Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trafficking of Men: Last to the response effort, but certainly not least

Very early in my interviews, I heard from multiple organizations that the trafficking of men is a serious problem that lacks considerable research, and that an international effort is underway to acknowledge and combat this problem. Some countries do not even recognize male victims or even labor victims. The State Department included some of these issues in their 2007 TIP Report including adding "servitude on the high seas" and "parity in anti-labor trafficking legislation" to their Topics of Special Interest. This month in the Global Eye on Human Trafficking, a bulletin produced by the IOM with basically the same purpose as this blog (to spread information, news, and analysis on human trafficking) but is created from direct IOM research, the main article is about trafficking of men.

As the article points out, the common approach to combating human trafficking has focused on combating trafficking in women and children. However, the problem is becoming more and more obvious among male victims as well, particularly concerning post-trafficking needs. According to a study done with 685 male trafficking victims from Ukraine and Belarus who were assisted by the IOM in 2004-2006, the study has found the following:
  • the majority of victims are adult (18-44);
  • the majority of these victims were trafficked for labor purposes to Russia; other purposes include sexual exploitation, adoption, criminal activities, and begging;
  • Many had dependent children, and cited this as the need to find better work;
  • Their experiences mostly began with situations that seemed like legal migration- contracts, (seemingly) reliable companies, etc.
Both Ukrainian and Belarusian men face exploitative, often traumatic working and living conditions, which, in many circumstances, compromised their physical and mental well-being. Men worked six to seven days each week, regardless of destination country or form of work, and work days were commonly 12 hours or more. Most men reported severely substandard living conditions while trafficked – living in unheated rooms, cramped together with others in unhygienic situations and being provided with limited and poor quality food. A combination of abuse (or threats of abuse), non-payment of salary, debts and restricted freedom of movement served to keep many men in their trafficking situations.

Most men exited their trafficking situation on their own (77.6% Belarusian men; 46.9% Ukrainian men) and often only when they realized that they would not be paid for their work. However, the ability to exit trafficking differed substantially, with some men physically prevented from leaving, confined, under constant guard and exposed to violence or threats of violence.

The article also points out serious difficulties in providing assistance. Even when the victim has been identified, even when the needs of the victim to reintegrate are identified, and even if the victim recognizes that he has been exploited (some refuse to say so), they rarely take to the idea that they are a victim. The recommendation, therefore, is to take gender dimensions into formulating a response in every step- prevention, identification, reintegration, prosecution.

Based on the information provided in this study, the IOM will be releasing a paper, "Trafficking of men - a trend less considered" as a part of their CTM Thematic Research Series in 2008.

As an additional resource, this paper focuses mostly on the trafficking of men in and out of Canada, but has background on the global situation and notes to other resources on the topic. Trafficking in Men: an Exploration of an Overlooked Phenomenon

Think it doesn't happen in the US?


  1. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Prostitution is a serious problem in Bulgaria that threatens thousands of women, but little has been done to stop the “crime of the flesh.”

    Unchecked Danger

  2. Anonymous11:08 PM

    I am amazed that after reading this article, you seem to have still miss the point completley? The article is very specific in it's message but you seem to have just ignored it?
    Women, children 'and' men are victim to human traffiking, and there is unfortunately continued disconsideration for male human traffiking. This inability to consider the issue with the gravity it too requires could lead (and arguably has already done so in certain places) to less concern or resolve in people/governments to taking actions to combat the problem and not seeing it as a concern or where it becomes seemingly acceptable for it to happen to men or even where it simply isn't considered traffiking at all. Male's that have been traffiked are victims too and they deserve the same concern as female and children victims do. ALL human traffiking is wrong - please let us not overlook the fact that this is happening to men too!

    Thanks - Charlotte.