Gender Bias in Anti-Human Trafficking Policy


Allyson Neisig & Julie Leventhal, M.S., CFLE | September 20 | 2:45-3:45 PM

Topic: Legal | Knowledge Level: Intermediate

Almost 20 years ago, the passing of the United Nations (UN) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children helped push the issue of human trafficking to the forefront of legislation intended to protect and support victims (UN, 2000). Over 150 countries or states are associated with the Palermo Protocol and various groups have a variety of anti-trafficking initiatives that have followed this policy (UNODC, 2016). However, a major issue with many policies lies within the incorporated language being directed toward helping females and children specifically within sex trafficking, while excluding male victims. Human trafficking continues to be conceptualized as a women’s issue, even though many of the same vulnerabilities for trafficking have been identified for both men and women, including a history of abuse and substance use (Reid, 2012). The trafficking of males is often underrepresented and underreported due to the hidden visibility of forced servitude along with cultural beliefs regarding male superiority. For intervention and rehabilitation purposes, this discrepancy drastically affects the resources available for men. The failure to update policy to reflect greater gender inclusivity inhibits recovery of thousands of male victims that also need support. This presentation will review national and international anti-human trafficking policies to specifically examine gender biased language and discuss research findings regarding this bias. Preliminary analysis of over ten anti-human trafficking policies conducted through content analysis revealed that out of 1,154 instances of pronoun usage, 70% used ambiguous terminology (i.e., “victim”, “person”), 18.3% used “she”, 9% used “she/he” and 2.6% used “he”. Recommendations for policy makers and communities will also be provided regarding how to identify and address this lack of diversity within anti-human trafficking policy.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Examine patterns and trends related to gender biased language in anti-human trafficking policies.

·  Identify challenges associated with recognizing and assisting trafficking victims who are not female (i.e., male, transgender youth).

·  Discuss implications for more gender inclusive language in policy reformation.

About the Presenters