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Author's School

George Warren Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


Gautam N. Yadama, Nancy Morrow-Howell, Carolyn Lesorogol, Shanta Pandey, Glenn Davis Stone, Jane Aiken


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Despite the high priority given to combating human trafficking by the international humanitarian community, knowledge is still deficient about why some people are more vulnerable to being trafficked than others. In order to design comprehensive responses to the problem, there is need for information not only on the environment within which trafficking occurs, but also the awareness and attitudes of vulnerable individuals and their communities.

This study investigates: (a) What are the structural factors that create vulnerability? (b) Does the process of formation of migration intention create vulnerability? (c) Do conditions of actual migration behavior contribute to vulnerability? (d) Does prior knowledge of risk mitigate vulnerability? and (e) What is the role of social networks in migration and trafficking?

The study is based on in-depth unstructured interviews with 32 migrant women in Kolkata (India), working in the sex industry, construction industry and as domestic labor. 15 of these women had been victims of trafficking while 17 had migrated safely. They were recruited by purposeful sampling in a shelter home, two brothel areas, two labor markets and three residential areas, followed by snowball sampling. The narratives were analyzed using grounded theory methodology.

Results indicate that 'destitution' and 'dysfunctional family relationship' are the two life conditions that make an individual extremely vulnerable to trafficking. These conditions are built upon structural factors (family poverty, low level of education, child marriage, dowry, domestic violence, marital breakdown/widowhood) and psychological factors (desperation due to hunger and social stigmatization) of vulnerability. Families of landless agricultural workers in rural areas, families headed by women or children in both rural and urban settings, and the homeless are highly vulnerable to destitution, and therefore, trafficking. Vulnerability due to dysfunctional family relationships is high among women who are separated from their husbands or widowed. Lack of awareness about trafficking creates vulnerability to deception but mere knowledge is not the protective factor. The risk-mitigating action that arises from awareness is the critical component. Finally, social networks can be either protective or a risk factor depending on their role in facilitating safe migration or creating vulnerability through social stigmatization.



Permanent URL: Print version available in library catalog at Call #: LD5791.8.PhD2008 R29.