Sexual abuses of left-behind children of migrant women: community-perceived vulnerabilities and barriers in prevention

Chamara Senaratna - International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care



– The purpose of this paper is to describe hitherto unexplored issues related to sexual abuse of left-behind children of migrant women in Sri Lanka.


– This qualitative study was conducted in high labour-sending districts. Focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with school teachers, community youth groups and members of civil organisations, and semi-structured interviews (SSIs) were conducted with community leaders, religious leaders, social workers, and primary healthcare workers. Data were analysed using content analysis, and emerging themes were mapped.


– Community members reported that sexual abuses of migrant women’s children, although not uncommon, are scarcely notified due to societal and institutional factors. They have a high awareness on types of sexual abuses faced by migrants’ children, extent of such abuses, and physical, emotional, and social complications of such abuses. They also reported factors that increase these children’s vulnerability to abuse. Role perceived to be played by state and non-state social institutions and authorised personnel in protecting children is inadequate, leading to low reporting and community cooperation.

Practical implications

– High community awareness found provides a good platform to launch culturally sensitive child protection interventions.

Social implications

– Findings of barriers and opportunities indicate that effective policy instruments and cogent and functional programmes interlinking all stakeholder-institutions are required to protect migrant women’s children.


– This study provided first in-depth exploration of issues related to sexual abuses of migrant women’s children in Sri Lanka and possible opportunities for community-based interventions.