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Familial Sex Trafficking among the Bedia Caste of India: Defying the Dominant Human Trafficking Discourse


Rochelle L. Dalla, Ph.D., CFLE, Kaitlin Roselius, B.S., Sarah Erwin, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate, Jessie Peter, M.S. Ph.D. Candidate, Jhaveri Panshal, Ph.D., Ranjan R. Mischra, Ph.D. Candidate, & Sahu, S., M.S.


University of Nebraska- Lincoln


In India, numerous castes practice customary prostitution (Dolson, 2014; Jha & Sharma, 2016) that is either religious (e.g., Devadasi) or tribal (e.g., Bacchara, Perna, Nat, Bedia) based. Little is known about tribal-based prostitution. In this study, we sought to identify the particular vulnerabilities for sex trafficking among the Bedia and to examine these in relation to vulnerabilities identified in the HT literature (i.e., poverty, migration, substance abuse, and homelessness). In this study, we sought to: 1. Identify the multiple intersecting social and personal vulnerabilities that put Bedia at risk for trafficking into the commercial sex industry and examine how these compare with the HT literature; and 2. Identify the extent to which sex trafficking among the Bedia reflects the dominant HT discourse—with particular attention to the “ideal” victim and perpetrator conceptualizations. In-depth interview data were collected from 31 sex-trafficked Bedia women and girls residing in seven multi-caste villages in central India. Data were analyzed using MAXQDA. With the exception of poverty, vulnerabilities to sex trafficking among the Bedia do not reflect “risk factors” identified in the HT literature. Similarly, the social and cultural dynamics of sex trafficking among the Bedia defy the dominant HT discourse in multiple ways. This investigation highlights the inherent value of small-scale, micro-studies for revealing the complexity of human trafficking across cultures and geographies.