Can men be trafficked?

What is the role of adult males in trafficking? Are men predominantly perpetrators or victims of human trafficking? Can a full-grown man even become a victim of a situation in which he finds himself unable to free himself from exploitation through another person? If you are a regular visitor of this blog you will notice that (unintentionally) the victim stories on here so far are mostly dealing with the exploitation of women and children – with most acts seemingly committed by men.

All in all, the stories on here as well as the statistics in many research papers on human trafficking appear to suggest a higher prevalence of male perpetrators on the one and female victims on the other hand. Thus, what brings about this apparent discrepancy between the genders in terms of their numerical representation in trafficking? Is it a matter of males being in a stronger position to exploit due to physical strength and patriarchic societal norms? Are contemporary civil societies simply oblivious to or unsympathetic towards the plights of adult men suffering in exploitative situations? Is exploitation of adult males maybe generally under reported?

I am raising many questions here and none of them can be satisfyingly answered without being addressed in an encompassing and appropriate context. For instance: Clearly, a number of men are generally able to exert enough power to forcefully abduct and intimidate (and thus control) another person through their sheer strength, while the same likely cannot be said of an equal number of women. What global research on trafficking as of now suggests though, is that human trafficking, for the most part, takes place through deceptive recruitment, not kidnapping. Without wanting to start a discussion on which gender can be considered more deceptive, it can be asserted that manipulation generally is a game both men and women can play, thus indicating that both men and women should command about equal potential to be traffickers.

A probably very decisive factor to explain varying numbers of male and female trafficking victims within a given context is actually the market demand for the respective services and commodities a trafficker can satisfy through his or her actions. Just as is the case with legal services and goods, these demands and their supply vary on a local, state, national and regional level. Demand is furthermore subject to demographic, cultural and especially legal factors that limit the availability of the supply side.

This leads us back to patriarchal societal norms: For various reasons that are too numerous to address here, prostitution and pornography have historically been predominantly female dominated businesses, mainly due to demand created through heterosexual males. Similarly, certain other, non-sexual labor branches such as housekeeping are also typically more frequently carried out by women. When research teams explore these phenomena, they naturally find that women are more strongly affected by trafficking than men. This numerical overrepresentation then easily leads to the underrepresented side being marginalized in future research and funding to mitigate issues of human trafficking being diverted grossly towards one demographic group.

However, gendered job markets do not create a situation in which one gender (women) is being exploited and another (men) is strictly not. Surely, the vulnerability of men and women within their respectively dominated fields of labor as well as the prevalence of the particular forms of exploitation they are subjected to may vary. Yet, that does not mean that adult men cannot, for instance, fall victim even to sexual exploitation. In this respect, the practices that male victims typically encounter may also strongly differ from what is generally imagined to constitute sexual exploitation. However, sexual abuse comprises more than just a man or woman enforcing the performance of penetrative or receptive forms of sex from a victim. It can also comprise, amongst other things, various sadistic practices such as inflicting pain, as well as urination and defecation on a person’s body for the purpose of arousal through humiliation and degradation. Within such contexts, the victim’s gender can become secondary or maleness can even become an added value from a viewpoint of dominating an actually physically superior or equal person.

While such forms of exploitation present niches even in trafficking, sexual exploitation, as with women, may coincide with other forms of trafficking, such as for the purpose of labor exploitation. The reason why men then do not elude these sort of situation is often the same as with women and children: their lives or those of their loved ones are threatened, they are financially or otherwise dependent on the person who exploits them or they are held captive, to name just a few. In addition, there are psychological factors pertaining to male gender roles that may add to men opting to remain in exploitative situations. Examples include shame over not having received the expected monetary compensation, a sense of obligation to cater for the needs of the family at all costs and a general view of men having to go through hardship to get ahead in life.

