families where sexual exploitation and trafficking have occurred through activities including:

  • Trauma counselling
  • Reintegrating rescued children with their families or where family cannot be found, identifying and training a family able to foster or adopt
  • Preparing children for safe reintegration with counselling, mentoring and child protection
  • Supporting families through home visits, counselling, parenting training, income generation advice and church links
  • Reintegrating children into schools to continue education and keep them safe

Read our Trafficking strategy grid here

Case studies

Case study 1
Our partner network CARNet Nepal is working to develop a city-wide solution to child trafficking. They are combining awareness-raising, family counselling, education, economic empowerment and strengthening churches. Read about the anti-trafficking approach in Nepal here.

Justine Demmer, Viva’s Asia Consultant wrote about the Child Protection groups and economic empowerment in Nepal following here recent visit.

Case study 2

Child mentoring in Cambodia is part of our partner network, Peace Team Cambodia’s holistic approach to reduce children’s risk of trafficking. Read more about this approach here.

Other useful resources



2017 Trafficking in Persons Report



Global report on trafficking in persons