Human Trafficking: The Other 20%


Cameron Conaway explores the global human trafficking of boys & men.

“My very first survivor was a boy. How many of us are looking for boys?”

~Sandra Morgan, Director, Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University

His legs were thin as faded whispers and dangled like twisted ropes from his wheelchair, and his walk was a drag as he pulled himself along with worn-out school erasers clutched in each hand. Nadu was born this way and despite being 13 years old, he had just received his first wheelchair the day prior to my arrival. He hadn’t needed one for the past seven years. When he was five his family bent to the weight of foresight, tradition and circumstance. They sold him.

For seven years Nadu was stored like luggage in the back of a nondescript van and was taken from community to community for the sole purpose of being raped by anybody willing to pay enough to cover the driver’s fuel and food expenses. It’s called a mobile brothel and Nadu’s story is only one of countless many. He fought back the first week, but after being beaten nearly to death on two different occasions, he learned that living meant succumbing. And so it went day after day—when days felt like years and years like thick fog. When I met him he smiled but I couldn’t tell if it was a smile of courtesy, relief or something else altogether.

♦◊♦

Like many Americans, I once lived under the impression that large-scale slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation (and the Civil War) in 1863. My travels both domestic and abroad have coupled with my attendance at conferences by organizations like  Not For Sale and Slavery No More to show a truer picture, one that forced me to confront my Americentric worldviews and my absolute naiveté.

After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it’s the fastest growing

There are more slaves today than at any point in human history – 27 million worldwide(1). The best numbers on the subject reflect that 1-1.2 million children are trafficked every year, and 100,000 human trafficking victims are currently in the United States(2). After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it’s the fastest growing(3). 80% of trafficking victims are women and girls.

These are huge numbers, but numbers rarely arouse emotion like personal stories. Of the personal stories we hear in the news or elsewhere, I’d guess 98% of them represent the 80%. This is not a complaint but an observation – human trafficking awareness is essential regardless of where it comes from.

What might be the reason for this discrepancy? Some have posited that children are the most vulnerable people in our community and as women are the more physically vulnerable sex their stories cut deeper and therefore make better media. Some have said that our world is still entirely uncomfortable with same-sex sex, especially with men.

Another person I spoke to said it could be the result of people being ignorant, willfully or otherwise, when it involves the possibility of men raping boys. This made me think of Joe Paterno’s quote in January 2012, “I never heard of… of… rape and a man.” We’ve thought on this quote plenty as it relates to the Penn State crimes and Paterno’s personal honesty, but what of its general validity? If true, it shows a total lack of awareness. If false, it shows a climate of blindness suggesting that it’s actually a valid excuse for some people to be unaware of the possibilities of the sexual abuse of boys. Either way is terribly sad.

♦◊♦

On the taboo of man-on-boy rape, I’ve talked to several authors and filmmakers who address sex trafficking and they echoed similar sentiments in different words. It should be noted that though their goal is one of awareness it is also one of sales. The two are often intertwined. The more their book or film is talked about, the more buzz. And the more buzz, the more there is awareness and the money to help. That said, these are artists whose work is often shaped by their perception of the general public. Their art isn’t merely for art’s sake and as a result they often have their fingers as close to the public’s pulse as possible. One went so far as to say the following:

“Society can barely stomach the raping of young girls. I feared they couldn’t handle it if my story was about the sex trafficking of young boys. How comfortable would people be with telling others to check out the work? In one sense they could just say it involves rape and most people would assume it meant of a girl or woman. But if it were about a boy or a man could they just say rape and let it stand without adding any extra details? I’m not sure, but I felt that’s where discomfort would come in and I didn’t want to chance it. Great works involve some level of discomfort, but maybe that would be too much.”

Some of the best projects about sex trafficking include Her Story, a film produced by Aaron Au, whom we interviewed last October. Her Story shows how sex trafficking takes place not just in foreign lands, but right next door. It features a young girl enslaved in a brothel.

I recently screened the feature film Not Today by Brent Martz. Debuting in 2013, the movie follows an Orange County trust-fund college student whose travels unexpectedly show him the story of a young Indian girl sold into the sex trade.

Investigative journalist Julian Sher received much-deserved praise for his book, Somebody’s Daughter, which tells the stories of American teens caught in the sex trade.

“There are many slaves in the sex trafficking battle: The pimps who are slaves to greed, the johns who are slaves to lust, and those who are physically enslaved.”