There is much more to be written about the subject, which would however ultimately exceed the limits of a single blog entry. Bottom line, though, I want to express that I feel research organizations and civil society have to gear up to get men to speak out about human trafficking. In encouraging them to speak out, male survivors can help to de-normalize exploitation through other men. More male voices could furthermore aid in demystifying stereotypical gender roles and add to the understanding of exploitation and trafficking through women. Most importantly, in the end, they would do themselves and other men a service by ensuring to become acting agents rather than just staying victims of trafficking.

By Mario Schulze

It takes attitude to have HAART

Human trafficking won’t disappear on its own; it will take commitment and concern from people the world over to really make a dent. It’s especially important that young people engage with the cause. Twenty-one-year-old Finali Galaiya is both a contestant in this weekend’s inaugural Miss Attitude East Africa 2016 beauty pageant and a passionate believer in the fight to end human trafficking. Finali is hoping to use her position to help raise the profile of the anti-human trafficking campaign and the work that organisations like HAART are doing. Find out a little more about this budding actor, model and chartered accountant and give her your support so we can collectively shine an even brighter spotlight on human trafficking.

finali

Finali Galaiya

Tell us a bit about your background?

Born in Kenya; Indian by ethnicity; British by curriculum; and International by choice. I am a global citizen! It is my mission to help change the lives of those in need.

What currently occupies most of your time?

I am a chartered accountant in the making, I act in television adverts and runway shows, as well as doing voice overs – that makes me the complete package of an actor, model and voice over artist. Guys, this beauty has brains! But that’s not all… By joining hands with HAART and other organisations I am focused on giving back to the world. Saving just one person means the world to me since their world has been snatched away and they have been deprived of their basic human rights.

How did you become interested in human trafficking?

I think I have always been interested in human trafficking. I was very fond of the African-American slave abolitionist Harriet Tubman when we learned about her back in school. It was inspiring how she, a slave herself, helped several others to gain freedom! However, one incident – perhaps the incident that changed my life – is when I met someone caught in the web of human trafficking. A girl, about my age… I was very young back then, still in school, and I couldn’t help her. But today life has given me the opportunity to help others like her and I am not going to take this for granted!

Why is human trafficking such an important cause for you and for the world?

A lot of people think of human trafficking as a thing of the past, but it clearly isn’t! It’s one of the fastest growing criminal networks and it’s a shame how most people ignore it. Many people are just ignorant while others think it’s none of their business. But people need to make human trafficking their business. Speak about it!  Create awareness. If you can’t do something about it, let us know, let the government and other organisations know! But do not sit back, helplessly thinking: ‘What can I do?’.

What would you like to see happen in relation to human trafficking in the world?

I would like to see more support from the general public, from people like me and you! But also more government support and initiatives, especially when it comes to rescue operations. I wish the people behind these disgusting human trafficking chains would realise that people’s lives are not for sale or use! We need to look at others as human beings and not things.

If you win the Miss Attitude East Africa 2016 Pageant, what would you like to use your status to achieve?

Winning Miss Attitude would mean I would have a platform through which I would be able to create awareness about human trafficking. I would love to be able to inspire people to take initiative and do something about this issue!

Okay, tell us some fun things about you. What is your favourite food?

I am a vegetarian. I love food, all types of food, be it Indian, Chinese, English, Italian. While I’m in love with eating, I love chocolate the most!  I have a sweet tooth and splurge on chocolates and ice cream all the time – I think I have a very childlike quality when it comes to food!

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Chocolate, I love dark chocolate ice cream! It’s bitter and it’s sweet at the same time – that makes it perfect! Besides which, they say dark chocolate is healthy…

What is your favourite animal?

I love the elephant and the panda. I think I am very similar to both…I believe every animal should be loved and treated properly (that includes humans!).

Update: Finali has since this article won both the Miss Attitude East Africa 2016 and the Miss India Worldwide Kenya 2016!

Research on IDPs vs Human Trafficking

The crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is not a new phenomenon in Kenya. In the period directly after the country experienced post-election violence in 2007, the magnitude of displaced people has risen. As a result of the ethnic-spirited violence in various parts of the country, the number of IDPs has reached an all-time high of up to 309,200 displaced Kenyans according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Human Rights activist organizations and the international community as a whole have been alarmed with the vulnerability displaced persons have to the scourge of Human Trafficking.

