Examining the invisible: victimhood experiences of trafficked men

Mrs Polina Smiragina-Ingelstrom1
1The University Of Sydney , Sydney  , Australia

To date the human trafficking debate has principally had a focus on women and girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. While there has been an increased awareness of other forms of trafficking in human beings and other profiles of victims, male victims are left in the margins of the justice system, leaving them unassisted.

There is an apparent lack of assistance resources allocated and designed specifically to attend to the needs of men; from issues related to physical injuries, mental health to mere access to shelters and other resources. Regardless of the existence of tools that are intended to combat human trafficking and assist its victims, in many regions these tools are designed to address the needs of women and children. The underlying cause of this lack of assistance is misidentification which stems from the way the internationally acknowledged definition of human trafficking is understood and implemented in local and international policy.

Given the example of Russia, this study examines the victimhood experiences of trafficked men. This is an empirical qualitative case study, where data is collected by means of participant observations and semi-structured interviews followed by a thorough analysis incorporated with the concept of masculinity and the hierarchy of victimhood theory.

In this study I argue that the notion of misidentification together with the accompanying factors within the human trafficking discourse is gendered, highlighting the importance of recognizing the inequality experienced by male victims of human trafficking.


Polina Smiragina-Ingelstrom is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney and a Visiting Scholar at the Criminology Department at Stockholm University as well as an external lecturer and researcher at the department of Justice and Human Rights at the Danish Institute in Stockholm.

Polina’s doctoral research investigates the causes and consequences of the invisibility of male victims of human trafficking. ​She received her undergraduate education BA (Hons.) from Moscow State University and holds her MSc degree from Gothenburg University. Before commencing her PhD candidature Polina was a migrant counsellor and reintegration assistant at the UN Migration (IOM) mission in Moscow.

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