While all of these pieces are exceptional and will surely combat trafficking in a way that helps all genders, they are all primarily, if not entirely, about the sex trafficking of girls. As the market becomes saturated with similar works, there’s a fear it may continue feeding into the machine that paints only in black and white: Men are monsters. Women are victims. This concept, in part, was addressed by Chris Anderson, Executive Director of MaleSurvivor.org, who explains:

“Ignoring the truth that millions of males are victims of abuse and violence alienates us, and effectively tells us that we have no right to hope, healing, and support for the harms we have suffered. The lasting message of this attitude is that men are the problem. This makes it far less likely that males who have been harmed will ask for the help they need to heal. Further, this attitude has focused our communal attention and directed the bulk of resources to programs and studies that focus primarily on women…”

Yes, men are the primary engines behind sex trafficking. We are the primary pimps and johns. As pastor Eddie Buyn said at the Not For Sale conference in Manila, “There are many slaves in the sex trafficking battle: The pimps who are slaves to greed, the johns who are slaves to lust, and those who are physically enslaved.” But when it comes to victimization, we make up an astounding 20% and that’s on the low end compared to other studies I’ve read. Yet all of this so far has addressed only sex trafficking, a branch off of the overall entity of human trafficking.

In many circles, the term “human trafficking” is believed to be a euphemism for modern-day slavery. The definition given by the U.N. Trafficking Protocol: “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.” This exploitation is typically in the form of sex or labor, but as survivor Ima Matul recently pointed out, “It doesn’t matter which type. The sex side makes the news but all forms are inhumane. Trafficking is trafficking.”

♦◊♦

…When I ask how many survivors are men, the staff members look at me and say, “They all are men.”

From my travels and research I’d guess that men are trafficked far more than women. Still, because my mind and emotions are most crushed by the sex trafficking of children, I have been surprised when I visit rescue shelters and, when I ask how many survivors are men, the staff members look at me and say, “They all are men.”

Labor trafficking is a brutal business that offers a low risk for the criminals. The story of boys and men being tricked or forced into slave labor camps and then beat mercilessly once there doesn’t many capture headlines. Many still confuse it with separate issues. Make no mistake about it: These slavery rings are not synonymous with typical migrant worker rings whereby foreign workers enter a new country and are employed seasonally and paid meagerly.

Most of the survivors I met are grown men… who, in an effort to better support their families, were sold a fake promise and then were sold into slavery rings. Many expressed embarrassment. Many said they could never tell their families what happened for fear of being regarded as weak, stupid and/or unmanly.

We’re talking about the type of slavery most of our history books exposed us to, the stuff of movies, the stuff we think has passed, the stuff that can cripple cultures for generations or longer. I met one boy of 12 who was blindfolded and beat daily for three weeks so that he was sufficiently brainwashed by his “master” and would devote the rest of his healthy life to working for free. And it’s not all boys either. Most of the survivors I met are grown men – ranging from 25-45 – who, in an effort to better support their families, were sold a fake promise and then were sold into slavery rings. Many expressed embarrassment. Many said they could never tell their families what happened for fear of being regarded as weak, stupid and/or unmanly. Our soldiers (and men in general) have become notorious for not being able or wanting to open up about their mental disorders. The same can be assumed for male trafficking survivors.

Most of us are privileged enough to live only among the remnants, tasting it through museums or family photo albums or stories or by driving past the abandoned slave shacks, as I have, on my way to a vacation getaway in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Sure having the beach to myself all day and falling asleep to the ocean’s lullaby stick in my mind, but so too do the images of the journey there: the rotting wood warped and rotting black, the unmown grass. It looks so long ago, and it is, but like any good business it has morphed and evolved to meet the times. I’ve learned a few lessons about its evolution throughout my recent research. Here are the two that come to mind:

  1. History paints not in the bold brush strokes of Van Gogh but in the curving and often circular pencil sketches of Klimt.
  2. If eyes could touch, the male survivors I’ve met would have reached out for a hug.

 

Part two will show some specific ways that trafficking is being combatted and what you can do to get involved in the fight.

 

Sources

(1) UNICEF

(2) US Department of State

(3) U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services & International Justice Mission

 

Image of silhouette of bard wire courtesy of Shutterstock

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About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.

Comments

  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Cameron thanks, as usual, for amazing work on an important and sad topic.

  2. Great work here. The masses have so readily bought the illusion that human trafficking is “something that men do to women” (like a lot of other crimes I might add) to the point where despite male victims existing in large numbers their stories are not just going untold but being actively ignored. Why? Well part is that simply put since they aren’t female they don’t count.

    Good job on addressing this Cameron.

    • Nah, rape is something men do to men. About time this was being discussed. Maybe if men treated each other with respect there’d be some trickle down effect for women and I never would’ve been treated as a plaything by my ex husband. Maybe.

      • Because really, women are all the matters, right? You just outright denied that women commit rape, as if women are some pristine angles, and you’re telling men they need to respect each other for women’s benefit? How about trying to respect men yourself?

      • Men rape women, men rape men, women rape men, women rape women, men rape kids, women rape kids.

