boys and girls sold into slavery
From sex workers to restaurant workers
the global slave trade is growing
A thriving commerce in human
beings is taking place behind the facade of most major cities and towns in the
Twenty-seven million slaves
exist in our world today. Girls and boys, women and men of all ages are forced
to toil in the rug loom sheds of
Go behind the façade in any
major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving
commerce in human beings. You may even find slavery in your own backyard. For
several years my wife and I dined regularly at an Indian restaurant located near
our home in the
The Reddy case is not an
anomaly. As many as 800,000 are trafficked across international borders
annually, and up to 17,500 new victims are trafficked across our borders each
year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. More than 30,000 additional
slaves are trans-ported through the
Like the slaves who came to
President George W. Bush spoke of the global crisis of the slave trade before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2003. "Each year 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold, or forced across the world's borders," he said. "The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time." Of those individuals extracted out of impoverished countries and trafficked across international borders, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children, according to the U.S. Department of State's "2005 Trafficking in Persons Report."
The commerce in human beings today rivals drug trafficking and the illegal arms trade for the top criminal activity on the planet. The slave trade sits at number three on the list but is closing the gap. The FBI projects that the slave trade generates $9.5 billion in revenue each year, according to the U.S. Department of State's "2004 Trafficking in Persons Report." The International Labour Office, in the 2005 report "A Global Alliance Against Forced Labor," estimates that figure to be closer to a whopping $32 billion annually.
"Ten Million Children
Exploited for Domestic Labor" - this title for a 2004 U.N. study hardly needs
explaining. The U.N.'s surveys found 700,000 children forced into domestic labor
We may not even realize how
each one of us drives the demand during the course of a normal day. Kevin Bales,
a pioneer in the fight against modern slavery, expresses well those commercial
connections: "Slaves in
Widespread poverty and social inequality ensure a pool of recruits as deep as the ocean. Parents in desperate straits may sell their children or at least be susceptible to scams that will allow the slave trader to take control over the lives of their sons and daughters. Young women in vulnerable communities are more likely to take a risk on a job offer in a faraway location. The poor are apt to accept a loan that the slave trader can later manipulate to steal their freedom. All of these paths carry unsuspecting recruits into the supply chains of slavery.
"The supply side of the
equation is particularly bleak," says Sen. Sam Brownback of
During the era of the American plantation economy, the slaveholder considered slave ownership an investment. The supply of new recruits was limited. The cost of extracting and transporting the slave, and ensuring that they would be serviceable by the time they reached their destination, was considerable. In the modern slave trade, the glut of slaves and the capacity to move them great distances in a relatively short period of time drastically alters the economics of slave ownership. Kevin Bales' description of modern slaves as "disposable people" profoundly fits: Just like used batteries, once the slave exhausts his or her usefulness, another can be procured at no great expense.
emerging trends in global markets, traditional modes of slavery also persist.
Bonded labor has existed for centuries and continues to be the most common form
of slavery in the world today. In a typical scenario, an individual falls under
the control of a wealthy patron after taking a small loan. The patron adds
egregious rates of interest and inflated expenses to the original principal so
that the laborer finds it impossible to repay. Debt slaves may spend their
entire lives in service to a single slaveholder, and their "obligation" may be
passed on to their children. Of the 27 million people worldwide held captive and
exploited for profit today, the Free the Slaves organization estimates that at
least 15 million are bonded slaves in
In my journey to monitor the rise of modern global slavery, I had prepared myself to end up in the depths of depression. To be honest, I made some unpleasant stops there. But my journey did not end at despair. The prime reason: I met a heroic ensemble of abolitionists who simply refuse to relent. I felt like I had gone back in time and had the great privilege of sharing a meal with a Harriet Tubman or a William Wilberforce or a Frederick Douglass. Like the abolitionists of old, these modern heroes do not expend their energy handicapping the odds stacked against the antislavery movement. They simply refuse to accept a world where one individual can be held as the property of another.
The boys living on the
streets were the lucky ones; they had escaped. They told Kru
One day it struck Kru
In Mae Sai she set up a
shelter to take in kids on the run. Nearly 60 boys and girls today find safe
refuge each night at Kru
The abolitionists working
today are truly extraordinary, but they cannot win the fight alone. They are
overwhelmed and beleaguered. The size and scope of Kru
All of us wonder how we would
have acted in the epic struggles of human history. Imagine we lived in rural
There are times to read history, and there are times to make history. We live right now at one of those epic moments in the fight for human freedom. We no longer have to wonder how we might respond to our moment of truth. Future generations will look back and judge our choices, and be inspired or disappointed.
This article is an excerpt
from David Batstone's new book, Not for
David Batsone is a Sojourners contributing editor.