Trafficked adult men, gendered constructions of vulnerability, and access to protection
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Trafficking in persons has attracted considerable attention after the adoption of the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. International law, as well as international human rights courts and bodies, has created and developed standards able to offer inclusive protection for trafficked persons. Yet, the enforcement of these laws remains reliant on States’ political willingness not only to adjust their domestic legal systems to reflect international obligations, but also – and arguably foremost – to implement the available laws in good faith and through a human rights-based approach. The research acknowledges the historical exclusion of men from the narrative of the phenomenon of human trafficking, and the reticence on the part of policy and decision makers to perceive and acknowledge vulnerability beyond gendered assumptions, and across the gender spectrum. Addressing gendered, or gendering, constructions of vulnerability in the anti-trafficking field, the research highlights the significance of gender in identification or recognition processes. Through an evaluation of international and domestic law, as well as policy and practice in Italy and in the United Kingdom, the research unpacks the gendered nature and the politicised application of anti-trafficking law, highlighting how these elements have negatively impacted on the identification and access to protection of trafficked persons who do not conform to the imaginary ‘ideal victim’. Although in both Italy and the United Kingdom there have been significant legislative and policy developments with respect to anti-trafficking action, parallel developments in the field of immigration law highlight a tension with respect to the paradigm of inclusion. Looking beyond the surface of ‘functioning’ protection models, broader questions remain as to what purposes they have served in expanding the accessibility of rights.
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