        “Maybe if men treated each other with respect there’d be some trickle down effect for women and I never would’ve been treated as a plaything by my ex husband. Maybe.”
        I’m sorry for what you went through but it isn’t actually gendered, both males n females commit attrocities to each other and to their own gender. I wouldn’t focus on men respecting men, but people respecting people as often when we only look at males changing their behaviour we ignore females also doing the same, a lot of men n women suffer in silence for example with abuse, rape, etc. Latest stats show a huge amount of men are raped by women even yet many are unaware it is happening, and many don’t realize women can actually rape men. That’s the importance of ensuring everyone is aware that anyone can rape and be raped, or abused, etc.

        • Thank you, Archy. Well said. If we’re gonna define the issue as something only men can do to women, we’re not gonna make the progress we so desperately need in this world.

  3. Legalizing prostitution surely would help a bit? Looks like a nightmare situation though. I’m glad someone finally did talk about da menz and give a damn, I am actually surprised.

    • No, not really. Many of the victims of sex trafficking are children, and there is no way to allow for prostitution of minors without it being exploitative. As Cameron noted in his article, this happens all over the world in places where people’s rights are not protected and sometimes not recognized. So even if one did legalize prostitution and offered sex workers protection, there is no way to ensure anyone “hiring” them would not ignore the laws. That is what happens with laborers who are trafficked. There are laws protecting them, but no one enforces them, and those breaking them really do not care.

      • Mark Neil says:

        And, of course, as we all know… A solution that isn’t 100% effective worldwide isn’t even worth considering. The idea that most men who visit prostitutes would be far more likely to go to a government sanctioned and regulated one, That’s completely irrelevant and in no way could possible help disincentivize the trafficking of grown women, and even if it could, it’s not worth even examining because it’s not a worldwide 100% solution and/or it doesn’t make men look like monsters.

      • There are men that would like to goto a sex worker, there is a market and needs to befilled. Where I live there is a legal brothel about 1 hour away, I’ve thought about going their myself even as it’s incredibly hard to find a partner. I believe there is a way to make a legal, regulated and decent market for adult sex workers as I’m constantly reminded by the Scarlet Alliance n other organizations for sex workers.

        My hope is that it would give options to those that wish to see a sex worker in a legal manner, as if I ever did go to one I never ever would want to use the services of someone who is a slave. Would you prefer sex work to remain illegal?

        I also never ever want to see minors in that business, slaves or otherwise.

      • Mark, I think legalizing prostitution could work in situations in which the person willing wants to do sex work. But most cases of sex trafficking do not involve willing participants, and a significant number of the victims are minors. Prostitution is legal in Las Vegas. How does the legality of prostitution prevent a person from being trafficked to the city for sexual slavery?

        Archy, I do not think sex work should remain illegal, however, I do not believe we can honestly regulate it unless it is closely monitored. That takes bodies, time, and lots of money, and I do not think any state really wants to invest in that. And that does not even address the problem in countries where people’s rights are less protected.

        • It’s one of the barriers to why I haven’t been. Maybe a card showing they have passed a background check could work and some way of knowing they’re here of their own free will. I dunno though, in Australia I hope our system here is ok. It’s a very tricky situation indeed!

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          “How does the legality of prostitution prevent a person from being trafficked to the city for sexual slavery?”

          Easy. When was the last time you drank bootlegged alcohol? I’m guessing it’s been a while. Would that still be true if alcohol were illegal?

          Another issue is that many people considered to be “trafficked” are actually economic migrants who willingly travel to work somewhere they’ll have better pay and living conditions. When they’re “rescued” they end up being treated like criminals and deported, clearly decriminalising their work would benefite their situation.

        • As a life long resident of Nevada, let me explain the laws regarding prostitution in Nevada.
          In Nevada Prostitution is classed as a “nuisance”. However the legislature has put down these two rules:
          In counties with population of over 300,000, prostitution is prohibited by State statute. This includes Las Vegas and Reno.
          In the smaller counties, prostitution is up to the County Commissioners to decide whether to permit or forbid brothels. Typically there has been a long tradition of brothels situated in certain small counties. These counties license them and charge for an annual license, typically $50,000 or more to help with county expenses.
          The counties also require regular STD testing of the legal prostitutes. This is one of the justifications of such legal brothels. Living in Reno, I see hookers walking on a main street and often the police round them up as well as using police decoys to catch the “johns”. Both Females and Males are arrested for prostitution from time to time. Contrary to Peter’s comment. Prostitution if not legal in Las Vegas only in certain counties near there and near Reno. Also it is a felony in Nevada to knowingly have sex with another while infected with HIV/AIDS and several “free-lance” prostitutes have been arrested and convicted of that infraction.

    • if prostitution was legal you might as well legalize human sex trafficking, as most prostitutes are not doing this for the ‘benefits’

      • Are you saying there is no point in having a distinction between being forced into slavery and choosing a shitty job who’s pay is variable? Are you suggesting women are too stupid or to feeble to be capable of properly making these choices, that because women aren’t capable of making such choices responsibly, choosing to sell oneself and being forced to are, in effect, the same thing? and so you feel women should not even be given the opportunity to make those choices, instead being told what to do through government laws? Or do you have some other explanation for why you don’t feel women making that choice are any more in control of their own agency than women forced into it?

