Gender and the movement
While I was living in Bangkok, Thailand I heard about an organization that helps combat human trafficking by offering women in the red light district (Patpong) alternative work such as making jewelry. Women from the organization would go into the clubs and begin talking to the girls, building a rapport with them and eventually offering them an alternative lifestyle. This sounded like excellent work, so, I sent them an email asking if they needed any help. What I received back from them was a message telling me that the only work they had available for me was in administration work. I then realized that, as a male, it isn’t as simple as going into clubs and helping girls get out. The dynamics revolving around gender and the movement are complicated and need to be carefully considered.
Going into clubs in Thailand and trying to help victims of trafficking as a male (especially without fluency in Thai) was a foolish thought that I didn’t hold for long. Nothing was wrong with my intentions, but practically speaking it just wouldn’t work. As a male going into such situations much more caution needs to be taken. Not only would I be addressing the issue of human trafficking, but I would be challenging traditional gender roles. After all, the majority of the sex trade is perpetuated by my gender.
I believe that a big part of helping a victim of trafficking feel comfortable and safe is them being able to relate to those trying to help them in some way. How significant it is, I can’t be sure, but I do believe that a sort of ‘female solidarity’ exists that creates a means of breaking through barriers between victim and those looking to help. It seems like women would be more comfortable sharing their feelings and emotions with other women rather than a male.
Now, I’m not saying that a male can’t do all of these things, I just believe that it is more difficult and may take more time. From the first moment a female being forced into sex slavery sees a male that has come to their business they judge him as a customer. That means that, as a male, that viewpoint/judgment must first be addressed before you can begin really communicating with the victim. If a victim who was working saw a female come into their business they would be less likely to have that judgment. Also, often victims of human trafficking are told by their captors that they can’t trust law enforcement
This has only been a discussion on the difficulty of being an interventionist in situations of sex slavery as a male. I am by no means saying that men can’t be interventionists in the manner previously discussed, just that it may be more difficult. There are more barriers that you must break through before you can make a difference. However, breaking barriers and challenging traditional gender roles in order to break about more equality between the sexes is precisely what we need to do.
Even in countries that claim to have egalitarian gender roles, there is still a need to address and discuss gender ideology, such as the objectification of women that is one of the reasons the sex trade exists. Whether you’re male or female there is an endless amount of work you can do to help the movement, but it is important to always consider the gender ideology and roles of yourself and the culture you are working with/within.