On May 9, 2022, the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD) at Princeton University organized a workshop on ‘The Nexus between Conflict-related Sexual Violence against Men, Boys and LGBTI+ Persons and Human Trafficking’ in partnership with All Survivors Project, the Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST) Initiative at United Nations University-Center for Policy Research, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights at the University of Vienna, the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations. The event was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations in New York.
The workshop explored the intersection of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) against men, boys and LGBTI+ persons and human trafficking. In 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2331 addressed the nexus between trafficking in human beings and conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), as well as the gender-related nature of these crimes. In the 2018 report on CRSV, the UN Secretary-General re-emphasized the importance of addressing the link with human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation in conflict. However, the complexity of the nexus between CRSV and human trafficking is still not well understood, particularly in the case of CRSV against men, boys, and LGBTI+ persons. The objectives of our workshop were to identify and discuss possible lacunae in present research on the nexus between CRSV against men, boys, and LGBTI+ persons and human trafficking; to assess potential legal, policy and programmatic gaps in the responses to trafficked victims/survivors of CRSV; and to determine the need and direction for follow-up research on the topic.
The workshop included keynotes and presentations by experts on CRSV, human trafficking, sexual orientation and gender identities and expression.
Participants offered the following observations:
- Trafficking and CRSV are conceptually broad and imprecise categories that include a multitude of crimes in a multitude of settings. In many instances, trafficking in human beings (THB) and CRSV may overlap or be (causally) related in a way that suggests their joint treatment might help victims/survivors get help and redress. In other instances, it is not obvious why victims/survivors would be best served by an approach that merges THB and CRSV. Given the absolute and relative numbers of reported victims/survivors who are men, boys and LGBTI+ persons, participants agreed that more research on the nexus is needed. But it is difficult to conduct such research in conflict and post-conflict settings, and findings may not apply broadly to all types of THB and CRSV, nor travel well across (country/conflict) contexts. The research itself also risks re-traumatizing victims/survivors. Primary data gathering must proceed with great care, and, in the meantime, given the paucity of data, participants noted that we must proceed with great caution when it comes to formulating recommendations.
- Men, boys and LGBTI+ persons are especially vulnerable to THB and CRSV in multiple, and differing, ways. Participants highlighted the extent to which boys’ presence in the public sphere made them targets, and how LGBTI+ persons are often afforded limited or no safe spaces, whether public or private. Participants touched on notions of masculinity (e.g. how men can be invisible as victims/survivors), victimhood (e.g. how notions of credible victims intersect with gender norms), and vulnerability — including at the micro level, such as the different perception of young boys’ and teenage boys’ need for protection, and at the macro level, i.e., structural vulnerability, which includes the ways in which states sponsor and weaponize vulnerability.
- Participants stressed the need to differentiate and disaggregate the categories (e.g. LGBTI+ vs. gender identities and orientations, including those individuals who are perceived to belong) and think about them from a victim/survivor’s perspective. The workshop explored what a survivor-centered approach to researching THB and CRSV against men, boys, and LGBTI+ persons might look like, including taking seriously the possibility that the victim/survivor may not e.g. recognize themselves as a victim; place themselves in the LGBTI+ category; prioritize attention to or redress for the crime of THB and CRSV in their needs.
Dr. Barbara C. Buckinx led the workshop as part of LISD’s Project on Gender in the Global Community, which examines the functioning of gendered structures and norms in the international system, focusing especially on security, human rights, economic activity, and institution building. The genesis of the workshop was a desire to interrogate and understand how conflict-related sexual violence intersects with the crime of trafficking, and the role that gender, sex and age play in creating vulnerabilities. A forthcoming workshop report will identify directions for future research with the intent of influencing policy and practice, and options for primary data gathering in specific sites are also under consideration.
Photos: Philipp Funke Fotografie