What is ‘The Loverboy Method’ & How is it Used?

Many women are falling for the ‘Loverboy Method’ in human trafficking. We look at what it is and how is it used.

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The entire scheme is an attempt to gain her trust.

Human trafficking can be described as a silent killer in the society of today. Especially, for women falling for what’s known as the ‘Loverboy Method’.

According to a report produced by Pressat, in which they studied 172 countries, they found the sex trafficking industry is worth $99 billion and the majority of victims are women and children.

Sex trafficking represents 79% of all human trafficking cases in the world and only about 0.4% of survivors of trafficking cases are actually identified.

Often the trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel a victim to engage in commercial sex acts.

Although this horrid practice is a reality, there is a lack of sufficient understanding of how so many victims can get caught up in the process.

Hence, it must be comprehended how human trafficking operates in order to recognise the traits of the practice.

The ‘Loverboy Method’ is the most popular technique for enslaving people, specifically women.

Targeting a young, low-income woman by a trafficker is the beginning of this torrid scheme.

The ‘Loverboy’ will shower a vulnerable woman with attention and affection. He will plan a host of romantic dates for a victim and makes no compromises to pamper her like a queen for a little period.

The entire scheme is an attempt to gain her trust.

The victim will be invited on a getaway after the trafficker and she has developed love feelings for one another.

For “a better life,” he may occasionally ask her to relocate with him.

Since she is often in love at this time, she frequently agrees to go with him and then, the trafficker strikes when they are outside of the country.

Before seizing the victim’s phone, he will most likely take away her passport and other important documentation.

After this, he will hand over a victim to another trafficker.

The woman is then enslaved by the traffickers, usually into sexual exploitation.

Until human trafficking organisations can step in to free a victim and take her to a safe place, the woman does not have a way out of the entrapment.

The scope of this fabrication is horrifying to consider.

In Europe, it’s estimated over 250,000 individuals are trafficked each year and Romanians make up at least 77% of human trafficking survivors.

A popular response of traffickers who employ the Loverboy Method is repeatedly heard when victims recount their experiences.

Female Trafficking in South Asia

What is 'The Loverboy Method' & How is it Used - south asia

As with being a pressing matter of concern in Europe, female trafficking is a major issue across the South Asian region.

South Asian women can unintentionally fall into such heart-wrenching circumstances when looking to relocate to nearby countries and cities for employment prospects.

In the quest to search for a better life for their families and find employment opportunities, they can frequently be exploited by human traffickers.

Such women typically come from low-income backgrounds with little prospects, and little help from their families.

According to estimates from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, over 150,000 people are estimated to be trafficked yearly throughout South Asia, with women and girls making up 44% and 21% of the victims, respectively.

The most prevalent types of trafficking in the area include forced labour, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage.

In India, this is a present issue that keeps getting worse.

According to reports, one young Nepali girl, aged 15, was lured by her aunt, claiming that if she travelled with her to an undisclosed location, she would receive a well-paid job.

From that point onwards, the girl was sold to a brothel by her aunt.

From her experiences being trafficked, she claimed that most of the girls and women in brothels had been sold there by their family members for financial gain.

“The human traffickers trap the girls from poor families, luring them with offers of good jobs or other similar temptations.

“They take the victims to India with the consent of their parents and force them to involve themselves in the flesh trade.”

Another young woman recounted how she was seduced by her mother’s friend with, yet again, promises of well-paid employment.

Similarly, she was then sold to a brothel.

Both of these young women were rescued with cases brought against their traffickers, but this is rare.

Unfortunately, most trafficking cases do not even get reported or registered with the police.

It is a huge problem in India where efforts to combat this remain in their infancy, but officials are currently trying to find some way to combat this.

The Peace Rehabilitation Home, a social organisation working against human trafficking in Kanchanpur, India, rescued seven women and children in 2022.

According to the organisation’s records, the majority of the girls and women were trafficked by their relatives.

Sanjit Singh, coordinator of Peace Rehabilitation Home said:

“Most of the females who were rescued by us were convinced to go to India by their friends and acquaintances”

Human rights activist, Bhagwati Singh, who works in Kanchanpur highlighted the reasons why women are targets for trafficking:

“The risk of women and girls being trafficked to India is increasing due to poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and lower wages in our country.

“The influence of social media has also increased the risk of human trafficking.

“Currently, through social media, criminals get access to poor girls and trap them.”

A film which highlights the devastation caused by human trafficking in South Asia is Jeffery D Brown’s Sold (2014).

The director’s adaptation of a novel about a Nepali girl forced into prostitution in India sheds light on the reasons, implications and outcomes of female trafficking in India.

The main character Lakshmi (played by Niyar Saikia), is a young girl, aged 13, with an unemployed, alcoholic father and a submissive mother who serves her husband despite his faults.

Lakshmi is a mere child when her father decides to sell her to a woman who claims she’ll give the girl honest work with a nice family in the city.

After a two-day journey to Kolkata Lakshmi is plied with sweet cakes and toe rings before being locked in a bare room.

The unthinkable then occurs when she is forced to have sex with an unknown middle-aged man.

Being unaware of her plight, she resists and is beaten – things then turn when she is drugged into compliance.

Whilst the film has a happy ending with the young enslaved girl finding freedom, it also recounts the reality for many vulnerable women and girls in the South Asian region.

