BLOG: Gender inequality and human trafficking, part 2.


Gender inequality in human trafficking – Part II: What needs to change?

Part I can be read here.

Our current response to human trafficking is not adequate. Currently we are ignoring gender issues entirely when they are crucial on both the supply and demand side. We forget that the response is embedded in a socio-political order which has an entrenched morality whose paradigms are marked by attitudes to gender. Thus we cannot help individuals in the long run if we do not acknowledge that they are not just potential victims of trafficking but victims of an unjust social order that leads to trafficking. Our response needs to not be just reactive but preventative and a key element of prevention is removing gender imbalance.

We also must deal with both the supply and demand side. This means both reacting in the recipient country by reducing demand and prevention in the source country. These preventative measures need to start helping source countries to change their social attitude and providing them with the resources needed to give women equal opportunity and education. It is difficult to persuade departments such as transport and macro-economic policy makers in developing countries to consider the impact of policies on trafficking. However, we need to push development policies in poor areas for the sake of the vulnerable and marginalised who are at high risk. 

Supply Side

  1. Empowerment

On the supply side the most important thing to do is to create a situation of equality of opportunity and equality of rights through empowerment. To do this we need to empower women through knowledge, self-affirmation, eradicating discriminatory institutional arrangements and increasing the support from society.

Women will be unable to claim their rights effectively even if they are informed and empowered if institutions and communities do not recognise them. The new rights need to be engrained and recognised at every level of society including institutional procedures, rules, practises and the consciousness of all women and men. This will lead to equality of access and real equality.

  1. Economic empowerment

We need to create economic empowerment for women. Currently unequal gender relations marginalize women as they have no ownership, control of resources or access to the market. We must therefore ensure that women’s work is recognized and valued as equal to men’s. We need to create real alternatives that are viable choices as well as educating women to the same level as men.

Furthermore, we need to see women’s vulnerability as a development issue. We need to ensure we use a gendered, integrated approach at all levels on both the supply and demand side as women’s economic marginalisation and vulnerability has to be overcome in all aspects of development so that an even larger gulf between men and women is not created.

  1. Integrated Education and Employment needs to be provided

The provision of education and employment for women needs to be integrated to avoid the migration issue in trafficking. The migration issue is such that, for example in Indonesia, we could provide primary education to children but this is unlikely to be an effective strategy for anti-trafficking as there is a labour surplus there and education is insufficient to lead to paid employment. Here education will not challenge the unvalued status of girls and cannot compete with paid employment in places such as the Middle East when there is a labour shortage. In this way there is a need for the multi-sector strategy to be integrated to quell the pull of illegal migration and the subsequent vulnerability to trafficking.

  1. Appropriate Mechanisms to cope with situations that make women vulnerable

There needs to be appropriate mechanisms to cope with situations that make women vulnerable that are both institutionalised and social. Such as career options, social acceptance, counselling and support. We need to provide social security and protection for women and children in difficult circumstances such as free education, health care, childcare, help finding employment, counselling and foster care.


Demand side

  1. Legal strategies

On the demand side we must have legal strategies that give rights to trafficked persons and contribute to equalising gender and rights. We must effectively prosecute traffickers to deter others and to protect the rights of those trafficked. The survivors must also be provided with support that will give them the opportunities they missed out on in their country of origin that lead to them being trafficked such as education, empowerment, counselling and healthcare.

  1. Women need safe migration and citizenship rights.

This means that we need to review and uniform immigration laws to a single international standard that guarantees women’s safety and rights. 


  1. Transform male attitudes and practices related to women

On both the supply and demand side we need to transform male attitudes and practices related to women: their position, stereotypes and sexuality. As a supply and demand industry it is surprising that little effort has been put into changing the attitudes that produces this demand. We need a transformation of male-defined gender roles and thus demand for ‘female’ sectors. We need women to be respected as equals and treated with dignity rather than treated as commodities. To do this we should focus on the institutions that educate men.

  1. Globalisation, Macroeconomic and trade policies.

To adequately combat Gender imbalance in trafficking we must address macro-economic policy in developed and developing countries and consider them as push and pull factors of labour migration which can promote trafficking. Globalization means that policy directly affects other countries. For example the current contradictions in trade policy means that developing countries are economically marginalized and the people are unable to realize their human right to livelihood. They are then pressured into migrating to industrialized economies on the predication that the ‘grass is greener’ in countries without restrictions on trade. This often leads to them becoming victims of trafficking. As a global phenomenon, migration and trafficking need global solutions and they need a solution that equalises the gender issues. 

Thus, to adequately eradicate human trafficking we must approach the solution from a gendered perspective that attempts to equalise men and women’s social positions and empowerment. We need to ensure that we are responding in both a reactive and preventative way that deals with both the demand and the supply side. Essentially we need to provide three things: personal empowerment, empowering policy and education to the women of the world that is recognised by all. Only by approaching the eradication of trafficking with a gendered dimension can we adequately protect young women.


If we are to take on a fully gendered perspective of trafficking we must recognise that men are also trafficked, not just women. However their trafficking is not based on the vulnerability created by social approaches to the female gender.

Bibliography for Parts I and II:

Ann., ‘Ann’s Story- Human Trafficking Victim’, Anti Trafficking Consultants,

Apne Aap, ‘Redlight Despatch’, at