New Delhi: Nearly 150,000 women and children are trafficked from South Asia every year, "most of them from, via and to India", says a new report that also underlines how the economic meltdown has heightened the risk of child sexual exploitation.
India is the main destination of "alarming flows" of crossborder trafficking in South Asia, says the study by global child rights group ECPAT International, supported by the Body Shop International.
"In India, the majority of trafficking in underage girls for sexual exploitation happens within the country," it says.
"Children are trafficked to and from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal."
Titled "Their Protection is in Our Hands: The State of Global Child Trafficking for Sexual Purposes", the global report was made available to the media here Wednesday.
"Between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into India for sexual exploitation every year," it says. "Children from Bangladesh and Nepal are also trafficked into and through India to Pakistan and the Middle East."
Child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is one of "the primary manifestations of exploitation of children in India, which exists on a large scale and in many forms," says the report.
The global economic crisis has increased the risk of sexual exploitation of children, as traffickers may lure poor families with cash, the report warns.
"Trafficking of children and young people for sexual purposes happens in virtually every country in the world - developed and developing - and the current economic crisis has added yet more urgency to this call," says Carmen M. Madrinan, executive director, ECPAT.
Highlighting the factors that heighten the risk of trafficking, the report says, "Poverty, low levels of education, lack of employment opportunities, socio-cultural norms and circumstances, including gender and minority discrimination", will push children into vulnerable situations.
"Deterioration in the living conditions can induce children and young people to abandon school in order to contribute to the family income, exposing them to harmful situations that lead to their being sexually exploited in prostitution, child pornography and in other forms."
"An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for sexual exploitation, including for prostitution or the production of sexually abusive images.
The "exploitation is likely to continue proliferating due to the profits generated by sex trafficking".
The report says global profit from the trafficking of people into forced commercial sex is estimated to be nearly USD 28 billion a year.
"Almost half of these profits are estimated to come from people trafficked into or within industrialised countries such as India. The annual profit per victim per year can be as high as USD 67,000."
ECPAT - End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes - claims to be working to encourage the world community to ensure that children everywhere enjoy their fundamental rights, free and secure from all forms of sexual exploitation.
"This vision will only be achieved when all of society demonstrates zero tolerance for such abuses," Madrinan said.