Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dying to Work

While we frequently discuss the trafficking of women and girls, or that of children, the trafficking of men is a less commonly explored subject. A few years ago, I worked as a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) at Georgetown University. One of the duties I was tasked with was creating an annotated bibliography for an anti-trafficking study that included academic literature on the trafficking of men. I was shocked at the paltry amount of academic literature on the trafficking of men for work other than prostitution. True, there is a significant amount of grey literature but the academic studies and resources on the trafficking of men are vastly overshadowed by those on the trafficking of women and children. I always wondered if this was because in many societies across the globe there is a notion that men are more in charge of their destinies; are less in need of protection. It is easy to forget that there are so many circumstances that can intertwine to result in conditions of modern slavery for millions of men around the world.

Trafficking of men feeds a number of industries, such as agriculture, service, and construction. In a Huffington Post article posted on September 15th, Cameron Sinclair explores the darker side of the construction industry, focusing on the situation in the UAE. According to Sinclair, there are more than 1.1 million indentured construction workers in the UAE, mainly from India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Once they arrive in the UAE, as in many other countries, they find themselves in labor camps with inadequate food and even worse housing. Frequently, these men have their passports and other documentation taken away and receive meager wages, if they are even paid. As the global economic downturn has put over $300 billion in construction projects on hold in the UAE alone, indentured construction workers are often the most severely impacted. Without status in the UAE, they have no access to services or assistance and, without documentation or passports, they cannot return home.

As it has become increasingly imperative, even trendy, to "go green," Sinclair reminds us that we must look at not only our environmental footprint, but also our ethical footprint. What does it really mean if we construct an environmentally friendly building if we use exploitative labor practices? Can we laud such a structure when it was built on the backs of people who are living as modern slaves?

Read the full article here

In a recent search I conducted, I found that there are more academic resources available today than there were three years ago on the trafficking of men. However, this remains a fertile avenue for further research and exploration.

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