        You see, I personally think women are smart enough and capable enough to choose for themselves what they feel is best for them, and if they feel selling their body to pay the bills is a job they are willing to do, then good on them for supporting themselves instead of leeching off the welfare system.

        • It’s getting tiring seeing how many people seem to not believe women have agency, conflating trafficking with prostitution in EVERY case. Because real women would never choose to be sex workers right? Ugh

  4. Areas of concern in forced servitude/slavery that keep getting missed. I hate Myopia! I also hate people’s everyday complicity in Human Trafficking and that they are so unwilling to see the big picture. Trends in Trafficking are such a social phenomenon and the blindness is just as trendy!

    It is assumed that all humans have conscience and that such a conscience operates equally and even universally. It’s a massive mistake and allows a great deal to happen in public view because it is assumed that really nasty stuff has to always be hidden away in private. That is not correct – and all too often the Trafficking and Exploitation is in plain sight – people just miss it!

    1) Financial Trafficking – individuals held whilst their identities are used to set up Bank Accounts and identity specific systems that allow money laundering, both on national and international scales. It is more common than people realise. A favoured target group is people with special needs/learning disabilities as the abusers are seen to be nice and helping, even as they exploit! I’ve even seen it operating through supposed charities … I mean, who would suspect a group with the word charity attached? Worse still, who would believe that a charity serving children was in fact a paedophile ring where every serving officer and employee was a convicted and time served sex offender? I’m not allowed to say more, other than reality is stranger than fiction!

    2) Trafficking for Organ Removal. Yes it happens! People convinced that they are being given a job – arrive and find that they are either under intense pressure to donate an organ, or simply wake up missing a kidney or half (or even a whole) liver. Of course other organs when removed result in death – the figures for that are very hard to calculate. A bribe here – a burial without notice there … The figures are so very hard to quantify as the criminals are good at hiding in plain sight! Besides – who would ever believe a doctor would do such a thing or knowingly remove organs knowing the victim would be doomed to die!

    Recent events in Egypt have people thinking of the Arab Spring and democracy in action via twitter and facebook – the power of The Net. There has also been a large issue of instability, and some have moved in to target refugees fleeing other parts of Africa such as Sudan – and the Organ Traders have been there. Even CNN got to cover it.

    Latest Figures – 10000 illegal organ trafficking incidents per year – $200,000 paid per recipient = $2 Billion in known trading – with China, India, Pakistan, Israel and other countries implicated. Following on from the Egypt Story events were traced to Israel and on into Eastern Europe … the markets just keep shifting to where it’s not illegal to supply to meet demand! If you factor in the local cost of living in known places where the trade is brisk, and then adjust for US and European cost of living the trade is estimated to exceed $100 Billion per year. That is no small potatoes.

    Of course, so many simply assume that If It’s a organ removed in an Arab Country, it’s taken for some illegal Arab Recipient – they are such tricky types after all. The same goes for cases on Central and South America or the Pacific Rim – though It does get harder to negatively profile there. People conveniently forget how easy it is to purchase air tickets on a Global basis, and that the most common cause of kidney failure is Obesity related Diabetes and Kidney Failure – very 1st world health issues. It’s those with wealth who use it to buy what they want and need globally!

    Illegal kidney trade booms as new organ is ‘sold every hour’

    Of course known figures relate to survivors of organ harvesting and sale – and they are the one’s that get paid, even in iPads! Odd but the issue of Illegal Organ Donation/harvesting got little media coverage until The iPad got trendy. It is hard to interview the people who didn’t survive having every conceivable organ removed – 2 kidneys, 1 liver, 2 lungs, 1 heart, 2 corneas, 1 pancreas (they are the easy routine ones along with bone harvesting – tendon harvesting – ligaments and other items that can be put in long term storage, and even traded internationally).

    Where ever there is social breakdown whether that be due to Political and Social upheaval or due to Natural Disaster, those who seek high gains from low priced organs move in – and they seek to exploit those who seek a better life in a promised land and always else where. People go missing and they are ever so hard to trace Globally! The same applies to child exploitation for sex, which is Why the UN and international Relief Organisations have been highlighting the issues for year … but after the initial Prime Time news coverage of the Disaster, that is when the exploitation starts and there is little to no media people about. UN peace keepers are now being trained and briefed repeatedly on how to spot the issues. Worse still – if the area affected has an already established pattern of exploitation, forced labour, sexual exploitation, the criminal minds go into overtime and seek to increase profits whilst apparently offering a route out of misery. Social Chaos does allow a great deal to go undetected or seen, and black markets thrive upon social disorder and the shadows that go with it.