Victims of internal displacement face a myriad of challenges, often of ethnic and economic dimensions, as they are shunned by the host communities and easily become an impoverished minority. Having lost their property and wealth by virtue of displacement and as a direct consequence of the social exclusion they experience upon relocation, these people become easy prey for traffickers. Thousands of reports of trafficking incidents relating to IDP persons and settlements have been recorded, prompting an inquiry into the extent and nature of this particular problem.

Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) has conducted a research-oriented investigation in this regard and what emerged as the most important question was whether all IDPs are equally vulnerable to trafficking. We recognize that although it is widely thought that IDPs are vulnerable to trafficking, what constitutes the motives for “being-a-population” at risk of being trafficked is still primarily based on assumption.

As IDPs are scattered throughout the country the research has therefore tried to encompass all the regions where they can be found. A total of 12 clusters were formulated which covered the four broad types of IDPs. There were also a select number of key informants who were chosen to give input towards the research. The total number of individuals interviewed came to about 300 people.

The research has faced multiple challenges in the field from extreme weather to language barriers. One of the most memorable has been the resistance incurred while trying to get the evasive government specialists to take part in the research. They insinuated that the issues of human trafficking were nothing but a myth in the country and they haven’t come across such.

The research has been eye-opening, shedding light on the current state and the challenges experienced by the IDPs. Forming a larger bulk of the most impoverished in Kenya it was no wonder that they became easier targets to traffickers and other exploiters alike. Many posed too eager to recover lost wealth by being willing to do anything.  It was also evident that a larger percentage of the group were ignorant to the existence of human trafficking and therefore engaged in its vices without knowing.

The final document in this light will therefore attempt to shed light on the depth of the correlation between trafficking and IDPs. The overall intention is that the research findings should help in delivering better protection service to IDPs in Kenya and in other Eastern African countries where IDPs may have a similar status.

You can read the full research here.

By Shirley Nakhumicha Otube

“They are Stealing our Pussies!”

Maria* was walking down a street in Nairobi, covered with blood, beaten up by a customer. She saw police officers and sought for help, in vain. The police wanted “their share” if they were going to help, even just to take her to hospital. This wasn’t an unique situation, around 80% of Maria’s customers are somehow violent. Consequently, she prefers to have oral sex with the customers; she has been raped more than once when she has refused anal sex during intercourse.

“They are stealing our pussies!” was shouted at the nightclub Maria worked in. It was followed by laughter of three sex workers, though they were serious. They were referring to situations where a customer didn’t want or have the money to pay them after sex. Against my presumptions, they were very open with me. “This was always my dream job, since I was a teenager. What could be better than having sex with all these guys?” We were sitting in a round table, and discussing about sex work.

After half an hour Maria seemed to realize that, I wasn’t there to pimp her to my friend who accompanied me, I was there because I was curious and she started telling me. She wished she had made different choices in life, 5 years ago. She had started dating a “wrong guy” who after a while forced her to have sex with men for money. After two years, she managed to leave him; she left when he wasn’t home, changed her phone number and moved to a different part of Nairobi, left everything to protect herself.

Problems didn’t end there, she was unemployed and she couldn’t find a job. There were no jobs and she needed to support herself. Other girls said the same, there were no jobs in Nairobi and some of them had children to feed. So Maria, as well as the other girls, had started to sell sex. With this work, they were hoping to find a rich, preferably foreign, man who could provide them with a better future. Maria and the other girls were selling sex from their own choice, they weren’t forced to do it by another person, though I wonder if there had been many realistic choices left to choose from; poverty and lack of opportunities are driving forces in the sex industry. In order to have sex for money, Maria started to use drugs and alcohol. Without a drink and being high, she couldn’t do it.

"We are People not Products" By Onyis Martin

“We are People not Products” By Onyis Martin

The atmosphere in the table had changed for a minute, the laughter had stopped and it seemed Maria didn’t want to discuss her past or her ex-boyfriend any further so we changed the topic. Though Maria might have been trafficked by her ex-boyfriend some years ago, she wasn’t willing to talk about it so I didn’t want to push her and ask more.

