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

They almost had me

‘Lucky’ is one word I have used many times before in my life but this time I thought I would never use it again. I never got to meet my parents, I never got to see how they looked like. At a tender age my parents died and left me alone in this world, I was then shipped off to live with my grandmother an elderly woman who lacked the capacity to take care of me but was willing to take me in. I was only three years when my grandmother took me in. I did not get proper care and there are many time s, I would wander off in the village alone crawling on the road until someone noticed me and took me back to my grandmother. Due to the neglect I never got a proper diet and the nourishment that is essential for a child’s growth and this led to me developing a diseases “Osteomalacia and Rickets” which for some time caused partial paralysis and I could not walk for a while.

ArtWork-21 (Medium)

By Nicholas Asao Gaitano

Days went by but nothing changed until a good Samaritan whom I would later come to call ‘Danny’ Dholuo for grandmother saw me crawling in dirt all alone and decided to intervene but since I was far from home and could also not speak well she decided to take me with her to Nairobi and raise me as her own. She stood by me as I underwent months of physical therapy until I was now able to walk and talk. By this time I was now old enough to join school. She stood by me and made sure I went to school every day, she still reminds me to this day how she would carry me on her back when it rained so that I did not dirty myself as I went to school and how we fell in the mud once.

I finished my primary school and passed scoring 371 marks which qualified me to join a national school. Unfortunately, my guardian fell sick and was also really old. She decided that now I was old enough to know who my family was she then proceeded to ask and try to trace my family so that I would be reunited with them. It is then that I came to learn I had an aunt who lived in Kibera. She wanted me to get to know my family well and promised to take me to school as soon as the school year begun but this was not to be as soon we got to her house I was declared an enemy of the public I was not to speak to anyone or even move out she then told me that I would now help her make money by washing clothes all day and giving her all the money I got.

Before I even started I ran away to my neighbor’s house who was able to get me help from an organization called Polycom that deals with girls rights and is based in Kibera. I was taken to the chief’s office who then decided to give me back to my aunt and this time she decided that since I could run away at any time, it would be better to hide me with her brother who lives in Kitengela. However, that was just a decoy for her to take me back to my grandmother in the village where I would now be the one responsible for taking care of my aged grandmother. It wasn’t long before the organization that helped me before reached out to HAART and explained my situation. Together with the chief from Siaya they were able to rescue me and bring me back to Nairobi where I was placed in a shelter and now I am in school studying hard and pursuing my dreams of becoming an architect. I believe that this is now my opportunity to show those that invested their time and effort in rescuing me that they did not waste their time and resources.

By Abel Mogambi

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

On July 30th, all roads led to Shifteye Gallery for the opening of the 2016 Arts to End Slavery exhibition and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons celebration. One by one the guests came in as from 6pm. The evening had an exciting programme put together by both HAART and PAWA254 who were the conveners of the event.

Read the full story here

A2ES Opening

Art to end slavery Poster A2 for Print - Copy


“How is it that we still smile when the pressure comes?

How is it we stand firm when they think we should run?

How is it that we retain our integrity?

How is it through this maze that we keep the clarity?

How is it that through pain we retain compassion?”

(Lemn Sissay)

When you work with victims of trafficking, you have bad days and good days. Good days are when you listen to stories of hope, breakthrough and survival against all odds. Good days are when you know that the work that you did, made the journey of our survivors slightly easier. We celebrate when we rescue them and cheer them when they open their businesses and make their first profit. In many ways, their journey ends up becoming our journey and when they fail or give up on the journey, we are just as affected. Those are our bad days. Bad days are when victims reject the help you give or give up on the process and completely shut you out. Bad days are when you have to close a file because there is nothing else you can do yet the person is not at the right place.

When we plan for intervention in most cases, you work on the assumption that you will have a willing victim. The assumption is that the victim will be motivated throughout the process. A lot of the work that we do is pegged on how victims respond to the services we give. Most of the work involves a step-by-step process and when one step fails, sometimes it is almost impossible to go through the next.  When an intervention does not work as we expected, it is quite easy to doubt ourselves. It is easy to want to give up especially when we have invested so much on an individual and had high hopes. I like that we don’t have a one size fits all process at HAART for victims of trafficking. Each case is dealt with depending on the needs of the victim, this means that we really get involved in the process of recovery and when it does not work out, there are a lot of questions to answer. Sometimes, it is a time for us to learn a new way of doing things but in most cases you learn that when you are working with people you cannot control their reactions.

Over the years, I have learned that personal motivation from an individual is extremely important in their process of healing. I have learned that when everything fails, this motivation is the fire that pushes someone to go an extra mile.  You need someone that can go an extra mile when you are dealing with a process like recovery, which can be long and extremely difficult. This is why I am strong advocate for psychosocial support because it is part of the process that can trigger a victim to be motivated or just find passion to want to recover. However, sometimes even this fails. Sometimes, you are forced to accept that you are helpless and you cannot do anything.

I am learning that accepting that you are faced with a challenge beyond your capacity is not admitting failure. I am also learning that this process is not entirely dependent on us and therefore we have to allow survivors to take responsibility for their process of recovery. This is not easy. However, to be able to survive the journey, we have to identify when it is time to move on. We have to believe that there will be a better day because that is the only way to still smile when the pressure is on.

By Sophie Otiende

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 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!

When My Home Became a Prison

I remember being 11 years old and locked inside my parents’ house. Outside, people stood guard to ensure I wouldn’t escape. They were going to cut me and I had no choice. I underwent what they call female genital mutilation. I had only just finished my sixth grade exams. Immediately after they started negotiating my bride price.


Photo by Rehema Baya

My name is Simu* and I am now 17-years-old. I come from a large Masaai family; my father has four wives and I am one of his 35 children. My sister and half-sisters before me were also cut. It is performed to prepare girls in our area for marriage. Just one month after the trauma, as my wounds were still healing, I was woken up by five men in the middle of the night. They took me from my bed and forced me to walk for many hours on the cold, dark night. One of these five men was my husband-to-be.

As we walked along the road I reflected on how insignificant I was to my parents, and even contemplated suicide. My dreams of finishing school didn’t matter to them at all. Incredibly, as the sun began to rise, I spotted a World Vision van driving along the road. I made a break for freedom and the staff inside the van were able to care for me and reinstate me in school using threats against my disgruntled parents that they would be taken to court if they tried to interfere.

In the short term I stayed with a cousin but had to endure the complaints of my father every time he had to sell a cow to pay for my schooling. He said the sale of each cow was the same as having one eaten by a lion or die from sickness since educating a girl was a waste of resources.
Several years later, at the end of 2015 and once I had finished my schooling, my parents said they had forgiven me and took me back in. But almost immediately my home became a prison once more – I was effectively under house arrest with my mother guarding me night and day. Before long I overheard my father discussing with a relative of the man they originally intended me to marry that he was to come for me once more; I had no choice but to run away, so borrowing Sh200 from my brother along with the Sh300 I already had saved I took a bus to Nairobi not knowing where I would go – only that the only other option was that I die.

Once in Nairobi I borrowed a phone and called a cousin who agreed to take me in. After a few days, he contacted HAART after finding them on Facebook. I was very anxious initially and wasn’t sure whether the two women from HAART would be able to help, but eventually they placed me in a shelter, to avoid my family tracking me down, before taking me to a boarding school in September last year.

I am now studying hard and pursuing my dreams to become an engineer at a university in the US or one of the top universities here in Kenya. No one can disturb me now or interfere with my dreams. This is my opportunity and I will not let myself or those who have rescued me down; HAART believed in me and saved me from my parents.
* Name was changed

By Winnie Mutevu