    The recent UK case of 24 men held as slaves in public view gives an insight into the psychology of the people targeted. When the police swooped in, many refused help as they feared reprisal. They had been “Brain Washed” through a combination of fear and degradation into believing they faced either severe injury or death if they did or said anything against their “Masters”. The slavery involved working in public, laying driveways and parking places for members of the public who paid handsomely for this service. These slaves were seen daily and openly in front of many homes slaving away!

    There were no bars or cells or cages – these man could have Walked Away at any time, and over the years many did. That was always referred to as escape and many became known to police and other agencies, but combinations of disbelief and lack of powers allowed matters to continue – it’s believed for 15 years.

    But the big issue is that once a person is entrapped the bars are primarily psychological, and after that you have language barriers, geographical barriers and many other barriers too! Many remain confused and bemused by the Jaycee Lee Dugard case, and yet it’s a text book case of how people held in servitude of all types react. Of course that all gets lost in the emotive issues around child abduction, rape and how many times she could have been rescued if law enforcement had looked closer ….

    There are a great many concerns about the UK Slavery case. One major one is how the media portrayed it in racial terms, repeatedly highlighting that the Masters were members of the Travelling Community and Irish. It had the effect of making the abusers “Other” and easy to dismiss. At trial only 5 victims co-operated, and only four charges were proved. Basically 80% of those abused and held as slaves were so damaged that they could not get past the fear of yet more abuse to co-operate in having the Slavers sent to jail.

    80% fail? – or a clear indication of just how hard it is for the slave to deal with the mental aspects of events?

    There does tend to be an issue of racial profiling around traffickers and slavers – they are always made into “Other” from far away, even when the people being trafficked are right in front of people – in plain sight! There is always the focus on making it about some deviation from the body social and normal, and yet the defective eyesight of all those who failed to notice never seems to get mentioned. There is a bemused reaction to why 80% would not co-operate with police, and the 99.9% myopia of those who saw slavery in plain sight just does not get mentioned or discussed. I know which is the more significant statistic in my eyes!

    I recall the explosion in DVD’s, and the instant Bootlegging/Piracy that followed – fake copies being sold at half the price of the genuine articles, and it was often hard to tell them apart. It was easy to buy duplicators that could make 10 or 12 copies at a time – you could buy them off the net for next day shipping. The print systems to print the disks and the cover of the packaging were also easy to come by. You could have between 50 and 100 copies per hour from just one duplicator unit – and profits were very high. The profits got higher when you had a house – the systems in place – and a couple of people held in servitude working 18+ hour days. Throw in drug addiction – alcohol addiction – and it all seeming so normal on the outside (apart from the extreme number of packages going into the house and coming out daily) and no-one notices any problem.

    When the reality of Bootleg DVDs became known back in the 1990s the vast majority of people were upset! Very Upset! They were Sooooo Upset that they would now have to pay full price for that latests blockbuster, and they did not consider how they had been party to slavery and forced servitude for the cost of a few pounds. If you mentioned that the cut price bootleg DVDs were funding criminality under the guise of terrorism you were called a fantasist and conspiracy theorist!

    That is why when these bootleg operations were raided so few prosecutions took place. The people found were innocent as they operated under duress and fear – the masters kept a distance and stayed hidden. In those cases no racial links were made – and I know that in places such as Northern Ireland there were very clear links to terrorist groups who’s criminality thrived in many areas…. and they had networks to sell many sorts of product across the UK and Europe. Caucasian Criminality is hard to make into “Other”!

    I do find it odd that when counterfeit goods are mentioned now it’s always linked to China and maybe Russia and imports – the home grown is just not profitable for the media to cover … except when race plays a part!

    I saw the same issues in Italy many years ago with Marocchini ( a generic name for Arab street sellers ) peddling illegal cigarettes on street corners in Milan, Venice, Rome and other cities. They were viewed as economic migrants down on their luck, but most were trafficked and made to sell Mafia cigarettes (No taxes) to repay debts. People either grabbed a bargain pack of Marlboro Lights or refused to support organised crime – but few if any ever considered the slavery issue for two reasons – language barriers and because the victims were “Other”! People who queried the issue were branded as racist by the Marocchini, just as they had been trained to do by their masters. Many had agreed to be trafficked in the belief that they would be given paid work, able to send money home to help families left behind, and then they were trapped with no way forward and no way back – just surviving day by day!

