Slavery continues to haunt the modern world, but efforts to eradicate it are growing
Posted Apr 1, 2013 By Steven Seidenberg
Maria watched the expensive car roll into her small town in Honduras. Two well-dressed men stepped out of the vehicle. They walked toward Maria, 15, and two friends who were with her. The men said they were recruiting people to work in a textile factory in the United States. It sounded like a terrific opportunity—a chance for Maria to earn enough money to help her family while supporting herself. Most of all, it meant she would be able to send money to her mother, who was struggling to raise six other children on her own.
Maria agreed to go with the men. So did her two friends.
When the girls arrived in Houston, however, they weren’t brought to a textile factory. Instead, they were held captive, beaten, raped and forced to work in cantinas that doubled as brothels. When a man came to a cantina, he would choose a girl and drink beer with her. If he decided he wanted sex, he would take her to the back and pay for a mattress, paper towels and spermicide. If a girl didn’t bring in enough money on a given day, her captors would beat her.
That was Maria’s life for six long years. Finally, an American family helped her to escape. Maria managed to return to her family in Honduras. But she hasn’t seen her two friends since fleeing Houston; and for all she knows, they’re still there working in cantinas and enduring the beatings of their captors.
Maria is one face of the modern scourge of human slavery—but only one. There are millions more people like her around the world. They are children and adults, men and women. They are someone’s daughter or son, brother or sister, mother or father.
More than 100 different products were included on the 2009 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor (PDF), including coffee and tea, cotton, gold and diamonds, fireworks, clothing and shoes, various foodstuffs, soap, soccer balls, surgical instruments, pornography—even Christmas decorations.
Some 20.9 million people around the world are victims of sex trafficking and other types of forced labor, according to the Estimate of Forced Labour report (PDF) released in 2012 by the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations. The comparable number in the ILO’s 2005 report was 12.3 million. (Other estimates put the number of forced labor victims as high as 27 million.) The ILO report estimates 18.7 million of the world’s forced-labor victims are exploited in the private economy. Some 55 percent of those people are women and girls, including 98 percent of the victims of sexual exploitation and 40 percent of those enslaved by other forms of forced labor in the private economy.
No region of the world is free from slavery. The ILO report estimates that there are some 11.7 million victims of sexual exploitation, labor exploitation or state-imposed forced labor in China, India and the rest of Asia (excluding Japan). There are another 3.7 million in Africa; 600,000 in the Mideast; 1.8 million in Central and South America; 1.6 million in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union; and 1.5 million in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Western Europe.
A sex slave can be sold repeatedly in the same day. A wage slave produces products for free,” says Derri Smith, executive director of End Slavery Tennessee, based in Nashville. Also, human trafficking is a relatively safe criminal endeavor, due to a combination of ineffective and underfunded enforcement efforts, along with victims who are unwilling or unable to assert themselves. And there is a ready supply of potential victims. Most population growth “is in the developing world, and in many parts of that world there are high levels of conflict and poverty, and there’s little rule of law… That created a large pool of potentially enslavable people.”
- ‘Please Stop Exploiting People’ (inthesetimes.com)
- Human Trafficking is an Epidemic (iamwhatafeministlookslike.wordpress.com)
- #ENDITMOVEMENT – Shine a light on slavery today (laratracehentz.wordpress.com)