The gendered nature of the crime of trafficking

Nusha Yonkova

Posted: 29 July, 2016

Tomorrow is UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. To highlight this important day, Nusha Yonkova tells us about her research into gender and human trafficking. Nusha is a scholar on our Employment Based Scheme, based at University College Dublin, and is working in partnership with the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

Human trafficking is often referred to as a modern day slavery, not so much for the parallels it bears with the historical phenomenon of slavery but for the similarity in the depth of human misery, exploitation and abuse of vulnerability that underlie these two appalling crimes and violations of human rights. For the last two decades, millions of men and women have been subjected to human trafficking, and the proportion of the phenomenon has reached a worrying level, one which merits a unified response from the international community. Several international treaties have been agreed, at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and, more recently, by the European Union. All agreements refer to one intrinsic feature of the crime of human trafficking; its gender-specific character, which is at the centre of my Irish Research Council-funded PhD research.

Unlike domestic violence which has been long accepted as a gendered issue, the crime of human trafficking is often debated and presented within gender neutral terms. Moreover, trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation is highlighted as much as trafficking involving sexual abuse. This shared emphasis may be justified in theory, since trafficking has many faces, encompassing crimes from forced labour, prostitution, begging, and criminal activities, to the sale of babies and human organs, but a gender neutral approach to the design of policies and law has limited merit. The experiences resulting from a variety of trafficking crimes are specific to gender. Women represent an absolute statistical majority among victims, and are subjected to some of the most devastating types of abuse involving sexual violation [1].

In view of the gendered nature of the crime of trafficking, reflected both in the victims’ demographic profile and experience of suffering, leading international bodies have called for a gender-sensitive response to the needs of the victims. My research focuses on the victims of human trafficking and the policy response to their needs in selected EU countries from a gender perspective. It studies, compares and analyses systems of service provision to victims in Ireland, the UK, Bulgaria and Croatia with reference to international agreements, and the extent to which gender considerations are taken into account in the process of policy implementation.  By conducting my research at both University College, Dublin and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, I am able to base my research on a comparison of the experiences of victim-survivors who received services from the state, and of leading national and international experts affiliated with states or independent bodies.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.

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