    Then you have the group of Chinese Cockle pickers drowned in 2004 – 38 people working – 23 drowned – in total 21 men and 2 women, all Chinese and none with any fluency in English. All were illegal immigrants, and many had been trafficked by gangs from China to the UK ($5000 deposit paid to be smuggled and a further $20,000 debt to be paid before release) …. they were in plain sight on Morecambe Bay – a Beauty Spot, they were spoken to by locals and yet no-one recognised that they were slaves and held in forced labour. In fact one major concern locally was that they were able to harvest more cockles which held a premium price in restaurants in France and Spain – the trade is worth over £10 Million a year, and the locals were concerned about their slice of the action. Everyone seemed to miss the issues around them being made to work when it was clearly unsafe – or the longer than normal hours – or lack of clothing – or basic safety equipment….. the bottom line concerns seemed to just get in the way! In the restaurants where the product got served up at $50 per plate, there was not even discussion about the true cost to those who picked.

    The biggest issue is not that the trafficking takes place – it’s that so many see it and fail to recognise what is in front of them, in Plain Sight! Criminality thrives on profit, and where labour costs can be cut or better still ignored, profits go up. Criminals are not just on street corners selling crack, they are everywhere, and they profit from human exploitation and misery in so many forms – even the misery of seeking a bargain DVD, packet of cigarettes, or what ever is the latest route to a fast criminal buck with minimal overheads!

    Why bother holding up a bank which is covered in surveillance equipment, when you can have a guaranteed income long term due to public myopia – plain sight?

    The last figures for Proceeds Of Crime in the UK put human trafficking at over £4 Billion ($ 6 Billion) and yet the focus is upon Al-Capone and tax evasion. It’s easier to prove than Slavery!

    The focus upon sexual exploitation – trafficking – slavery really skews the far bigger picture. It’s like the advice to law enforcement to be suspicious of a male driver accompanied by young women, especially if they are under age! The criminals are not stupid – so they get a female driver to cut the odds – and they even switch to males as the trafficked product and service higher paying clients! … and those clients are not always Domestic as they have the option of clicking and flying from across the globe to buy the right product!

    How about the Trafficking of Vietnamese boys to work in skunk/cannabis cultivation? The kids are not just a single cash crop – they have a second value in the sex trade too! The main gangs come from Canada – their product can mellow the purchasers out, but as they sit and have a nice buzz, they are chilling out to another persons pain …. but who cares after a stressful day!

    And next time someone is joking about that Cabaña Boy, in his skimpy attire as he cleans the pool, it’s worth checking the pay grade, and not just assuming he is well paid pure eye candy and not being subjected to exploitation of other than his good looks!

    But one area of concern the really gets me worried is the focus on foreign nationals, often linked to diplomatic circles, bringing in young people from abroad to act a servants. There have been a few publicly known cases of exploitation and abuse and all featuring women as victims. It gets talked about how it’s imperative to protect women from such exploitation – it’s socially very trendy!

    The problem is that Criminals are very good at spotting social trends and exploiting them. So why risk the social tend by importing female labour when importing a 16 year old boy (he has to be that age his papers says so) diverts attention and even raises the employers social kudos! Of course – no one in their right mind would question that situation – it just would so anti-social and going against the trendy image that so many are wedded to! …. add a sob story, of the boys personal history and family background and how you are helping this poor disadvantaged youth, and you have plain sight established and everyone can just “”See”” the truth!

    Trendy Myopia serves so few, other than the criminals who love the social blind spots!

  5. Mark Neil says:

    Thanks Cameron. I appreciate your writing. It’s good to see the full range of human trafficking being discussed, not just the sensational and marketable side of it.

  6. Great work. What angers me most about this is that we have human rights organizations that go into these countries to address human trafficking, yet few of them help male victims, and those that do rarely mention them. I honestly do not understand how an organization can willfully turn a blind eye certain victims because of their sex. I can see why political groups by play that game, but I just cannot get why a neutral organization would just ignore something as serious as slavery (let us stop using the politically correct phrase).

    And it is not just on a broad level. We are actually funding some this, like what is happening with the dancing boys in Afghanistan. The level of indifference at play is unreal, and what makes it worse is that we do not even know how many boys, girls, women, or men are enslaved.

  7. I honestly do not understand how an organization can willfully turn a blind eye certain victims because of their sex.

    I’d love to see more discussion of that point with reference to the work of Lara Stemple, Director of Graduate Studies at UCLA School of Law. It’s funny how treaties, conventions and how they work in proving funding outcomes warp matters. If your funding criteria are gender biased, your activity and outcomes are gender biased. It seems odd to have to make that basic point – but it is pretty basic!

    Chris Dolan, the director of the Refugee Law Project also makes the same points and observations as to how the wording accepted by so many promotes bias and skewed funding on a global basis!

    That has been playing out in relation to the Bacha bazi – the Dancing Boys Of Afghanistan and the whole of Central Asia. Gender skew on sexual offences against children just mean the issues are not looked at, figures gathered and funding put in place to address the issue!

    April 5, 2012 The Washington Post – Afghanistan sees rise in ‘dancing boys’ exploitation

    The State Department has mentioned the practice — which is illegal here, as it would be in most countries — in its annual human rights reports. The 2010 report said members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, sexually abused boys “in an environment of criminal impunity.”