I was in one of the many night clubs in Nairobi, where girls were mainly selling sex and the customers were there mainly to buy sex. Selling and buying sex, despite widespread and done quite openly, is illegal in Kenya. Though sex work doesn’t automatically mean human trafficking, sexual exploitation including forced sex work and production of pornographic materials are forms of exploitation within human trafficking.

In some situations, for a buyer or bystander, it is difficult or even impossible to know if a person has been trafficked. Under threats, manipulation and possibly forced to use alcohol and/or drugs, the trafficked victims may work, not only in locked up rooms, but on streets and nightclubs, to look for customers to please. If you were for example threatened that you (or your family) would be beaten or even killed if you didn’t have sex with a certain amount of men in a night, would you be willing to find customers? In order to find customers, would you pretend you wanted to have sex with them?

Even the victims themselves doesn’t always identify themselves as victims, less likely as victims of human trafficking; many of them doesn’t know what is the definition of human trafficking is or that they are entitled to receive assistance. Some of them come from extremely violent backgrounds and aren’t able to identify different forms of violence, for example rape, as exploitation. Some of them are ostensibly free to leave and receive a small salary, but they “only” have to pay their increasing debts for the trafficker and a ticket home before they can leave. The trafficker may be the one who is “saving” money for them and promises to pay when they have gathered all the money needed.

These are some of the reasons why sometimes identifying a sex worker, who is in fact a victim of human trafficking, can be complicated. Also a quite general confusion between abuse, exploitation and trafficking exists. Though sex workers face exploitation and multiple forms of violence generally more than workers in other industries, sex work is not trafficking if the workers are selling sex from their free will, without involvement, for example, of coercion, fraud or threats. When sex workers face violence, it is a crime, but not human trafficking. They become victims of violence, but not victims of human trafficking.

In addition, there is always the danger of a single story. There are women and men in the sex industry who sell sex from their free will, there are women and men who sell sex because they don’t have better options and there are victims of human trafficking who are forced, raped or threatened. Everyone should respect every person’s right to self-determination and avoid victimization of persons who are not victims, at the same time, giving the victims their status of a victim, rather than shaming and blaming them of their own situation. Everyone should also disprove every form of violence and exploitation, regardless of person’s work, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, social and economical status. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

By Pauliina Sillfors

*Name changed

Hope for Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a global problem that affects almost every country in the world. See the info graphic below to get informed.

Hope for Human Trafficking

Hope for Human Trafficking

Christmas in Saudi Arabia

A few months ago we posted an email from a lady who was stuck in Saudi Arabia. Now she has written again to explain what it is like going modern day slavery. Read her first email here.

When opportunities come, always remember all that glitters is not gold.

A stranger gives a woman trying to fend for her children a promise of greener pastures. All she has ever wanted to do is raise her children well and educate them so that they can get a better future. She takes the deal without considering the negative side of the deal. She is promised a good life and a secure job for two years; little does she know she is signing up for modern day slavery. That woman is I.

The broker and agent were all smiles when I accepted the offer. They salivated for the big money they will make after sealing the deal. I was not aware of what awaited me in the country of destination in this case, Saudi Arabia.

The process was swift and all paperwork was done within a month. The agent promises that after you leave they will monitor your progress and will always communicate. All these promises are not true it’s just a way of making sure you don’t back off the deal.

As I am writing this, it’s been one year and four months in Saudi Arabia. Its been a struggle. I am being overworked, underpaid and discriminated against. No one values me here. I thank God I am able to use the internet to communicate.

It will be my second Christmas away from my family it feels so sad. I am lonely I can’t wait to return home to my family and children.

We can all join hands to fight modern day slavery and yes somebody is in the process of being trafficked, as I am writing this.

I wish you all a merry Christmas. Thank you HAART for standing with the survivors. Thank you for fighting for fighting with us.

By Anonymous