Not many women will have the luxury of being unshackled from a strict regime against their freedom, and the imprisonment of being stripped into a vessel for sexual consumption.

The similarity of UK Grooming Gangs

What is 'The Loverboy Method' & How is it Used - gangs

The ‘Loverboy Method’ is also known as the ‘Boyfriend Model’.

Although this specific method is used frequently to lure adult girls into human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Europe, Africa and Asia, a similar approach has been used by UK grooming gangs to exploit underage and young girls.

In 2017, the Quilliam Foundation produced a report which presented outcomes by British-Pakistani researchers.

They found 264 people have been convicted for the specific crime of gang grooming since 2005, and of those offenders 222 or 84% were Asian.

Haras Rafiq, the co-author of the report unveiled this ethnic connection. Residing in Rochdale where a grooming gang of British-Pakistani men was jailed for child sexual abuse in 2012, he said:

“I’m from the heart of where one of the biggest high-profile cases have happened over the last few years, and I’m saying it’s very important that we do talk about it because the problem won’t go away.

“We didn’t want there to be a pattern of people from our ethnic demographic carrying out these attacks. But unfortunately, we were proven wrong.”

Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Crown Prosecutor in the North West, tweeted a post on January 3, 2023, highlighting the grooming issue after the Andrew Tate revelations and arrest.

The majority of the Asian men in these gangs who have been convicted are of Pakistani origin, either from Pakistan or British Pakistanis.

In 2017, Afzal commented on the ethnicities of groomers, saying:

“British white men, they tend to work individually. They tend to work online where they groom and they are the majority of perpetrators.

“When it comes to Asian men or Pakistani men they tend to do it in groups.”

In the case of these grooming gangs, often it is one (or two men) who play the ‘Loverboy’ role to target and lure young girls from broken homes or children’s homes.

The young girls are plied with drinks, given gifts, and told they are ‘loved’ in order to groom them into sexual relationships.

These girls are then introduced to more men for sexual acts and gratification.

Statements from victims say that due to the drinks and drugs, they were so inebriated they did not even know who they were having sex with.

Grooming cases using the ‘Loverboy’ technique have been high especially in the north of England in cities like Rochdale, Huddersfield and parts of Lancashire.

The ‘Loverboy Method’ is a horrid practice that will not go away. Girls will continue to be trafficked and groomed.

The only way to tackle the issue is by increasing awareness and educating children about the dangers.

Helping young people learn more about traffickers and their traits is hugely important.

The EU Commission has announced its plans to crack down on human trafficking and make more people aware of how it can occur.

Human exploitation has evolved in recent years.

With technology being easily accessible, criminals are finding new uses for it – with many human trafficking crimes now taking an online dimension.

The EU Commission has decided to act on the pressing concern, with traffickers using the online world to recruit, exploit and brainwash victims.

The updated rules will provide stronger tools for law enforcement and judicial authorities to investigate and prosecute new forms of exploitation.

For example, by making sure that knowingly using the services provided by victims of trafficking constitutes a criminal offence.

The Commission aims to improve procedures for early identification and support for victims in other EU countries.

The EU Commission’s updated rules include:

  • Forced marriage and illegal adoption are among the types of exploitation the definition of the Directive covers. This will require Member States to criminalise such conduct in their national criminal law as human trafficking.
  • Explicit reference to human trafficking offences committed or facilitated through information and communication technologies, including the internet and social media.
  • Mandatory sanctions for legal persons held accountable for trafficking offences. This covers excluding them from public benefits or temporarily or permanently closing the establishments where the trafficking offence occurred.
  • Formal National Referral Mechanisms to improve early identification and referral for assistance and support for victims, which will create the basis for a European Referral Mechanism by the appointment of national focal points.
  • Stepping up demand reduction by making it a criminal offence for people who knowingly use services provided by victims of trafficking.
  • EU-wide annual data collection on trafficking in human beings to be published by Eurostat.

For the South Asian region, India’s efforts to combat human trafficking have fallen short since there are few records of victims reporting crimes in 22 of its 36 states and union territories.

Furthermore, there haven’t been many inquiries into or prosecutions of these traffickers.

Of those who do go to trial, 89% of cases are found not guilty.

For the victims, there aren’t enough shelters or support, and some individuals have to wait years before they get any form of recompense for the tragedies and horrors they face.

Many believe that the absence of data on female trafficking in South Asia is a result of a generalised society that encourages women and children to submit to men.

Other traditions enable males to abuse their spouses, and many cultures consider women to be less than men.

Therefore, victims who have been saved are reluctant to disclose the incident or think it is just a characteristic of being a woman.

Another hypothesis is that victims of trafficking are reluctant to notify their families.

More horror stories of female exploitation and trafficking will occur unless strict measures are taken to stop human trafficking in India and the South Asian subcontinent.

Creating an open dialogue between families, peers and society about the realities of female trafficking as a result of methods such as the ‘Loverboy’ is vital to eradicate such occurrences.

In many instances where change will ultimately not occur as fast as one would hope, by bringing awareness, lawmakers and authorities can stamp out and adequately punish those who intend to cause harm through female trafficking and exploitation.

Ilsa is a digital marketeer and journalist. Her interests include politics, literature, religion and football. Her motto is “Give people their flowers whilst they’re still around to smell them.”