    But by and large, foreign powers in Afghanistan have refrained from drawing attention to the issue. There are no reliable statistics on the extent of the problem.

    DynCrop anyone?

    I’m pretty sure that The TIP reports would not even be making reference to Bacha Bazi, if it had not hit the headlines in 2010.

    The report by Anna Maria Cardinalli, commissioned by the UK and US governments makes an interesting comment: “One of the country’s favorite sayings is ‘women are for children, boys are for pleasure,” – and it was noted that raping a male child was considered a social foible, but raping a girl child would result in honour killings and revenge! Odd how the issue – which has been known to anthropologists and commented upon for over 100 years just passed military intelligence by until some leaked papers made world headlines! They were that completely unaware of “One of the country’s favorite sayings..”?

    Even odder is that the report by Anna Maria Cardinalli recognises the issue but fails to “Quantify” it. Tut – Government Contractors!

    Odder still is how the CIA were active in Afghanistan from the Russian Invasion of 1979 (That’s 33 years and counting) and they just missed the issue? Boy – Spooks just aint what they used to be!

  8. Stranger in a Strange Land says:

    Men have more to fear from other men than they do women (although there are some real horrors – no doubt about that).
    Black have more to fear from white men than they do their wives, daughters, sisters, female friends. Homosexuals have more to fear from straight men than straight women.
    A man is more likely to be raped by another man than he is by a woman.

    These are facts. One only has to look at who holds the balance of power. Why are there more black men in prison than other races? Look no further than who holds the balance power in law, politics, business.

    Of course, the majority of men are not rapists, thugs or bullies. However, until the men of the “Good Men Project” can face the truth. This Project is little more than a feel-good exercise for a few privileged men.

    • The problem is the “men has more to fear from other men than they do from women” is being used to shape actual policies to the point that that little phrase may not be as true as some may think. In short those those real horrors you mention in parentheses get ignored.

      These are facts. One only has to look at who holds the balance of power. Why are there more black men in prison than other races? Look no further than who holds the balance power in law, politics, business.
      Doesn’t speak to the entire problem. The story goes that those in power are men and they are looking out for men. If that’s the case the current state of men wouldn’t be what it is.

      Of course, the majority of men are not rapists, thugs or bullies. However, until the men of the “Good Men Project” can face the truth. This Project is little more than a feel-good exercise for a few privileged men.
      There is more to truth that just focusing on the bad men of the world and trying to link the badness to being male. But hopefully you’ll stay around to see that.

    • “Men have more to fear from other men than they do women”

      The problem with this is that, since women tend to commit violence against men by proxy through other men, one easily gets a distorted view of things. Additionally, threats by other men tend to be direct. You get to face the person threatening you. Not so much with women. So while it may be true men are more often targeted by other men, I would argue the bigger threat usually comes from women, making your assertion rather difficult to prove.

      “A man is more likely to be raped by another man than he is by a woman.

      These are facts.”

      Depends how you choose to define rape. Under current definitions a woman is incapable of raping a man without the aid of objects. If one includes “forced to penetrate”, then your “facts” are not facts at all, but misinformation.

      “One only has to look at who holds the balance of power. Why are there more black men in prison than other races?”

      There aren’t. Whites make up the bulk of the prison population. That said, It is my understanding that the general population of blocks in prison is over-representative in comparison to the general population of the US. You clearly ascribe this to discrimination, and say blacks are imprisoned more because whites are in power… But then I can point to men being over-represented in the prison population to prove women hold the balance of power. Hell, I can point to women getting a sentencing discount that is greater and more consistent than what whites get over blacks.

      “However, until the men of the “Good Men Project” can face the truth. This Project is little more than a feel-good exercise for a few privileged men.”

      Can’t get much more sexist and callous than that. On an article pointing out men who are trafficked are often ignored, you choose to accuse the men trying to bring light to that point of being privileged men performing a feel good exercise. I guess all those men being trafficked don’t matter, they aren’t women after all, so who cares. And dare to talk about them over women means you are a man worthy of dismissal. I guess that is what feminist equality looks like?

    • The majority of sexual abuse men face is perpetrated by women. Yes men receive overall violence more from other men, but they do have a large reason to fear women. In fact I think the stats actually say a man is most likely going to be abused, assaulted, etc by his partner (who for most men is a female). As children they’re more at risk of abuse by their mother even.

      “This Project is little more than a feel-good exercise for a few privileged men.”
      It’s either ignorance or bigotry fueling your comment, do you actually bother to study male vulnerability or do you make assumptions that this is a site for a few privileged men? Nice way to dismiss the seriousness of this site as well.

