IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT IT IS HUMAN BEINGS WITH HOPES, WITH IDENTITIES, WITH STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES, AND WITH HISTORIES JUST LIKE YOU AND I WHO CAN BECOME VICTIMS OF THE CRIME OF TRAFFICKING.
At HopeNow we pride ourselves on using a human-to-human approach when encountering men, women and children who may be (or are) victims of the crime of trafficking, rather than approaching them as ‘victims’, as if being a victim were their sole identity. Empowerment is not possible if we keep the people who fall victim to trafficking in a victim role. Helping others to help themselves, empowerment, in any context comes from trust building, confidence building, relationship building, knowledge sharing and the creation of environments that are conducive to learning, interacting and growing. In the context we work in, the conditions may be considered more challenging than most others, however it is still human beings that we are relating to and we keep this at the forefront of our minds with every encounter we have.
According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016, which is produced every two years by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), children make up almost a third of all victims of human trafficking worldwide, and women and girls comprise 71 per cent of the total. While women make up the vast majority of those exploited in sex work, the ILO estimates that men comprise approximately 63 percent of the 21 million victims who work in different kinds of forced labour.
Historically human trafficking has focused on women and children, and primarily on women who are forced into sex work. At the end of 1990s however, cases of men being trafficked were surfacing in Italy and Netherlands. Since the beginning of the 2000s there has been a radical change in the study and monitoring of human trafficking as it became apparent that men can also be victims of trafficking, and that human trafficking is not synonymous with sex trafficking, but rather involves several other areas of exploitation.
Although women still comprise a majority of detected victims, there has been an overall decrease in the share of female victims over the past decade, from 84 per cent in 2004 to 71 per cent in 2014. The trend for detections of men, in contrast, has been increasing over the same period, and more than 1 in 5 detected trafficking victims between 2012 and 2014 were men.
– Source: UNOCD (2016, p. 6) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons
We are witnessing the increase in the numbers of men we encounter here in Denmark, however the process of formal identification is even more challenging with men because of culture and tradition. In most cultures all across the world, boys are taught that admitting vulnerability, showing emotion, and asking for assistance are ‘bad’, ‘unmasculine’ and show weakness. As such, the vast majority of the men we meet in trafficking environments are not represented in the data: the UNODC has ‘detected’ a total of 63,251 victims of human trafficking in 106 countries and territories between 2012 and 2014.