Saturday, 17 April 2010

First cases of men being trafficked into Scotland as sex slaves

Glasgow skylineImage by venana via Flickr
Source: Daily Record

By Annie Brown

Men have been trafficked into Scotland to be used as gay sex slaves.

In the first known cases of male sex trafficking to hit Scotland, two men were smuggled in from Africa and imprisoned in flats.

The men were victims of separate incidents. One was forced to take part in pornography, while the other was sold for sex.

Experts fear that more victims could follow.

Julian Heng, who manages a support project for male prostitutes, said his organisation were called in to help the men.

He said: "We have had a couple of requests for telephone support for professionals who were supporting two separate cases of men who had been trafficked into the country.

"They weren't asylum seekers or refugees, they had actually been trafficked into Scotland from Africa."

There are around 700 trafficked women in the UK but when men are trafficked here, it tends to be for manual labour - not sex.

Mr Heng, who is service manager of NHS Open Road, said the male sex trade often mirrored what happened to women.

He said: "Whatever happens with women involved in prostitution, we will usually see happening with men. It tends to take a couple of years, that's all.

"So just like we are aware of women being trafficked into Scotland for prostitution, I think we need to be aware that it will happen more with men.

"It is something we are going to have to be vigilant about. It is very much a new feature in Scotland but it is something that will happen here."

Both the men were in their twenties and were held captive in properties in Glasgow. Both thought they were here to work but were forced into sex acts.

In the first case a year ago, the young man who had been brought in for pornography managed to escape. He was desperate to go home and was flown back.

The second case was within the last three months.

Sex traffickers frequently subject victims to debt bondage - telling them they owe money for living expenses and transport and have to sell sex to repay the debt.

They condition their victims using starvation, confinement, beatings and rape or threats of violence to their families.

In Scotland, there were about 400 male escort listings on the web in 2008 and half were in the Greater Glasgow area.

There are around 100 men who work the streets. Some perform full sex for as little as £10.

Mr Heng said: "There is a Pretty Woman myth that it will be glamorous and well paid. The reality is grim and the majority of men are earning a pittance."

They will often have regular punters, which some of the men see as better the devil they know.

Contact is often made on mobile phones and the internet, where the pimp will be the gatekeeper.

Mr Heng said there was an even greater stigma attached to the men who were prostitutes. He said: "It is seen by some as acceptable for men to purchase sex from women but largely unacceptable for men to buy sex from other men."

Yet the male and female prostitutes often have the same clients. The punter isn't necessarily looking for unusual sex but the added power kick of brutality.

Like the men who buy from women, the punters are married with kids in most cases.

Mr Heng said: "It is not about the type of sex, it is about a power dynamic of being able to buy sex. You can call all the shots and it is often very aggressive."

Open Road offer counselling, access to sexual health services and support to the men to help them get out of prostitution.

Half of the male prostitutes working in Glasgow are actually straight despite their services always being bought by men.

Most are homeless and the idea that male prostitutes are gay men extending their sex life is a myth. Having been sexually abused as a child is a common denominator.

Mr Heng said: "The core harm that messes with their head is they have to perform unwanted sex.

"That sex is no more wanted by the gay men who are prostitutes than the heterosexual men. The shame aspect for both is huge.

"That is why there is no way of making prostitution safe. It doesn't work. You can't stop the physical or psychological harm."

The Open Road project, which has been going for three years, sees males from their late teens to their fifties. Most are in their twenties.

Mr Heng is on the consultation group for the End Prostitution Now campaign to ban the purchase of sex in Scotland. The nation has taken some steps to tackle street prostitution and has made buying sex in a public place an offence.

But men who buy sex indoors are committing no offence and that is flourishing.

Advertising for sexual services is now at an overwhelming level in newspapers, magazines, on TV and through the internet.

In Sweden, the prostitutes have been decriminal ised but the punters get punished.

The number of punters has dropped by 80 per cent and the number of women work ing Stockholm's streets has fallen from 2500 to 100 in 10 years.

And sex trafficking there has dropped to 200 women a year, while neighbouring Finland had 15,000.
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