  9. Excellent article, Cameron, thank you for sharing it! It pains me to hear about this kind of thing continuing to go on in the world, despite all the time we (the US) spends trying to influence other countries and plant the seeds of freedom and Democracy. I’m not saying we do a great job, but it’s hardly for lack of trying. Here’s hoping more people get involved in this cause

  10. Thank you for speaking up for the boys. We have just launched a new initiative with survivors. They will be researching and designing a model safe house for survivors as part of their remarkable online and peer mentored art program for boys that due to lack of funding is currently transmitted for a safe house bathroom in the USA and reaches distinct localities around the world. If you know of anyone who would be able to donate $10 towards the expense of this research and design initiative, we would all be so thrilled. It is not money that counts it is the act of support which shows the boys that are not alone and we are saluting their courage and creativity in the face of huge Kafkaesque challenges. Your friends my find some of the survivors ART & STORYTELLING (a medium that is a good friend to human rights initiatives) at http://www.real-stories-gallery.org. When the boys created a remarkable and professional art installation in NYC to raise awareness the media did not respond and the visitors were appalled and did not believe it could be happening to the extent that it is. One of their images was posted on the Reuters billboard in Times Square. That didn’t raise any response either, apart from a request for Reuters to blackout their billboard to save energy costs. So now I find myself here, as a mother and social anthropologist and a stranger, popping in after reading your articles to say thank you and that we look forward to warmly welcome your strength and voices and professionalism, and ideas. May I wish you all a happy holiday surrounded by everyone who loves you. Rachel.

  11. Lindsey Breslin says:

    Thank you for talking about human trafficking in the broader perspective. “Sex sells” even in the stories of human trafficking so the issues of labor trafficking and men (whether trafficked for sex or labor) are barely given the attention they deserve. Though it is an issue that is different than migrant labor, there are many people trafficked in the US (and in Colorado) on farms and ranches that people mistakenly feel is an immigration issue but actually is a labor trafficking situation. We need to look inside our own counties, in the US and not always think that trafficking is happening outside the USA. It’s about exploiting the vulnerable for profit-and that can ahppen anywhere.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Good Men Project ran a piece by Cameron Conaway on the human trafficking of men and boys: On the taboo of man-on-boy rape, I’ve talked to several [...]

  2. [...] of them as victims, but many women are also guilty of exploiting.  The Good Men Project Magazine published this article on the trafficking of boys and men. Please take the time to read this enlightening article. [...]

  3. [...] Human Trafficking – The Other 20% - An exploration of the global trafficking of boys and men, written by Cameron Conaway. [...]

  4. [...] story of Nadu in Human Trafficking: The Other 20% resulted in readers sending many heartfelt messages my way. Some expressed utter disgust and even [...]

  5. [...] story of Nadu in Human Trafficking: The Other 20% resulted in readers sending many heartfelt messages my way. Some expressed utter disgust and even [...]

  6. [...] Cameron Conaway does an awesome job of covering this phenomenon. [...]

  7. [...] more at Cameron Conaway’s The Good Men Project article: Human Trafficking: The Other 20%, Part 1 and Human Trafficking Part 2: The Warriors. Rate this:Share [...]

  8. [...] By Cameron Conaway / The Good Men Project [...]

  9. [...] I mentioned in The Other 20%, men raping boys is still a taboo topic. Even filmmakers who document the horrors of sex [...]

  10. [...] it’s no more shattering than the story of the eight year old disabled boy whose parents sold him in a case of human trafficking—both of [...]

  11. [...] 3. When considering the entire web of human trafficking — a web that includes slave labor — some of the lowest estimates say that boys and men make up 20 percent of the victims. [...]

  12. […] Likewise, male sexual abuse is still a taboo topic that many people don’t want to talk about let alone read about, as Cameron Conway explained in, “Human Trafficking – The Other 20%”: […]

  13. […] Likewise, male sexual abuse is still a taboo topic that many people don’t want to talk about let alone read about, as Cameron Conway explained in, “Human Trafficking – The Other 20%”: […]

  14. […] Likewise, male sexual abuse is still a taboo topic that many people don’t want to talk about let alone read about, as Cameron Conway explained in, “Human Trafficking – The Other 20%”: […]

  15. […] Likewise, male sexual abuse is still a taboo topic that many people don’t want to talk about let alone read about, as Cameron Conway explained in, “Human Trafficking – The Other 20%”: […]

  16. […] This is consistent with other reports, which tend to suggest that women make up 35-40 percent of traffickers, as Cameron Conway highlights in his article, ‘Human Trafficking – The Other 20%‘. […]

  17. […] This is consistent with other reports, which tend to suggest that women make up 35-40 percent of traffickers, as Cameron Conway highlights in his article, ‘Human Trafficking – The Other 20%’. […]

  18. […] This is consistent with other reports, which tend to suggest that women make up 35-40 percent of traffickers, as Cameron Conway highlights in his article, ‘Human Trafficking – The Other 20%’. […]

  19. […] incorrectly cites this Cameron Conaway article as the source of the quote. It’s actually this […]

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